Fat Acceptance: Acceptance of What?
by Kevin Zampieron | published Feb. 4th, 2015
What is considered healthy depends on the definition of health, according to RIT Health Center Nurse Cheryl Augustyn. All kinds of well-being must be considered, not just the obvious physical kind; mental, spiritual and emotional health must also be accounted for in the multifaceted concept of personal wellness. Even physically, what constitutes health is complicated. “There’s bloodwork, screening lab work, blood pressure, waist circumference; you can’t use one measure,” Augustyn said.
Although health is much more complicated than the number that shows up on the scale, there is no denying the demonstrable negative effects of obesity, according to RIT Health Center physician Dr. Sanford Mayer. “From a medical point of view, we see the major issues are hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart disease. We have a massive obesity epidemic in this country,” he said.
Mayer highlighted the damage that obesity does to the organs, comparing the fatty liver of someone who is obese to the liver of an alcoholic. He also described the stress that an overweight body puts on the joints. It seems that there’s no denying the evident negative effects of obesity, yet many in the fat acceptance movement insist that their weight is not detrimental to their health.
It seems that there’s no denying the demonstrable negative effects of obesity, yet many in the fat acceptance movement insist that their weight is not detrimental to their health.
What would cause someone to believe something so contrarian? “I wonder if it’s not a collective defense mechanism that they’re going through with this movement,” Mayer said.
After reading many of these fat acceptance blogs and articles, it seemed that frustration was the underlying motivator of the movement’s zeal. According to researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles, more than 80 percent of people gain back lost weight after diets; this frustration isn’t surprising. Much of it also comes from the medical establishment. “The worst thing for a healthcare clinician to be is judgmental. I think too many of us are judgmental. That’s what turns these folks off,” Mayer said.
Augustyn added that balanced eating and exercise are the only effective and healthy ways to lose weight. She encourages any student to come in to the health center and talk about his or her health, however he or she may define it.
One of the biggest problems with the fat acceptance movement is in the name: acceptance. After all of the diets, difficulty and judgment, it can be attractive to someone to just internalize their obesity and accept it as a part of his or her identity. Athough there predispositions to obesity, it is not akin to ethnicity or sexual orientation. Even though it’s not strictly a choice when considering all of the possible contributing factors to obesity, it’s not destiny either. Regardless of body shape, we all need to stop treating obesity like a punchline or a failure of moral character — but we also need to stop treating obesity as anything else than a widespread and devastating health crisis.