Are Happy Fat People Delusional?

Yesterday, I participated in CTV’s Alberta Primetime, a local daily TV show, on the issue of whether or not fat is a good indicator of health and whether it is truly possible to be healthy at any size (regular readers will probably guess where I stand on this).

My co-discussants were Paul Plakas, a personal trainer (of X-Weighted fame and enthusiastic disciple of the ‘no-pain-no-gain’ approach to weight management) and Ragen Chastain, a size acceptance advocate and Author of the book “Fat:  the Owners Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness and Sense of Humor Intact.

As may be expected, this discussion soon turned into a controversy between my co-discussants with Ragen, on the one hand, not only claiming that she was quite happy with how large she was and that this had not stopped her from even participating in national dance competitions and with Paul disputing that this was even possible, as being large would necessarily pose a problem and can only prevent her from living a fulfilled life.

The discussion got even hotter, when Paul essentially told Ragen that she did not quite realise how limited her life was, to which Ragen responded that this was not up to Paul to judge or decide for her.

Discussions like this always seem to raise the question of whether or not large people are simply delusional and kidding themselves by rationalising their situation, rather than making the ‘efforts’ to change it. I guess it really is hard for some people to imagine or believe that it is very much possible to be comfortable and happy at any size.

As one would expect, the show prompted a deluge of comments on the CTV website with a wide range of opinions both in support and against the positions that a) it is possible to be fat and healthy, b) anyone who is motivated enough can control their weight, c) fat people who are fine with their size are delusional and a burden on society, d) someone needs to step in and help them see the light for their own good.

This is not a debate that can be dealt with in 15 mins – at best, it can provoke discussion, which, however, with strong opinions on all sides (everyone seems to have personal views on this and ideologies reign supreme), it is unlikely to be anything we will resolve soon.

For someone with my positions (no, we cannot measure health by simply stepping on a scale, but yes, excess weight can cause health problems, in which case treatments for obesity can help and should be accessible in the same manner as treatment for other health conditions), who tends to see things in 200 shades of grey rather than simply black and white, TV talk shows are clearly not the best format to resolve this issue.

But, I am happy to let my readers judge for themselves (apologies, if the video link does not work outside Canada).

Edmonton, Alberta