Make War on Obesity – Not on Obese People!

Yesterday I blogged about how many folks with extra pounds do not see their excess weight as a health risk. Readers of these pages will also recall that I am the first to acknowledge how difficult it is to lose weight and keep it off or that successful weight management starts with stopping the gain and not with losing weight.

So yesterday, a regular reader pointed me to an article in the Globe and Mail by Edith Honan on the fat-acceptance movement which lobbies against weight discrimination and promotes the idea of being as healthy as possible at any weight rather than pursuing unrealistic (and according to some fat-acceptance advocates, unnecessary) weight-loss targets.

As Kate Harding, one of the most prolific fat-acceptance advocates is quoted, “Being fat doesn’t make me lazy or stupid or morally suspect”.

While many of the issues and arguments of the fat-acceptance folks are very real and sensible, I also have no doubt that when excess weight is, or threatens to become, a health problem, there are also very real benefits to effective weight management. In fact I have very rarely met patients, who after successful weight management would voluntarily go back to regaining their lost weight (that many do, is besides the point).

So while I am definitely not a militant weight-loss advocate, I am certainly an advocate for sensible obesity-management. I fully support the notion that weight discrimination is very real and unfair (e.g. the airline seat issue) and very much know that for many, successful weight management simply means not getting any heavier.

None of this, however, makes me an advocate for weight gain and I certainly would not promote the notion that excessive weight gain is OK as long as it makes you happy. I simply see too many patients in my clinic for whom the mental, mechanical, and metabolic health problems directly related to their excess weight are very real.

so, while I am all for fighting weight discrimination, I am also all for increasing access to evidence-based obesity treatments for those in whom excess weight is destroying their health and quality of life.

I fully agree with Yale University’s Rebecca Puhl, who in the article is quoted as saying, “We do need to fight obesity, but not obese people”.

Edmonton, Alberta

p.s. Hat Tip to regular reader Ann Hastings for pointing me to the G&M article