Fat But Fit… Enough Already

One of my friends recently told me that she no longer listens to the news, ‘all the important bits filter through eventually’.

I was aghast but I do see her point. Sensationalist media coverage is now common order of the day and as usual, fat is never far from the headlines.

But in all honesty the constant debate over fatness, but absolutely no long term action for health and mental healthcare is becoming beyond tiresome.

My ears pricked up today when I heard once again about some more ‘Research done into whether one can be fat and fit (in case you’re wondering, today, you can’t – although I think previously you could – European research in 2012 suggested that you were at no greater risk as a fat person if your original metabolic readings were all ok – do try and keep up).

Reported by major news channels, like the BBC, this is largely considered an evidential breakthrough due to the sheer size of the number of people researched (3.5million since you asked), but upon reading the news coverage, it seems that this work has not been published in any scientific journal and therefore it hasn’t gone through checks by other academics to judge its scientific basis. Subsequently it is unclear whether the research took into account factors such as lifestyle, smoking, diet or exercise.

In other words – why is this news?

Those reporting on it, hailed it a breakthrough, as it shows that obese people, even if you have healthy metabolic rate early in life, there is still a 50% increased risk later on in life of stroke and heart attacks than those of a ‘normal’ weight.

As you might have guessed, we have some issues with this research and the statements now thrown around again. But here are just a few of our issues…

  1. The study followed obese people who were obese at the start of the study, who had no sign of high blood pressure, heart disease or high cholesterol at this point. However at first glance, the study doesn’t appear to balance this against people of a non obese weight – is it possible that we just have a natural predisposition to develop a lot of these things as we get older anyway? And how much does lifestyle choice effect these percentages.
  2. To what extent did the research take into account diet and lifestyle. The term ‘fit’ feels like it has very much been skewed here. When we think of levels of fitness, we equate it to our ability to run for the bus. The sensationalist title of this piece does not feel like the terminology has been chosen correctly by those reporting. Is fitness simply metabolic measurements? Diet, exercise, lifestyle (including stress) and smoking habits all contribute to our overall health, as well as mental health factors, it is unclear how much these factors have been considered. It would also be important to understand the socio economic breakdown here too.
  3. It’s about physical health in isolation it doesn’t appear to take into account any wider research on mental health or looking at health as an overall concept. While they researched a vast no. of people to add weight (no pun honest) to their argument, in reality, the lack of clear vision as to all the factors that make or break our health aren’t obviously accounted for (according to the reports we have read).
  4. It once again lowers the importance of being active as an overall lifestyle addition and reduces it to something that is only about ‘weight loss goals’. Including the one of the researchers suggesting that the course of action from this research should be for health professionals to continue to placing weight loss at the top of the agenda for all obese, whether metabolically healthy or not. Plus size women and men are already put off visiting GP’s because of biased weight loss views, this will make it worse not better.
  5. Subsequently it continues to demoralize members of society rather than engage. It belittles any attempt people have to exercise, if the end objective isn’t a dress size smaller. It also attached success and failure to what should be a lifestyle choice levelled at all people not one a size.
  6. At the end of the day these statements and research programmes don’t actually make a difference. They don’t spur people on to be healthier or happier. The truth is even when fat women or men get into exercise they still suffer abusive behaviour because society has been tuned to reject them rather than support and encourage.
  7. Which is the very reason why fat acceptance is important is because we don’t recognise fat people of humans, simply research projects to be debated, discusses, dissected and humiliated at the whim of university grants.
  8. Maybe a better idea would be research with a tangible plan at the end, look at solutions to help and encourage people (in general) to healthier lifestyles. This is for all, unify, don’t divide.
  9. Stop making it all about weight. I encourage all my friends to work out regardless of size simply because it is part of a healthy lifestyle and I want my friends to live long and prosper. If we worked out and ate well (affordably) because it was good for us not for weightloss more people could buy into it and succeed, because their is no failure.
  10. We have been dehumanising and devaluing fat women for years and yet here we are. We haven’t gotten any smaller, so what are the points of these studies? Surely the money could be better spent where needed, such as mental health services and lobbying the food industry. So next time someone offers you a lump sum of money to create unhelpful research how about turning it down and suggesting the money can be better spent elsewhere. And finally… The inspiration for other fat women to exercise doesn’t come from research labs or from yoga pant wearing self styled health gurus. Social platforms have shown us that it comes from our peers, from the likes of Big Fit Girl and Jessamyn Stanley. By belittling the contribution of larger athletes and plus size sporty women you aren’t encouraging a generation of fat women to lose weight your further alienating them from a sphere they’re continuously told is out of bounds to them anyway.

-- Editor-in-Chief SLiNK Magazine