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Overweight issue - debate

(180 Posts)
DSM Thu 10-Oct-13 15:42:28

I've been thinking about this a bit recently, with the 'fat shaming' (which, as any other kind of 'shaming', is vile) and I have a couple of Facebook friends who have posted articles where basically they are justifying being overweight by using the 'my body my choice' line.

I'm conflicted.

First, I absolutely am a feminist and absolutely agree that no person should have to conform to any societal ideal, on anything.

However, I don't think it is 'okay' to be obese, and I don't think it should necessarily be a feminist issue. Both men and women who are obese are unhealthy. Fit people are not obese. I realise, it is not always a choice and there are a lot of people for whom obesity is a medical issue (my sister is one of them) but I certainly wouldn't expect those people to encourage others to be obese, or not tackle their obesity, by affiliating it alongside other feminist principles.


SinisterSal Thu 10-Oct-13 15:46:04

It may not be ok healthwise to be obese, but as you (general) are only qualified to assess how attractive or not I am to you, not how healthy I am STFU, world.

Two different issues and it's awful to see the way they are being conflated. It just provides cover for bashing

DSM Thu 10-Oct-13 15:50:51

I think that's my point.

Attractiveness is not the same as healthiness. And they are being conflated.

I HATE the 'fat people are ugly' stuff, obviously, but I don't know that 'reclaiming' this back, as an obese person, is justification for being in an unhealthy state.

SinisterSal Thu 10-Oct-13 15:55:57

You will have people coming along to say we are naturally attracted to the young and healthy because that's the template for healthy genes.
I guess there is something to that, on a very basic level.
Or more accurately, I don't know how to counter it, more than I believe it wink

CaptChaos Thu 10-Oct-13 16:05:54

Obesity itself is fairly subjective.

My DH is clinically obese according to the BMI, and yet, is as fit as a flea. I was clinically obese according to the BMI when playing sport at international level.

There are better indicators of physical healthiness, and none of them start with an appreciation or otherwise of a body by someone who isn't specifically medically trained.

BasilBabyEater Thu 10-Oct-13 16:14:34

Article here about the fattening rooms of Calabar

With reference to the being attracted to the young and healthy. The woman in this article thinks being fat = being healthy.

DSM Thu 10-Oct-13 16:18:30

BMI is nonsense though, it doesn't account for muscle mass.

BUT, my question is - is it okay for obese people to appropriate feminist acceptance issues to their situation, when really, obesity (in its true sense, not based on BMI) is not an appearance issue, but a health one?

The clothing one wears, whether or not one shaves, wears make up, does one job or another; these are feminist issues and are subject to patriarchal oppression. I am seeing people appropriating obesity in this and I am not sure I think it's okay.

I mean, people can do what they like - be obese, it affects me not. But I am not comfortable with advocating 'feminist' groups who are standing up for a woman's (or man's) right to obesity.

Then, my conflict comes from my belief that everyone should be able to be as they please, in any context (legally!). So am I wrong in saying obesity is not to be grouped in this category? Should obesity, though a health issue, still be considered a personal choice?

MadCap Thu 10-Oct-13 16:24:49

Other health issues are feminist issues though, like pregnancy, abortion, etc. They have to do with body autonomy, just like a person seeking to be accepted in spite of their obesity. I find the whole we're so concerned for their health thing very patronising when we're talking about adults.

DSM Thu 10-Oct-13 16:25:00

So, this is disgusting and vile.

But is this really any better?

DSM Thu 10-Oct-13 16:27:22

I agree with that, and I absolutely agree that people should be free to look how they want.

But the harsh fact is, obesity is not a healthy way to be, and promoting it by making it a feminism issue is encouraging obese people not to take action, and instead to accept their weight and in fact, possibly get heavier.

In the same way that I wouldn't be comfortable with extreme underweight issues being appropriated to feminism. Not all extremely underweight people have disorders.

AutumnMadness Thu 10-Oct-13 16:34:47

Is obesity ever a choice? Does a person just wake up one day and say "hmmm, it would be fun to get obese!" and start eating cakes by the dozen?

As far as I understand, weight problems are just an outward manifestation of various physical and mental internal problems many of which can be not solely internal but arise from a person's relation with other, crap they had to experience in the past and just the general shit nature of the human world. And for the overwhelming majority of people with weight problems eat less/move more mantra is just hot air. Hot air that does not address a problem, create a load of insecurities, and makes tons and tons and tons of money for the dieting and sports industries.

Considering this, there is no point in focusing on weight. We do not have an "obesity epidemic." What we may have is a society that is unhealthy on a much deeper level than fat. Besides for this, I honestly do not see the huge number of obese people wondering about the streets that the official stats indicate. Lies, lies and statistics.

youretoastmildred Thu 10-Oct-13 16:37:52

But your second link isn't about fat acceptance, it is about fetishising fat women

Yes I totally support fat acceptance. You can do this without arguing that every obese person has an ideal body. You are just standing up for their right not to be harrassed about it.

There are a lot of things about me I wish I could change but fortunately they are not the sort of things (mostly) that attract hate speech in public. If they were I would think I had a right to be them, unharassed, till I can do something about them, my own way, in my own time, if I can. ("intolerance of noisy eating pride!" "Short tempered pride!")

MadCap Thu 10-Oct-13 16:38:31

It the whole encouraging a woman to be a particular way (thinner, sexier whatever) I would argue is as damaging to the whole person as the obesity is. A fat person knows they're fat. All the tutting in the world over their health isn't going to make them lose weight until they're ready to. All you achieve is damaging the self esteem/mental health. If fat acceptance posts make them feel better about themselves in the meanwhile all the more power to them.

MooncupGoddess Thu 10-Oct-13 16:45:46

"I don't think it is 'okay' to be obese"

Why not, though? Would you say, "I don't think it is okay to be unfit?', or "I don't think it is okay not to eat vegetables?", or "I don't think it's okay to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week?' Maybe you would, but it seems like unnecessary judgementalism to me.

BasilBabyEater Thu 10-Oct-13 17:03:26

TBH I don't think it's OK to be unfit, unless you've got no choice (illness, disability etc.)

<Hoiks judgey pants>

I wouldn't fine people for it, or make a law against it, or deny them medical treatment because of it, but I don't think it's OK, I think we should all try and be as fit as we can.

However, I'm not quite sure why I think that. For the same reason that I think we should all try and be happy I suppose. Because I suspect that we'd all enjoy our lives more and that being happy is better than being unhappy and being fit is better than being unfit. But it may be some kind of cultural assumption I've got that I'm unaware of that this thread will help me de-construct. grin

DSM Thu 10-Oct-13 17:11:08

I don't think it is a choice to become obese, but it absolutely is a choice to not do anything about it if you are obese.

(Again, I will reiterate that I refer to people who are obese without medical reason)

mildred you are right, I probably could have found a better link. But I don't understand 'fat acceptance', you are supporting an acceptance if unhealthiness? Whilst I stand by the right for no one to be harassed about anything, I don't know that it is the right thing, as a society, to tell people 'be unhealthy and proud!', much the same, mooncup, as I wouldn't advocate unfitness, or the lack of vegetable intake, or an overuse of alcohol, no!

It is not being judgemental. But your example is akin to an alcoholic asking to stop being told they can't be an alcoholic. Of course, as a society, we should be helping protect each other, and live as healthy as we can. So morbid obesity and alcoholism, and lack of vegetables etc, should not be supported, and certainly not appropriated with the feminist movement as 'a woman's right to choose' to be obese/alcoholic/unfit etc.

SinisterSal Thu 10-Oct-13 17:17:58

Actually I think we are conflating two other things as well in a way

Being obese, which is unhealthy

Carrying a few extra pounds with a roundy belly and a bit of a muffin top which is not unhealthy in any significant way - but is a great way to flagellate oneself. The feminist message Accept Your Beautiful Body is much more clearcut here, little to argue with, but still relevant further up the scales.

We do know body policing exists and someone a half stone overweight is as likely to hate their figure as someone whose size is unhealthy.

MooncupGoddess Thu 10-Oct-13 17:21:01

Really, Basil? I find this sort of lifestyle judging quite odd. There's nothing moral or immoral about being unfit. I wasn't talking about alcoholism etc, just overindulgence of the type that might (or might not) have a minor damaging effect on one's own health, but won't affect other people. I'm not personally advocating it, just objecting to judging others.

BasilBabyEater Thu 10-Oct-13 17:21:16

Yes, being fat is not being obese is it. They are 2 different things.

Also being fat is not necessarily being unfit or unhealthy. It depends on how fat and what other lifestyle factors there are.

BasilBabyEater Thu 10-Oct-13 17:22:38

No but there's nothing moral or immoral about being unhappy either.

And I think people should be happy.

Which of course is easier said than done. grin

I'm not judging people for being unhappy (or unfit), I just don't think it's a good idea.

BasilBabyEater Thu 10-Oct-13 17:24:15

I also think people should be rich if they can.

But that's even more difficult than being happy.


I'm not contributing anything very useful to this thread, am I?

Sorry. blush

DSM Thu 10-Oct-13 17:25:22

Being fat is not the issue. I am all for advocating and supporting the notion that women shouldn't be a size 6 to be considered socially attractive or whatever.

I am talking about people who are obese, which is not healthy, appropriating the feminist ideology that women can look however they want to their unhealthy status.

Be obese, if that is what you would like. But I'm not comfortable with asking me, as a feminist, to support the notion that it is an acceptable choice to be unhealthily overweight, as a woman's right to look how she wants.

youretoastmildred Thu 10-Oct-13 17:26:33

DSM, there are various issues here but one of the clearest is that you are not helping obese people by hating them or harrassing them. It is over the exact period that pressure on women to be slim has increased, that people in general have been inexorably growing. Lab animals are growing too, btw. no one knows why.
Trends for fashion models to shrink have been taking place alongside trends for normal people to grow. Where in 1952 a model with a 22 inch waist was just a little bit slimmer than any other young woman with a 23 inch waist, now we have civilian averages in the 30s, I would guess.
So you are getting a clearly measurable inverse correlation between pressure to be slim / the media-sanctioned body, and actual slimness. In other words, you could hypothesise that pressuring people to be slim actually makes them fat. I believe this can happen. why is this? the "oh fuck it" factor?Or that dieting over time means weight increases? or general low self esteem leading to comfort eating and drinking? or what?
This is at the same time as the relentless pushing of low fat food which is a more obvious physical (rather than psychological) cause of fatness in people (it is).

Anyway whatever range of factors is at play here, we can clearly see that hassling people about their weight doesn't make them lose it - in fact, the opposite.

youretoastmildred Thu 10-Oct-13 17:29:14

Or to put all that rather more simply: mens sana in copore sano; or a psychologically healthy environment for all people is more likely to result in healty bodies than the opposite

Parmarella Thu 10-Oct-13 17:29:32

I always think people being obese is not my business.

It's their choice, and they are also free to feel great about it and tell other people how great it is.

Same if people smoke, or drink, or encourage others to drink.

Their lifestyle and health is not my business. I will make up my own mind.

People are responsible for their own lives, and if they are unhappy about being obese they can get help (GP, dietician, psychologist, WW etc.).

If it makes them feel better to post about "obese pride" that's great, and still only a small voice in the sea of voices telling everyone to be skinny (which I also ignore).

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