NYT Rebuttal – Is Obesity OK?
Though this response went unpublished, I think it’s worthwhile to have it available on this site. The response was the first, but will not be the last, OpEd that BingeBehavior.com sends to the NYT as it is clear, a massive education push is needed to curb the weight shaming that goes on in this country. Unsolicited advice and pity are not conducive to anybody’s health.
To the Editor:
Discussing obesity as an indicator of health is to conflate both issues. My experience crafting clarifying language for national health programs may add value to this conversation.
In your “Invitation to a Dialog: Talking About Obesity”, writer Carol Weston lamented the size and shape of our nation’s children and drew a direct line connecting their size and shape to health.
What Ms. Westin has conflated, and by no means is she alone in this, is that size and shape are directly correlated with health. This is blatant misleading misinformation promoted by the diet industry; a $65 billion a year business that is reliant on convincing people they are in need of physical improvement for health and successful living.
Body composition naturally runs a scale from very slight to very heavy driven by genetics, ability and disability, resources, income inequality, race, geography, culture and more. Body shape is simply not an indicator of health or healthy habits as recently exemplified by Taylor Townsend and many other athletes who do not have the “ideal healthy shape”, a shape that was defined as ideal by an industry without regard for genetics, resources, ability/disability, familial culture or even the person’s consent.
If the true interest is the wellbeing of the individual then addressing their ability to properly nourish themselves, or to engage in activities and movement that support their body’s needs no matter what shape they happen to be are the right ways to support that concern. What does not work to improve health is a misguided approach that focuses on shape and weight and takes steps from there to strip a person of basic needs such as food, acceptance and compassion. Telling a person that you care about them so much that they need to be different is not about health, it’s about you and your bias.
Because the “War on Obesity” aggressively promotes people to view others as something (someone) to combat – it promotes bias which in turn creates stigma, which in turn makes it harder for people to engage in healthy habits because they are aggressively told they are bad and wrong by people who were encouraged to ‘wage war’ against them in the first place.
If we are truly concerned with the full, healthy lives of our citizenry, our time is wasted looking at shapes and evaluating health without a thorough check-up, instead our time is best spent waging the war on income inequality; doing what we can to provide healthy foods to every corner of this country; encouraging movement in equity that is proportionate to the needs of each individual (whether able bodied, disabled, or suffering from an eating disorder) and we must stop projecting weight bias on those who come in shapes that we do not identify with.
Lizabeth Wesely-Casella, Founder, BingeBehavior.com