Image Source: The Thriftstorialist
Forget everything you’ve read about healthy weight. Stop counting calories and grams of fat and carbohydrates. Scrap the scale,cancel your gym membership,shred your skinny jeans, and ditch your diet today. No, we haven’t lost our minds. Rather, we’re just echoing the sentiments of latest craze to sweep social media: the fatkini girl power movement.
In what’s seen, at least in part, as a reaction to an unrealistic and repeatedly promoted standard of beauty, thousands of plus-sized gals have taken to posting photos of themselves with the #fatkini hashtag, and/or #losehatenotweight. This latest offshoot of the Fat Acceptance Movement, which even has its own organization called The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), has seen legions of “fatkinis” marshal forces to combat what they perceive as societal-wide, size-based discrimination, and push back against the long-held scientific correlation between weight and health.
Image Source: www.gabifresh.com
The term “fatkini” was coined two years ago by self-described “fashion, health and beauty loving curvy girl blogger” Gabi Fresh. The movement has even inspired several plus-sized bikini lines. Clearly, this movement has been a welcome refuge for the countless numbers of women for who body hatred and self acceptance has been a live lone struggle.
Image Source: http://www.geeinc.com
Taking things one step further, Virgie Tovar, a noted author, activist and self-described leading expert and lecturer on fat discrimination and body image, told Colorlines, “There’s not only this sense that I’m transgressing this rule that fat girls don’t wear bikinis, there’s also this corporeal experience of the wind and sun on my stomach. That feeling is not only novel and exhilarating, but also political.”
What are we to make of the fatkini movement and it’s simultaneous attempt to eradicate anti-fat bias and promote positive body image? Certainly, our popular culture promotes unattainable body types for both men and women. On television and in the movies, obese/overweight characters are often ill-mannered, awkward or just plain dumb. Bullying in schools and workplace discrimination against the overweight are common. And with more than an estimated 100 million overweight or obese adults in the U.S., it’s clear that plus-size is closer to the average American woman than supermodel skinny. But there’s still a question that all acceptance folks are dancing around: Are these ladies healthy?
We know that some fat can be beneficial. Thigh, hip, and butt fat is chemically stable, and stable fat traps harmful compounds released during digestion. Thigh fat also secretes adiponectin, which helps the body metabolize sugar, and leptin, which regulates appetite. A long-term study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with “overweight” BMI scores have a lower risk of mortality than any other weight group.
On the other hand, if rates stay consistent, it’s estimated that 80 percent of the adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030. But what does any of that really mean? In 1994, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent. Today there are 41 states with obesity rates over 25 percent. Even worse, since 1980, the oversight/obesity rate has more than tripled among children. Obesity/overweight is linked to more than 60 chronic disease. And of the estimated 572,000 cancer-related death in America annually, 33 percent are liked to a combination of excess body weight, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. Two thirds of type 2 diabetics in the US are overweight or obese. Just recently, a study showed link between midlife obesity and premature cognitive aging.
And the weight crisis hits our pocketbooks and wallets as well. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that nearly 20 percent of the increase in U.S. health care spending in the last 15 years was caused directly or indirectly by obesity. The annual health costs related to obesity in the U.S. alone is a staggering $200 billion, and nearly 21 percent of medical costs in the U.S. can be attributed to obesity. Researchers estimate that if obesity trends continue, obesity related medical costs, alone, could rise by the current $43 to $66 billion each year in the United States by 2030. Full-time workers in the U.S. who are overweight or obese and have other chronic health conditions miss an estimated 450 million additional days of work each year compared with healthy workers– resulting in an estimated cost of more than $153 billion in lost productivity annually.
On both the medical and economic front, the list of obesity/overweight problems goes on and on.
Taking it one step further, as a healthcare professional who’s devoted his professional life to helping people deal with their weight problems, there are things I simply don’t understand about the fat acceptance movement. And let me preface my remarks by saying that I’m speaking out of concern, not malice. After nearly four decades working in the field of weight control, I know first hand and appreciate the struggles that millions go through in their efforts to lose weight. Heavy people pay dearly for their size and they inhabit a society that demonizes anything other than the ideal body shape. I’m sympathetic.
Still, as a society, perhaps we’re too tolerant of obesity. Putting aside the issue of physical appearance, with millions and millions of overweight/obese people in this country, and knowing the effect that being overweight has on all of us, maybe we need to be less accepting of lifestyle choices that have put us squarely in the throes of a major healthcare crisis. Indeed, it would be cause for a national emergency if 68 percent of American adults had cancer or heart disease.
Also, I find it incredulous that someone can be “positive” about being stuck in the revolving door of your doctor’s office, or being relegated to the plus sized clothing racks. How “positive” is it to willfully damage your body? I’m not implying that a thin body is always healthy and a heavier body is unhealthy. However, I’ve yet to meet a severely overweight or obese person who wasn’t living with at least one weight related health complication.
A core or even guiding principle of both the Fatkini and Fat Acceptance Movements is “health at every size.” The focus here is healthy living, not body image. This is nice in theory but how many severely overweight or obese people are living healthy? I’m sorry to disappoint you but you can’t be physically healthy at any size, and sparing feelings or tapping dancing around the issue isn’t going to alter this reality.
Some cases of obesity/overweight are caused by a medical condition or other extenuating circumstances, but these are not the source of weight problems for the majority of this country’s 110 million dieters. Constant overconsumption, particularly of unhealthy foods, is putting millions at risk and adversely impacting the already high cost of healthcare, particularly in the U.S.