Through history, different types of people have been vilified fat for different reasons. Racial groups, religious sects and people with certain disabilities have all been looked down upon by greater societies for reasons that we generally recognize now to be inconsequential. A person’s skin color does not indicate whether they are a moral person; their actions do. As a result, many people are actively working to eliminate such unjust biases from modern society to ensure that everyone enjoys a more equitable life experience.
Yet, there is one historically maligned characteristic that has largely been perpetuated by modern society: fatness. Fat people are horribly discriminated against; they are more likely to be passed over in job interviews and promotions, and as a result, they tend to earn lower wages than straight-sized people. Weight-related stigmas cause fat people to experience higher rates of mental illness, to include anxiety and depression. And yet, society at large continues to blame fat people for their own quality of life, suggesting that their high weight is causing health issues that worsen their life experiences.
Such a reaction to fat people seems justified to many people who believe that being overweight comes with undeniable negative health effects. However, the research regarding the health impacts of fatness is much less clear than most people know.
Often, Being Fat Is Good for You
Called the “obesity paradox” by researchers who presuppose that people of certain sizes are unequivocally less healthy, plenty of research on different diseases and injuries have found that people with more fat on their bodies tend to enjoy better outcomes than people with less. Vehicle collisions, heart attacks, broken bones, stroke and various other chronic and acute conditions see greater survivability 1https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2020.00053/full#:~:text=The%20obesity%20paradox%20refers%20to,and%20associated%20with%20decreased%20mortality. amongst individuals with higher BMIs, which is puzzling to those who automatically and unquestioningly believe that fat is bad.
The truth is that there is no paradox — it is simply truth and fact 2https://www.nature.com/articles/ijo201799 conflicting with biased belief. Open-minded researchers suggest that the body is actually healthier with extra stores of fat; as fat is readily available energy, the body can draw upon its fat during times of crisis when rapid recovery is essential. What’s more, extra padding around the most vital organs of the body can shield them from harm during traumatic events. For most people labeled as “overweight” or “obese,” their fat might help live longer, healthier lives.
Sometimes, Being Fat Is Bad for You
There is an upward limit to the benefit of extra fat stores. On graphs of mortality associated with weight, rates of death increase to a greater degree amongst the heaviest members of the population. This indicates that at a certain point, there are detriments to excess fat and weight.
However, exactly what size is a risk to an individual depends on a wide variety of other factors. For example, taller people are naturally heavier than shorter people, and thus, they can remain healthy at higher weights. Underlying chronic health conditions can cause individuals to gain large amounts of weight, and those health conditions can also increase an individual’s risk of death separate from their size. Diet and exercise habits can be significant contributing factors to longevity, so especially fat people who do not engage in regular physical activity or who cannot maintain a nutrient-rich diet might suffer higher mortality rates.
Ultimately, it is much more likely that the reasons an individual has become “obese” are linked to the reasons for their higher morbidity — not that their size is directly responsible for their higher likelihood of death. The more effort researchers put into understanding what is causing death among the heaviest members of the population, the more answers we can provide to larger people interested in surviving and thriving into old age.
Almost Always, Being Fat Is Impossible for You to Change
Almost regardless of the impact of fat on the human body, society must learn to accept fat people for one simple fact: Fatness is essentially impossible to change. Research has found that 95 percent of weight loss attempts 3https://danceswithfat.org/2011/06/28/do-95-of-dieters-really-fail/ fail; an individual who wants to maintain a lower body weight must maintain their diet, exercise regimen or pharmaceutical weight loss solution for the rest of their lives. Because so many weight loss strategies involve severe calorie or nutrient restriction, aggressive physical exercise or dangerous drugs, essentially no one can lose a large amount of body fat and keep it off for long.
Advances in the field of weight loss continue. Today, those in the highest weight categories might talk to their doctors about using drugs like Ozempic for weight loss, which in addition to helping to manage diabetes can result in body weight loss of up to 15 percent. Still, unless and until we can find a solution that allows every fat person to drop their weight permanently with no side effects, there is no benefit to the detrimental anti-fat attitude our society maintains.
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