Sorry, I Don’t Think Fat Positive People Are Healthy

There’s no such thing as healthy and fat.

I have nothing against embracing your shape, when it’s within reason.

As someone who suffered from an eating disorder for 10 years, I’m all for loving your body unconditionally. Whether you’re tall, short, stocky, slender, curvy, bootilicious, whatever; we’re all unique and gloriously imperfect. That’s what makes the human race so, well, human.

However, even being imperfectly human has its limits.

Some people have a naturally larger frame than others. Some people are particularly short, giving them a propensity to carry the odd extra pound. There are even some people who, regardless of a tiny torso, own a booty like a first-class Cadillac. But nobody, and I mean nobody, is naturally fat.

I don’t mean the extra flab everyone carries after the holiday season, or the sudden self-esteem jab after neglecting the gym for six months. You can carry a little extra jiggle and be okay; most people I know do. I’m talking being about being genuinely, undeniably, unhealthily overweight.

But what does ‘unhealthily’ overweight constitute? Most people live by the standards of the Body Mass Index scale, or BMI, which deems that, if you fall within a certain weight range relative to your height, you’re a healthy weight, according to the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). By those standards, a BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is normal, over 25 is overweight, and if you hit the big 30, you’re morbidly obese.

We could go on for ages about how BMI isn’t necessarily accurate, how it doesn’t account for elite athletes or pregnant women or tall people. But the bottom line is this; if you are not a body builder, don’t have a bun in the oven, or aren’t eight feet tall, and you tip the scales at over 220 pounds, odds are, you’ve got a problem.

There are some who stick to the theory of being ‘fit but fat’, and yes, there’s evidence to support it. According to the US National Institute of Health’s 1998 clinical report, you can actually be fat, and still fit and healthy. Just so long as your waist doesn’t exceed 35 inches for women or 40 for men, and you don’t have two or more of the following: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar.

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A 2015 study found the beneficial effects of exercise declined as the subjects increased in size.

However, that was 1998. Today, there’s a bit more research behind the whole ‘fit but fat’ thing. In 2015, the International Journal of Epidemiology released a study debunking the theory, based on the health data of more than 1.3 million Swedish men, who were followed by researchers for 30 years. It revealed the beneficial effects of exercise declined as the subjects increased in size. Compared to physically fit obese men, unfit but normal weight men had a lower risk of dying.

You to see the harmful effects of pushing that BMI of 30. The NHLBI states heart disease, joint troubles, asthma, blood clots, high blood pressure, stroke, type two diabetes, and an early grave are all tried and tested consequences of chowing down on excessively more calories than your body actually needs. We know this. We’ve known it for ages. Most importantly; we’ve seen it time and time again.

But there’s always someone who blindly rallies against the rules.

The ‘fat positive’ movement is at the forefront of this. Instagrammers flaunting their super-curves for all the world to see have started popping up all over the place. And they’re growing very noisy.

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Plus-sized model and self-proclaimed diet-hater, because, apparently, “they don’t work”, Tess Holliday epitomizes the fat positive advocate. She even has her own line of T-shirts emblazoned with her Twitter handle, ‘Eff Your Beauty Standards’; a nod to rebelling against social ideals of slimness. Georgina Doull, Stephanie Hernandez, and Isha Reid aren’t too far behind in pushing positive fat reinforcement. They’re all life affirming, self-accepting, and brimming with self-confidence.

Well, at least they say they are.

They may have theoretically come to terms with their shape (and that, whatever size you are, takes some serious mental work), but science and plain old common sense say they’d feel even better if they dropped some weight.

Yet still, Holliday and co promote their propaganda; that it’s perfectly acceptable to exist in a state clinically proven to be life-threatening. And from my observation, it’s not to gain self-esteem. It’s not to encourage other obese women to finally accept (read: be complacent with) their at-risk physical selves. It’s to meet a selfish need to validate destructive but convenient eating and exercise (or lack thereof) habits which fat-positive bloggers are, for some reason unbeknownst to God and man, unwilling to break.

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So-called plus-sized models like Holliday are setting the wrong example, as far as I’m concerned.

Running an Instagram account with fat positive photos all over it does not make you exempt from the dangers of being obese. All it does is normalize living an unhealthy lifestyle; something which is already permeating into popular culture. The fact that retail giant Target introduced size 16 mannequins last year is alarming evidence of fat-normality creeping in. It’s as if, because it’s too time-consuming to watch our weight, everyone’s just stopped caring. And that is a serious concern.

I know how tricky it can be for women to lose weight; I’ve been there. I’m aware some people have medical issues, or a slow metabolism, or a condition preventing them from physical mobility. But for the vast majority of us, being chronically overweight can and should be avoided.

So please, don’t pitch obese as the norm to me. It’s not. Nature and science both say so. I’m much more concerned with tackling the obesity epidemic and saving lives in the process, rather than condemning people to a death sentence in the face of ill-begotten self-acceptance.

Comment: Where do you stand on the fat positive movement?