Why Science Says Its OK to Stay Fat


    It’s time we stop equating good health with weight loss.”>

    The world is get heavier. But you dont need to lose weight.

    A number of news outlets have been covering a recent report out from the CDC, with headlines largely pointing to the apparent 15 -pound increased number of average weight in Americans since 1994. The report described from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey( NHANES ), an ongoing data set investigating a number of health statistics of a representative sample of Americans since the 1960 s.

    Americans have indeed been get heavier, but its not just us. As weve exported the American Lifestyle, so have we exported a growing number of chronic preventable illnesses.

    A analyse published in the Lancet earlier this year investigated more than 19 million participants in 1,698 population-based surveys covering most countries in the world, found that worldwide, the proportion of individuals with obesity rose by nearly 10 percentage since 1975. These increases are associated with numerous serious, expensive-to-treat health problems, like form II diabetes, heart disease, and certain kinds of cancer.

    But all this does not mean that you need to try to lose weight.

    If youre an average American, you could probably stand to be healthier. Only about a fifth of Americans get adequate quantities of physical activity, and the standard American diet falls far short of recommendations for optimal health. Most Americans have poor health habits, but not because they are irresponsible, or bad. And despite what we are told almost everywhere we go, health does not start with weight, and if you are heavy, it does not mean there is something wrong with you.

    I suspect that one of the greatest barriers to reversing obesity trends is the assumption that the answer lies in individuals abilities to make better selections. There are several things incorrect with this assumption.

    First, is that the better selections in question are diet and exercise. Dieting and exercise to lose weight are not better selections. They are strange, bizarre selections. I write about obesity often, and inevitably these pieces will attract commentaries like: People are fat because theyre lazy.( Though often with uglier terms) This is as nave a statement as The world is flat, because it seems flat. It dismisses the evolutionary, sociological, psychological, and physiological context in which we make decisions about moving and feeing, and how our bodies react to those decisions.

    As Ive written before, we are in a situation unlike that of any living thing in history: We evolved in a world that required a lot of physical work to get scarce and precious calories. That world no longer exists. Today we have as much food energy as we want and it takes zero energy-cost to get it. This is a recipe for population-wide weight gain. Indeed, those of us responding to this environment by pandering those powerful physiological and psychological imperatives to GET MORE ENERGY, and then to STORE THAT ENERGY, are simply responding naturally to our surrounding environment.

    Having the discipline to ignore those drivers is admirable, to be sure, but it is not normal , nor should that be the standard to which we hold every individual. In most cases it takes education, spare time, fund, and an amenable culture framework for healthy eating and physical activity to become normalized components of ones daily life. But these are not luxuries all people have.

    This is another problem with a purely make better selections approach to weight management. It simply isnt working, and theres no evidence that it will work. To those champions of personal responsibility: however deeply you believe that people should be inducing what you call better choicesthe reality is that they likely will not, especially when the ability to make those selections is constantly being undermined by a multibillion-dollar marketing endeavour from the food industry.

    A Yale report found that in 2012 alone, $4.6 billion was spent advertising fast food to children, versus a tiny fraction of that amount spent on advertising fruits and vegetables. For decades now weve been promoting dieting and exercise for losing weight( unnatural, and for some, unpleasant behaviours that have not been shown to be effective for most people in the long term ), and yet the rates of overweight and obesity continue to rise.

    One more issue with the choose to lose strategy is the simple truth that even if any persons on this planet got the recommended quantities of physical activity and consume reasonably, we would still have people among us who are overweight and obese. Are they bad people? Are they irresponsible? The human body exhibits a spectrum of body forms. As long as we tie moral character to weight status, we are hurting a lot of people. And even worse, there is evidence that weight stigma can lead to greater weight gain.

    This should not be misinterpreted as an attack on exercise, or eating well. All proof points to a shit-ton of benefits from being physically active. Likewise, feeing a varied, moderate, whole-food and plant-heavy diet, instead of a diet characterized by overconsumption of calorically-dense, nutritionally deficient foods, will drastically improve quality of life and health outcomes. But those things are not the same as trying to lose weight.

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    Should you try to lose weight? Maybe, maybe not. Should you try to figure out how to fit healthier habits into your daily life in ways that you can tolerate and enjoy? Absolutely. Is there something wrong with you if you dont eat better and get more physical activity? No. Youre acting like any normal primate, though youll likely be better off if you do make those changes.

    But should the obesity epidemic be addressed? To be sure. However, as long as our solution is limited to wondering why all those fat people are being so irresponsible, then we will fail. First, we should acknowledge that we need to start focusing on promoting healthy habits in individuals rather than demanding weight loss.

    Then, we should look at the numerous environmental and societal drivers of obesity and change those: a food system that encourages processed, inexpensive, and nutritionally empty calories, rather than affordable, whole nutritious foods; a denial of basic public education from an early age about how to take care of our bodies; a laissez-fare attitude towards food industry practises like selling ludicrous portion sizes, marketing unhealthy foods to young children, and infiltrating colleges and daycares to shape feeing habits from a young age; an approach to house and city planning that promotes motorized transportation and sedentary behavior; a lack of universal access to green spaces; and finally, some of the strongest correlateds of all: poverty and social inequality.

    There are many additional actions that could help reverse the trends in weight gain, in this country and worldwide. But one that probably wont help is this tired refrain: You need to lose weight, you need to lose weight, you need to lose weight

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