There’s a dangerous attitude out there, one which has been festering for a number of years and is probably a proponent of the Oprah Winfrey movement, I like to call it the “Big is Beautiful” syndrome. This particular group of people spout cliche after cliche, using faulty logic to support their denial that there is anything wrong with being overweight or obese and that people are spending far too much time on the topic of health, fitness and weight.
Playing the Victim
These venomous types will twist and turn, claiming that they are discriminated against based on their size, that anorexic supermodels and superstars are providing negative role models for our youth (let’s do a reality check: are America and Australia full of overweight and obese, or have anorexics suddenly taken hold of the streets?), and that women should not be worried about their weight at any rate when, and I quote (from some random journo’s blog):
“Whining about weight is the ultimate shiny object that women continue to focus their attention on, instead of:
– fighting for social justice, at home and abroad
– running for political office and kicking ass when we win
– creating astonishing works of art
– waking up every single day grateful for their health and strength, the not-so-simple ability to walk and stand and reach for things without pain
– knowing that women all over the world are dying of starvation, malnutrition and in childbirth”
Etc etc ad nauseum, supposedly an extensive list of why you are misplacing your concerns, but in reality it’s an excuse list.
Did you get that? If there are problems in the world, or in politics, or with animal cruelty, or perhaps just your kitchen tap isn’t working properly, then you shouldn’t be “whining” or even thinking about your weight as there are more important things to worry about, and after all, you can only fix one problem at a time, right? RIGHT? (well…no, actually).
I won’t lie, it irks me particularly when journo’s who have a good deal of exposure spout drivel continually, as they have a duty of care to do their best to dispense useful and accurate information, not catering to the fragile ego of a particular demographic who want to be coddled until they’re feeling the full glory of a diabetes induced coma. Sure it feels good telling people what they want to hear, and everybody’s feeling-the-feels and congratulating each other on accepting themselves for ‘who they are’, but in the long-term there’s serious damage being done by this blatant disregard of reality (On the matter of journalists being scientifically illiterate and ignorant and dispensing horrendous advice is one which I plan to write about in the future).
What’s the moral here? This isn’t just a whine about people who (ironically) tend to spend their time whining about people who are whining about their weight. The moral is this – do not let people like this, with their superficial facade of positivity and “oh honey you’re gawdjuss just the way you are!”, don’t let them tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t spend time improving yourself, your health, and your well-being, just because they have failed to do so themselves and need to surround themselves with other failures while propagating superficially positive but truly negative beliefs and attitudes. Don’t let them delude you into ignoring the consequences of being overweight or obese, nor how big these problems are in America and Australia and their impact on the healthcare system. If you find yourself tiring of conversations about health and weight, perhaps it’s time to do something about it.
Every person on this earth has the right and the obligation to take care of themselves and each other, but (and now it’s my turn for a cliche, so why not?) how can we take care of each other if we can’t or won’t take care of our own physical health? If we don’t create a very solid foundation, there is no chance of building a stable structure on top.
Don’t surround yourself with fake and dangerous, self-delusional positivity. Sometimes, a good hard smack in the face is good for us, and forces us to see what we’ve been ignoring for way to long. Let’s not delude ourselves or let others delude us, let’s stay true to our goals. Don’t ever let a random Joe tell you to “give it up”, because you can and will achieve greater health and well being if you just ignore those coddlers.
Is Big Really ‘Beautiful’?
Big is not “beautiful”, big is heart disease, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, cancer, fatty liver disease and sleep apnoea, to name a few.
What are your thoughts? Is the “big is beautiful” attitude a problem that you often experience, and is it something that we should spend more time addressing?
(copy/pasted from Chocolate Event.com exchange for reference)
apothecary21c / Andrea Lewis says:
I read your piece, and I do agree with many of the points you made, but why mention Oprah Winfrey as though she is a propomnent of fat acceptance?? This is a woman who has spent much of her adult life trying to lose the weight she begans gaining in her late twenties onward. And quite publically too! I just don’t understand the motive behind that, other than character assanination. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Chocolate Vent says:
I’m sorry, where did you see the Oprah reference? I didn’t include any names in my post.
Not you, Jason Jarred. In the link he shared on your post. He wrote, “There’s a dangerous attitude out there, one which has been festering for a number of years and is probably a proponent of the Oprah Winfrey movement, I like to call it the “Big is Beautiful” syndrome.” That is the first sentence of his post. And it is a total lie! If anything Oprah is on the opposing side of the movement he credits her with. But I guess some people see BW as the go to scapegoat for any and all issues.
He could have chosen Camryn Manheim who wrote a book called ‘Wake Up, I’m fat!’ She is a very vocal, and famous, fat acceptance advocate, but she’s also White… He hasn’t responded, so I can only guess at his motives. There are a lot of American men – mostly White and Black men – who despise Oprah for her success and openly pray for her downfall. I don’t know what motivated Jason Jarred to make such an obviously false claim against Oprah, but he’s always welcome to explain his reasoning.
Chocolate Vent says:
Oh, I got it. I’m not sure, but maybe he used Oprah as an example because she’s more famous than Camryn Manheim or Roseanne Barr, etc….
(I don’t know for sure, just playing devils advocate)
Hi Andrea, while I can’t point to any specific quotes of Oprah’s which explicitly encourage people to accept their bodies to the point of neglecting their health (and yeah, I *did* do some research into Oprah Winfrey quotes), what I will point to is what appears to be a trend to a post-modernist philosophy which is more serving toward the psychological fragility of her audience than it is towards the cold, harsh reality. The last point being that if you’re obese/overweight, you’re quite simply more likely to experience diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis/thrombosis, cardiovascular disease, and overall poorer states of health (not to mention slower recovery from illness & surgeries).
I didn’t intend this to be a character assassination, just a simple off-the-cuff observation which wasn’t intended to be taken quite too literally. I quite respect Oprah for her self-help approach and ability to inspire others to achieve their goals, but I’m cautious with the amount of ‘fluff’ that surrounds these types of celebrities, such as her promotion of Dr Oz – and surely you’ve already seen online clips of his recent court case:
I hope that helps to clarify the issue.
I get where you’re coming from, but Oprah has made Bob Greene – her longtime personal trainer – rich by promoting him and his books and even had a weight loss competition, in which he trained others, on her show many years ago. She has had many, many, many shows about weight loss and discussed her own struggles with weight and over eating over the years. She even talked about it on CNN! She has never once encouraged any one to stay fat or claimed it was in any way healthy. I would not be a fan of hers if she did. In fact, she has been heavily criticized by fat acceptance advocates for not being happy with her own weight and wanting to lose the excess. Just one example: http://funnynotslutty.hubpages.com/hub/Why-Oprah-Should-Stay-Fat
As for Doctor Oz being in trouble for being overly enthusiastic about certain natural weight loss “cures”, that has nothing to do with Oprah. Her company produces his show, but it is his show. Also, Doctor Oz has never been a fat/obesity promoter. If he were he would not have been grilled by members of congress recently. He would not have done all those shows on how to lose weight. Fat acceptance people avoid that subject, unless it’s to attack its merits, usually claiming that it leads to anorexia, which is a complete and total lie! But that is their excuse to stay fat and encourage others to join them in fat land.
I blame people for what they do and what they say, not for what their friends, relatives and business associates do and say. THAT is fair, that is just.
I disagree with you on the Dr Oz issue. If I were to host/fund or be associated with somebody who pedalled pseudoscience, snake-oil, or magical cures while operating in the role in which I’ve chosen to support or associate with them, then I would be explicitly supporting the things that person says or does while performing that function. It’s like saying the manager of a hotel isn’t responsible for what the chef decides to put on the menu.
Perhaps I was off the mark with suggesting that the “Big is Beautiful” movement is a proponent of the Oprah Winfrey crowd – but as I already said, this was really a throw away comment and completely tangential to the central issue. I do appreciate you bringing this oversight to my attention though, and it’s encouraged me to look into it further. I’ll look up Camryn Manheim, who you mentioned in Chocolate Vent’s post.
This is all very well, but you fail to define “obese” or even “overweight” and what their relationship to “health” is. I was thinking, great!, a skeptical look at fitness received truths, but this post doesn’t fill me with hope.
According to the BMI, I am “obese” right now (admittedly, my current weight is more than I prefer). However, at the age of 45, my waist to height ratio is .52. Not ideal, but not anywhere near the danger zone for my age. My waist is definitely narrower than my hips and chest.
I have fewer sick days than any of my colleagues, I have low blood pressure, low cholesterol and my heart is in excellent shape. While I’m overweight (no, I don’t look “obese” either) and could be fitter, there is nothing wrong with my health.
So it’s all very well to rail at “big is beautiful” and point at the obviously excessively fat people out there. But I’d think more of your ranting if you actually defined your terms. As far as I’m concerned, BMI – if that’s your measure – isn’t immutably bound to measures of health (although obviously the further out to the extremes you get, the more correlation you’ll see – read the “Mortality” section in this study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK62367/).
Hi trixtah, thanks for your response.
I did not define obese or overweight because these are basic technical terms which can be googled or clarified on Wikipedia or other easily accessible, reputable websites. It’s not my prime mission (https://skeptifit.com/about/) nor intent to educate through Skeptifit, and certainly not to replicate information which has been better written and sourced at other locations. Rather my purpose here is to provide analysis of current events, articles, research papers and controversial issues which strike a chord with me.
You mention that you expected me to elaborate on the relationship between health, and overweight/obesity -this is another area which I won’t expand upon because the evidence is so abundant in both peer-reviewed literature and lay-sources, and again can be sourced from reputable locations. This is the reason I often simply link out to Wikipedia for uncontroversial and commonly accepted information (like I did in this very blog post).
I’ll repeat: my mission here is not to regurgitate tired information which is already essentially accurate common knowledge, but rather to dispel myths and controversies in the fitness and medical rehabilitation industries.
You provide anecdotal evidence of your personal health in contrast to your BMI measures – this demonstrates that an individual can possess positive biochemical and physiological health markers (ie heart rate, blood pressure, Na+/K+ levels, lipids, cholesterol, inflammatory mediators etc) while being classified in an anthropometrically unhealthy category such as ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’.
I agree that there are exceptions to the correlations between overweight/obesity and illnesses like cardiovascular disease, and in fact research has clearly shown this to be the case (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130902101848.htm), but it’s certainly the exception and not the rule.
My post was intended as a rebuttal to the journalists harmful blog post which was mentioned (http://broadsideblog.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/if-one-more-woman-bitches-about-the-size-of-her-body/#comments), I strongly recommend you read it if you haven’t already as it will frame my post in the context in which it was intended.
My post was in no way intended to directly attack those who fall within the overweight/obese demographic, but to support the quest for greater health of those with metabolic risk factors through achieving weight loss goals by helping them to avoid the self delusion that is propagated by those who deliver false-positive messages which do more harm than good.
Now only if wordpress was smart enough to freshly press this. I fear we are living in a world that continually avoids for responsibility in the name of sky in the pie causes that we actually can’t fix as individuals. The best way to change the world is to change yourself.
Spot on – on one level I understand the issues raised about people being overly concerned with their body image without doing anything about it, but on a more fundamental level Australia and America are the most obese countries on the planet, a little self-consciousness in our respective countries is *not* a bad thing.
Thanks for the follow!
Figured I’d share my one piece of fitness with you! Good luck bro and great blog. I look forward to updates.
Thanks for sharing – I browsed your blog but I didn’t see this post!
This article brings valid points. You only need to get the message to the right people. Encouragement in a positive way is to bring people on board.
Thanks for your feedback Mark. Encouragement is fine, but so is a slap in the face – it just depends what the doctor prescribes 😉