Minority Opinions

Not everyone can be mainstream, after all.

Fat Chat

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I’m not particularly obsessed with my health or appearance.  There are plenty of things I could be doing better; then again, there are plenty of ways I could be worse.  As you might guess about a programmer, I’m largely sedentary; I choose to commute by bicycle in large part to ensure that I stay active.  I eat fresh fruits and vegetables because I enjoy them, pace out sugars and fats to avoid immediate bodily consequences, and pack protein for lunch to ensure that I can get home without shaking.

For my spouse, such issues aren’t exactly an obsession, but a frequent source of irritation.  This week’s rant was triggered by Boy Scouts of America, who are refusing Jamboree admittance to individuals based on their Body Mass Index.  BMI isn’t particularly accurate at measuring obesity, nor is obesity particularly great at determining fitness.  Even if it correlates strongly with heart disease and similar health problems, that doesn’t mean that any particular person will be unable to hike three miles uphill in an afternoon after walking around all morning.

Body weight isn’t itself a problem.  It’s more of an indicator, like a code smell.  What it indicates may vary; too much junk food, too little exercise, thyroid problems, something else entirely, or any combination of the above.  Likewise, it may be causing increased risk of heart failure, diabetes, fibromyalgia, or nothing at all.  You cannot tell just by looking at a person.  Nor is there any reason to comment if you don’t already know their full situation.

Unfortunately, some people get depressed because their body isn’t what they think their peers will consider attractive.  Beauty isn’t everything, or even the most important thing, but it’s one of the few things that contribute to a first impression, so it easily gets overrated.  This unhappiness can lead to dieting, which can make the problem worse by convincing the body that it’s starving.  Severe diets can cause even more health problems than the extra weight they’re supposed to eliminate.

The only real way to improve your body shape in a way that will last is to change your lifestyle.  That may mean giving up a favorite vice or three.  It may mean taking up a hobby that gets you moving.  It may involve a new job, a new mode of transportation, or a new set of friends.  For most people, it can be very hard.

If you have done so, do not discount how hard it can be for everyone else.  Anecdotes are not proof, and it can very hard to believe that your experience is in the minority.  Particularly for an outgoing cis-gendered male middle-class American.

If you already feel comfortable with your body, then please be sensitive to those who might not.  Do not encourage dieting; the war on fat has caused about as many problems as the war on drugs, with even less success.  When hosting a meal or event, it might be wise to provide healthy alternatives to common junk food, particularly if they can be surprisingly tasty.

Meanwhile, if you stay reasonably active, eat reasonably nutritious food, and otherwise live a healthy lifestyle, but can still be considered overweight, then rejoice that you live in a time and place that lets you eat your fill.  That puts you in the richest one percent of humanity.


Written by eswald

16 Jul 2013 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Cycling, Food, Lifestyle, Spouse

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