A few months ago, Reddit made news because it banned a 150,000-strong group dedicated to tracking down and harassing fat people (don’t worry, several fat-hating subreddits are still there, at least one with over 100,000 members). The existence of those groups surprised some people — not that there was mockery of the overweight, but that there wasfrothing, pathological hatred of them. And if you’re an overweight female, then God help you — girls’ self-esteem is inversely proportional to their body weight. And this is because society makes it clear that the overweight are inhuman, soulless monsters.
And where you find irrational hatred, you find lots of people who have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. Almost every aspect of our war against fat is screwed by a slew of misconceptions, mistakes, and dodgy data. For instance, did you know that …
#5. Weight Discrimination Is Widely Accepted (But Makes No Sense)
It would be one thing if the obese were merely easy comedy targets around the office (and they are), but there is an entire system of discrimination aimed directly at the horizontally-challenged amongst us. Workplace bias against the fat is more prevalent than discrimination based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability. And as you can probably guess, it’s worse for women.
To clarify, neither the study nor we are insinuating that weight discrimination is somehow “worse” than racism or sexism. However, unlike its competitors, weight discrimination isn’t often talked about, and actually seems kind of acceptable. While we’re all pretty much in agreement that you can’t choose your sex and race, lots of people cling to the mentality that weight is not only a choice, but also a moral choice. “If those lazy bastards just had some self-respect, they’d put down the ice cream and get off their asses!” Yes, now tell us again about the time you had to sit next to a fat person on a long flight!
… Also, tell us about how when you eat ice cream, it doesn’t count.
Never mind that researchers now know over 140 locations across the human genome that contribute to obesity in various ways. Or that whether or not you’re overweight depends heavily on what part of the world you grew up in, what prescription drugs you’re taking, whether you have children (yes, in the case of both mothers and fathers), and your income and demographic group. Think the problem is that people these days have simply gotten too lazy? Well, studies show that in parts of the country where physical activity increased, so did obesity. (Note: People who exercise tend to eat more.) Oh, and your “lazy” Western lifestyle burns the same amount of energy as that of your hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Roughly translated, “Ugg’s mama so fat, when she gather around fire, she gather around fire.”
What we’re saying is that while you do control what you eat, factors outside your control determine how often you get hungry, how strongly you feel hunger, what food is most easily available to you, and how much time and energy you have to devote to fitness. In other words, a thin person mocking a fat person is no different than a rich person mocking the poor — it requires willful ignorance about how both of you got that way.
#4. Our Dietary Habits Are More About Vanity Than Health … And That Can Kill You
Ask overweight people why they want to lose the pounds, and a desire to improve appearance comes in as the top answer. We all know why — the fat-hate crowd likes to insist that they really just worry about their targets’ health. But the stigma against the overweight has far less to do with health than it does with finding fat people unpleasant to look at. Channing Tatum can be seen smoking tobacco and weed on camera in between bites of pure butter, but no one will blink as long as he has those abs. But if he gains 150 pounds, his film career will be over and the tabloids will call him a monster. Twenty pounds if he was a woman:
“We demand every cell of fat be in your butt and breasts! Your body is only for our amusement!”
The problem with this should be obvious: If we’re thin, it’s all too easy to be lulled to a false sense of security, despite the multitude of ways traditional “fat people diseases” such as cardiovascular problems and diabetes can plague thin people, too. Who cares if the doctor’s yelling at you when your six-pack says you’re as healthy as can be, right? Nobody looks at a sexy model on a billboard and asks how their blood pressure is doing.
Here’s how crazy it’s gotten. It’s well-known that quitting smoking leads to weight gain (about ten pounds, on average). Society has made us so scared of being overweight that smokers are afraid to quit because of this. A third of smokers say that the reason they don’t quit is that they’re afraid they’ll get fat. Hell, many who actually manage to quit soon find themselves contemplating picking up the habit again because of the pounds they packed on after quitting.
“At least now the judgy assholes just make faces and walk away.”
That’s how ingrained the “thin is better than fat” thing is in our culture. There are people out there who’d rather risk dying from cancer than living as a fat person, even though no doctor in the world would recommend it. “You’ve put on a few pounds, Steve, I’m going to prescribe you this here carton of Camels. What’s wrong, Steve? Don’t you want to be cool? Are you a pussy?”
#3. The Obesity Epidemic Is Far More Complicated Than We Think
Type “obesity epidemic” in Google and you’re punched in the gut with close to 1.5 million search results, many of which are from reputable institutions, such as Harvard and the World Health Organization. So who are we, a humble comedy website, to claim that the epidemic doesn’t exist? No one, that’s who. The world is fatter and more diabetic than it’s ever been. The problem spans the globe, and science has identified lots of factors that are contributing to it (none of which are “people around the world all suddenly became lazy slobs“).
However, we are saying that things are a lot more complex than “People are getting fat, so we need to get them thinner, period.” For instance, being overweight doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily unfit, and research indicates that being too lean might in fact be worse for your health. According to a 2013 report that reviewed over 100 previous studies on the subject, the people who live the longest on average are the ones with a BMI in the “overweight” range of 25-30. Though there is a host of possible reasons for this (they might get better healthcare than their leaner counterparts, for one), this casts an interesting shadow over the whole “thinner = healthier” mentality.
Who could’ve guessed that 100 lbs of extra resistance added to every movement might strengthen you up a bit.
Studies have shown that if an obese person is metabolically fit, which largely involves exercising and not eating too much terrible food, then they can be healthy. Yes, healthy while being obese. There is convincing evidence that these fit obese people don’t have a greater risk of dying from, or even developing, illnesses like cancer and heart disease than their slimmer counterparts. And then there’s the “obesity paradox,” a recent discovery that obesity appears to lower mortality in the face of numerous illnesses, for reasons science doesn’t completely understand.
Which is good, because as we’ve said before, dieting statistically fixes severe obesity with a success rate on par with voodoo and wishful thinking. It’s not much different than telling an addict to “just stop doing heroin” or a poor person to “just go acquire a skill that will make you lots of money.” Barring surgery or some other medical intervention, the obese are going to have to find ways to be as healthy as possible while knowing they’ll never be that thin, smiling person on the billboard holding up a giant pair of pants.
Don’t be fooled; those are going right into storage for later, because your body will try like crazy to force a relapse.
And since we brought up surgery …
#2. Liposuction Sucks (Away Your Good Fat)
Our bitter rejection of anyone in the plus-size category drives about 400,000 people a year in the U.S. alone to try to take a shortcut to thinness via the cheat code of liposuction. Well shit, why doesn’t everybody do that?
It’s because liposuction is a useless tool for the obese — and, for that matter, a questionable one for everyone else. It is only appropriate for those with very specific health issues, or thin people who want to be very slightly thinner in a particular area. What’s more, the procedure comes with more potential health hazards than a crosswalk in the Fast & Furious universe. According to lipo experts, the results are “never dramatic.” Well, in terms of weight loss, anyway; the drama factor of weird skin flaps or unexpected nasty health complications is well and duly present.
So be prepared for the chance of more cellulite — one of several ways lipo can leave you looking worse.
Even if the surgery goes perfectly, you’ve still likely compromised your health. See, fat is kind of useful for some stuff. This is especially true of the subcutaneous fat — the stuff directly beneath your skin. This fat protects you from injury and cancer, regulates metabolism, fights infection, and even makes your skin look smoother and more youthful. Guess which type of fat liposuction almost exclusively removes? The procedure is useless against visceral fat — the other, truly hazardous type of fat — which is generally lodged deeper down in our body and can’t be lipo’d away, due to a dumb technicality of a whole bunch of organs in the way. Therefore, no matter how much fat a liposuction removes, you’re unlikely to get the health benefits normal dieting would give you, because the bad fat is still there, hiding. Scheming.
And that’s the best-case scenario. Liposuction also offers copious health risks for something that is typically purely for cosmetic purposes. Your surgery might come with a side order of swelling, burns, infection, or other, weirder complications (embolism, skin necrosis …). Also, liposuction is a surgical procedure, so complications can straight-up kill you.
“I don’t care; any risk is worth it not to have a slight elbow bulge.”
All right, so it sounds like the goal should be prevention. If it’s that hard to fix obesity once it starts, then we need to make sure everybody is eating correctly from the moment they pop out of the womb! But then the problem is …
#1. Calorie And Fat Guidelines Are Ridiculously Flawed
How many calories does an adult need? According to official data, it’s about 2,000 a day. If you’ve avoided looking up this information, don’t worry — they’ve slapped nutrition labels with calorie guidelines on all of your packaged foods, all according to that sacred 2,000-calorie estimation. All those Daily Values percentages in the labels are based on it. Which is odd, as your average non-overweight man should actually eat 3,050 calories a day just to maintain his weight. For women, the figure is 2,400 calories per day.
“Do we look like caloric calculators? How much is that in pizza, damn it.”
The entirely bullshit 2,000 figure is the product of a hilarious series of false conclusions, and only exists because when the FDA was trying to come up with nutritional guidelines, they made the astute observation that surveys are a lot easier to do than reliable science. So they looked into a number of USDA surveys on how many calories Americans generally eat. This Family Feud approach to settling a highly important, nation-defining question gave them the slightly low yet semi-accurate ballpark of 1,600-2,200 calories per day for women and 2,000-3,000 per day for men. However, the FDA immediately proceeded to fuck up their hard-earned data by deciding to play averages, and set the recommended daily caloric intake at 2,350 calories, regardless of age or gender.
Conveniently forgetting that “round figures” was what they were trying to prevent in the fucking first place.
And then there’s fat. If you want your body to be low in fat, then you need foods that are low in fat, right? Hell, that’s basic science! But then that turned out to be complete and utter horseshit, too. When the U.S. started clumsily coughing up its first dietary guidelines in 1977, heart attacks had recently taken the throne as the leading cause of death. There was nothing in the available data to support the claim that dietary fat increases the risk of heart attack, or any sort of death at all (except maybe those caused by slipping in a puddle of bacon fat). However, officials were eager to do something to at least appear to deal with the situation, so they grabbed a bunch of arbitrary evidence pointing toward fat and declared it the enemy.
This is despite the fact that studies have found that a high-fat diet doesn’t even play a major role in cholesterol buildup, and that our constant fat-avoidance makes us consume copious amounts of carbohydrates instead. Incidentally, carbs break into sugars and a different sort of fat called triglyceride, which may cause more harm to your cardiovascular system than any amount of animal products you could chow down.
“I’m not sure; let’s blame eggs and be done with it.”
“Good, no one know what the fuck they end up doing anyway.”
Okay, what about sugar and high-fructose corn syrup? Hasn’t science declared them to be Public Enemy #1 these days? Sure, and you’re wise to cut down on them … unless you replace them with artificial sweeteners, which appear to cause as much weight gain, if not more, for a variety of reasons that mostly come down to “They make you hungrier afterward.”
Confused? Good. That means you’ve gained an accurate view of what is a truly confusing situation. Any jackass who smugly proclaims, “It’s about calories in versus calories out, people!” is the most ignorant of all. It’s like saying that solving crime is simple because all we need is everyone to “stop doing crimes.” If they’re not stopping to consider the causes of this sudden worldwide caloric imbalance, they’re being, well, as lazy as they accuse fat people of being.