The evidence is overwhelming that obesity, in any form, is dangerous. It increases the risk of death and disease for everyone, even if he or she has a “healthy metabolism.” Numerous studies suggest that over a lifetime obese individuals are more prone to fractures and complications arising from those injuries. Even obesity that occurs in our early 20s reduces the chance of living to middle age.
The psychological effects of obesity can also be devastating. Researchers have found that obese teen girls score, on average, a whole letter grade lower than those with a “healthy weight,” and are more prone to depression.
To further exacerbate matters, over a lifetime, childhood obesity costs $19,000 per child. That same study goes on to point out that, “Obesity is a known risk factor for a wide range of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Roughly one in three adults and one in five children in the United States are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” which hardly news to many of us.
So what do we do?
According to the Internet, nothing. If you’re happy with your weight, the world should just leave you the f*ck alone.
While the sentiment is well-intentioned, it seems clear that obesity is not just a personal issue anymore. It has become a public health issue on par with issues like vaccinations and cancer.
Despite this overwhelming evidence, the Net insists on framing the debate as clash between mainstream media’s unrealistic ideal body and reality. Although pushing a body image that tends toward too thin is dangerous and unhealthy, it is also equally dangerous and unhealthy to try and swing the pendulum all the way back in the other direction.
There is also a push back that frames the argument as a matter of happiness. Suggesting that being happy or content with yourself is all that really matters. But then this begs the question: how happy can someone be who is more prone to diseases, injuries, and overspending on health care?
The solution is, unfortunately, not easily attainable. We need to place equal stress two ideas. First, obesity is not healthy and any happiness derived from it is short-lived and superficial at best. Second, that obesity is not worthy of social stigma, that we should treat someone diagnosed with obesity with the same compassion and understanding as we would someone with cancer.
It is of the utmost importance, though, that we place equal weight on each of these ideas. Tipping the scales too far in either way would be devastating.