Proud2Bme | The Real Problem with the War on Obesity

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The Real Problem with the War on Obesity

By Chelsea Kronengold --Public health initiatives, like Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign and state-mandated BMI letters, aimed at eradicating childhood obesity are problematic for many reasons. On the surface, efforts to combat obesity appear decent and important; however, this pressure for overweight individuals to lose weight and conform to a specific body-type contributes to greater body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, weight-based discrimination and a fatphobic society.

While many believe that excess weight is detrimental to our health, the current research suggests that labeling obesity as a disease is causing greater problems than the weight itself. The awareness, pressure and stigma associated with being overweight drives these individuals to stress-eat, thus contributing to weight-gain.

Rather than judging a book by its cover and assuming that one’s weight is a public health issue, it is time we look at health independent from weight. This tightly held belief that fat = unhealthy is not necessarily the case, as it is impossible to tell someone’s (physical or mental) health strictly by looking at their body. Likewise, our biology plays a huge role in determining our body shape and size; some people are naturally thinner, while others are genetically predisposed to be heavier.

Instead, it is the stress that comes with being part of a stigmatized group that is harmful to health. It is an unfortunate reality that overweight and obese folks are often victims of weight-based bias, discrimination and stigma. We especially see this overt stigma and body shaming on the internet (e.g., Rachel Taylor’s harassment experience on Reddit).  

Moreover, this fixation on weight is a factor in disordered eating and body dissatisfaction. Society tells us that we are not good enough, pretty enough, nor worthy enough at our current weight. As people feel pressure conform to a certain size, they are likely to take drastic measures like over-exercising, restricting and binging.

Instead of focusing all of our energy on the “fight against obesity,” we should be directing our efforts towards obesity and eating disorder prevention programs, which promote realistic beauty ideals and a healthy body image for ALL. Moreover we should be working as a society to eliminate the shame and stigma associated with obesity and excess weight. 

About this blogger: Chelsea is a body image and eating disorder scholar and activist, currently pursuing a master's degree in clinical psychology from Columbia University's Teachers College. In addition to her studies, Chelsea is a consultant and program administrator for NEDA’s implementation of The Body Project. Prior to working on The Body Project, Chelsea coordinated the inaugural and second annual Gainesville, FL NEDA walks and served as the Proud2Bme National Outreach Coordinator. Chelsea has spoken on behalf of NEDA and Proud2Bme about her personal struggles with binge eating disorder and body dissatisfaction to media platforms such as Huffington Post Live, Seventeen Magazine, WebMD and SiriusXM Doctor Radio.

Also by Chelsea:

Empower All Bodies: An Interview with Jes Baker

#ImNoAngel Campaign

Are Plus Size Models Not Plus-Size Enough?

BED & Doctors: From Stigma to Support

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

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