Being the fat kid is something that never really goes away. When you spend your every waking moment acutely aware of the judgmental tone of every glance thrown your way, it leaves an indelible mark on who you are that is hard to erase. You can be a fat adult — comfortable, proud — and still, in the back of your mind, be thinking about coming in last on the athletics track on a hot summer day, thighs chafing, while your schoolmates point and laugh.
The shame is real.
Fatness is one of the few culturally accepted biases in our society. Being publicly fat is, as I can attest, an exercise in self-hatred and castigation. And recently, people have been making the wonderful argument that, instead of treating fat people as sub-human beasts, we should try and reduce the horrifying stigma that they face.
This is all to the good.
Unfortunately, there is another extreme that is being embraced by some. The argument that “obesity isn’t the problem!” is becoming more and more common. It would be wonderful for all of us if obesity was not the health problem that we think it is.
Sadly, this is just not the case.
Obesity is absolutely bad for your health.
That does not mean that shaming people is ok.
The argument that obesity is actually not a health issue comes from a fascinating phenomenon that epidemiologists started noticing a couple of decades ago. If you look at health issues — in particular all-cause mortality (when people die for any reason) — and plot the risk on a graph, you find that very fat people do really badly. But people who are just a little bit fat — with a BMI of 25–30 — often actually do better than people with a supposedly ‘healthy’ BMI.