The Fallacy and Toxicity of The Fat Acceptance Movement

The fat acceptance movement (Cooper, C. 2008), a developed trend beginning in the 1960’s, and a faction of the body positivity coalition, is the promotion of the overweight and obese population in America. This reprehensible movement seeks to negate the negative effects of being obese and overweight by downplaying the severe health consequences both short and long term,  including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, impaired cognitive functions, reproductive problems and more (Cafasso, J.,  Bell, A. 2022). According to the CDC (2020), approximately 74% of Americans are either overweight or obese, and the American obesity rate among the adult population is at a staggering 42.5% with a surmountable climb from 31.4% just 20 years ago (Fryar, C., Carroll, M., Afful, J. 2020). The acceptance and promotion of being overweight and obese is not only fallacious, but is detrimental for both individuals and society as a whole.

Just recently, Sports Illustrated featured an obese model, Yumi Nu, on their cover to help promote varying body types, and yet the famed psychologist, Jordan Peterson, called them out on their propaganda of trying to persuade the general population into redefining beauty by attempting to make being obese not only acceptable, but something to admire. This same attempt has been seen on various fitness magazines, TV shows, and commercials as well. That which is deemed a modern day conventional norm does not necessarily make it a correct and proper mode of being, especially if it is harming and ending the lives of both youth and adult population. What is being played out here is nothing but a mere attempt at playing a game of identity politics wherein everyone has a group in which they identify, regardless of its detrimental and catastrophic effects on the individuals that make up the group. The promotion and celebration of an unhealthy lifestyle and body composition is but mere wishful thinking, and is a direct pathway to a dystopian future for many generations to come.  

Some of the contributing factors to the overweight and obese epidemic over the past few decades in America are quite clear. Over this time span there has been a dramatic increase in sedentary lifestyles among the general population (Yang L, Cao C, Kantor ED, 2016), and an increase in overall market place portion sizes that coincide with the increasing weight issue (Young, L. R., & Nestle, M.  2002). Alongside these two factors there has been an increase in the level of stress among the general population that has a strong link with weight gain and obesity, as well as many other various ailments (American Psychological Association, 2018). Moreover, increased stress levels can lead to overeating, or “stress eating,” which causes one to consume more calories than they are able to burn off and in turn leads to more weight gain.

The issues contributing to the overweight and obesity epidemic in America that have been addressed thus far are deeply tied in with the modernization of society as a whole. With convenience at the touch of a button, and where comfort and entertainment consume the masses, alongside the ever increasing portion sizes, it is no wonder why we have a weight problem. Americans have become obsessed with constant entertainment, becoming easily distracted by sitcoms, social media, YouTube, and video games, all while neglecting their overall health and well-being. Most of what the general population digest, technologically speaking, are designed to “hook” the individual and rewire the brain so that the individual seeks to reward this new neural system each time they open the apps or turn on the TV. This addictive behavior is causing individuals to become more sedentary as they sit for hours bingeing their favorite show or playing games with little to no physical activity (Fotuhi, M. 2020). This bingeing behavior is not only sedentary in nature, but also manifest all sorts of other issues, including lack of proper sleep, increased cortisol levels, and often times social isolation, all of which help contribute to weight gain.

America’s infatuation with convenience and constant stimulation, along with an increase in sedentary lifestyles, food consumption, and stress levels, are the culprit of America’s overweight and obesity problem. What can people and society do about this? First, do not accept or promote the acceptance of being overweight and obese. The acceptance approach is fatal for both the individual and society as a whole, and the more people promote this problematic idea, the more weight and health issues will continue to rise. This is not to say that people should be scorned for possessing a weight issue, but for one to promote it as both acceptable and beautiful is not productive for the individual or society. A society functions and progresses best when the individuals within the society are functioning properly and progressing towards better health both physically and psychologically. Second, people should rather be promoting health and wellness while encouraging others as they move along their journey towards freedom from severe ailments and immobility. The more people seek to enhance their lives by changing their pattern of behavior by moderating their consumption of technology and food, and begin to spend more time outdoors and active, the more they will improve their health and well-being. This improvement within an individual’s life will then touch the lives of others by helping influence the behavioral patterns of those around them, and thus improving the health and well-being of society. And the accessibility, thankfully, to an almost infinite source of information on improving one’s health and well-being are at the touch of a button on the same technological device the general population endears so much. A gradual, progressive transformation of the individual by utilizing one’s resources at hand is what progress is all about, and not an acceptable, stagnate mode of being as the fat acceptance movement promotes.

Proponents of the fat acceptance movement seek to make their case by proposing the idea that it is the individual’s body and their choice to do with it as they will. Although this may be true, if one really did care about the well-being of others, they would not suggest and promote stagnation in a state of being that is detrimental to that individual and their descendants. This claim is not progressive in no way shape or form, and yet a progressive philosophy is that which they claim to possess. Another argument made by the fat acceptance movement is that some body types are different from others, such as people being “big boned.” This is a weak argument as it suggests that there is some correlation between a certain body type and being overweight and obese, and yet this is not the case. Some individuals can look thicker than others and not be overweight or obese, so this argument lacks any support for its claim. It is not strictly how someone looks, but rather how they feel and act in the world. Being healthy physically and psychology is the goal, and not necessarily how one’s appearance. Another argument promoted by the fat acceptance movement supporters is that modern culture’s focus on weight loss is essentially a means of controlling deviance. What is quite strange about this argument is the sheer fact that most of the fat acceptance movement advocates are generally politically liberal and shun the stigma of conspiracy theory, and yet this is precisely what they are proposing. They are promoting the idea of control from sources higher up in the political and social sphere, that which they claim is a bigoted proposal of the far right. Moreover, although some of weight loss programs are but mere rubbish, there is a wealth of diet programs out there seeking to help people live healthier, more productive lives, and that are scientifically supported to not only help individuals lose weight, but to help their over health and well-being. Certain diets like plant-based diets, the Mediterranean diet, and intermediate fasting are excellent examples of healthy means of achieving weight loss and better overall health (Raman, R., Kubala, J. 2022).

While the fat acceptance movement seeks to push the acceptance of unhealthy body fat percentage and overall lifestyle, the evidence is stacked against them. With approximately 74% of the population either overweight or obese, and with much of this damage transpiring within the last few decades, it is easy for one to see that there is a problem that needs to be addressed rather than accepted. Moreover, the number of health effects one sustains when overweight or obese, including heart disease, cognitive impairment, respiratory problems, diabetes, cancer and more, it should prompt the general population to seek to encourage each other to live out healthier lives for the betterment of the individual and society as a whole. And there are a wealth of information in the palm of one’s hand to help them progress and improvement their overall health and well-being, and to be a source of influence and information themselves for others. With all of the fat acceptance movement’s arguments being addressed and resolved, one can conclude that their movement is but a weak attempt to live out the modernized life in the most comfortable of ways. And this type of promotion of laziness and cowardliness is but mere wishful thinking and a reprehensible attempt to convince others to stay in their unhealthy state, and to discourage them and direct them away from any type of transformation or progress. Not only should this movement be ignored, but it should be done away with along with its corrupted ideology. Health and well-being should be promoted for the betterment of the individual and the society in which the individual inhabits. 

-Michael Thacker

References:

American Psychological Association. (2018, November 1). Stress effects on the body. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body

Cafasso, J., Bell, A. (2022). How Does Obesity Affect The Body? Healthline. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/obesity/how-obesity-affects-body

CDC (2020). Obesity and Overweight Fast Stats. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity-adult-17-18/obesity-adult.htm

Cooper, C. (2008). What is Fat Activism? University of Limerick. Retrieved from: http://ulsites.ul.ie/sociology/sites/default/files//Whats%20Fat%20Activism.pdf

 Fotuhi, M. (2020), What Social Media Does To Your Brain, NeuroGrow. Retrieved from:  https://neurogrow.com/what-social-media-does-to-your-brain/

Fryar, C., Carroll, M., Afful, J. (2020), Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Severe Obesity Among Adults Aged 20 and Over: United States, 1960–1962 Through 2017–2018. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity-adult-17-18/obesity-adult.htm

Raman, R., Kubala, J. (2022), The 9 Best Diets For Your Overall Health, Healthline. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-diet-plans#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2

Yang L, Cao C, Kantor ED, et al. Trends in Sedentary Behavior Among the US Population, 2001-2016. JAMA. 2019;321(16):1587–1597. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.3636

Young, L. R., & Nestle, M. (2002). The contribution of expanding portion sizes to the US obesity epidemic. American journal of public health92(2), 246–249. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.92.2.246

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