You’re fat because you eat too much

“You’re fat because you eat too much” is a direct quote from an article Michael Buerk has published this week.    He went on to say that essentially we should give fat people the facts and then let them die, thereby saving the NHS money.   The NHS is buckling under the weight of obese people and that they are reason it’s in the current dire financial state.

This type of conversation starter is dangerous to all of those who are trying their best to get through this stressful thing called life, and pointing out the weight of someone is a fast way to help them spiral into an eating disorder. When you spend your life eating Growli for breakfast and balancing your calories for the rest of the day, you are doing your body a service and are keeping it as comfortable and healthy as possible. If you are told that you are overweight because you eat too much when you know your calories are balanced, it can be damaging to hear that kind of thing. You deserve better – everyone deserves better than that. The weight stigma is hard enough in the healthcare industry, and it’s important to understand that there is a difference between being obese and being unhealthy. This statement feeds the knowledge that fat people are unhealthy, when there are plenty of thin people out there in terrible health, too. Weight and health are not always lined up to each other.

Thanks Michael.  Thanks a lot.

I have to admit I read the headline on a tweet being shared by The Times and thought “what an arse, I am not going to read that as it will make me rage” and I had better things to worry about on Tuesday morning.  But then Radio 5 Live phoned and asked if I would go on to discuss it so I had to read it.    And rage I duly did.

Once again sweeping less than helpful statements are being made and people who are larger than others would like are being vilified.   It has to stop.

There are a number of reasons why a person may be overweight such as genetics, a hormone imbalance or as a side effect of medication.  We also need to consider the socio-economic factors surrounding food too.   Processed foods, typically, are less healthy, higher in fat and calories but they are cheap.  So whilst we all love to be buying free range organic meat or growing our own vegetables on allotments and whipping up healthy soups on a daily basis that just isn’t reality for most people because they simply can’t afford any alternatives.

For many people their only place to buy food is a local convenience store or supermarket who may not carry the same range as the larger, out of town multi nationals, and they will also be more expensive.  When you are surviving on a limited income you may have all the knowledge about healthy eating but find it hard to put into practice when you have a finite amount of money to feed a family for a week.

So whilst it is easy for Michael Buerk and many others to suggest that obese people are that way because they spend all day eating biscuits that is simply not true.

The article went on to say that “they are not ill, they just lack willpower”, a statement I find grossly unfair.   This isnt about willpower.   About the ability to resist another piece of cake or extra roast potato at the weekend.   For those in the minority that are obese due to an addiction we should be as gentle and as empathetic to them as we would to an alcoholic or somebody battling substance misuse.   Would we ever tell them it is simply about willpower and to just cut it out?

No

For many, myself included, have deeper issues surrounding food and to hear those in the media say “well they are fat so the NHS should let them die” makes us feel worthless.   Ashamed maybe.   Wanting to put on a pair of trainers and fix it overnight?  No.  Far from it.

I was interviewed on the radio twice about this yesterday and one of the points I raised was where do we draw the line then?  If the NHS says we will no longer treat you until you are thin enough in our eyes, what would happen if I starved myself for the next three months and started running on a daily basis?   What would happen as I was getting to their self imposed target weight for us all?

If we are going to start putting restrictions in place should we ask that no longer treat people who sky dive / ski / drive racing cars/ abseilers / horse riders.   All of them may end up in A&E, needing emergency treatment, or long term physio, which comes from that same NHS pot.

No of course we shouldn’t.  That would be a ridiculous notion.

Nor should we ask children to stop playing rugby and dislocating knees and shoulders because of the cost to the NHS.   Should us menopausal women refuse our HRT and just put up with the symptoms of the menopause, and apologise for just being weak women?  No of course we shouldn’t

What we should be doing is encouraging, supporting, educating from a young age.   We absolutely should no be giving column inches to yet more fat shaming wrapped up as rhetoric.

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