Almost three-fourths of our population is overweight or obese, according to the CDC 1. According to the NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease), the health risks of being overweight and obesity include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, nonalcoholic liver disease, stroke, and several different types of cancer 2. Heart disease kills 610,000 thousand people in the United States each year and is the number one leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the CDC 3.
So why are we doing this to ourselves? Why are we so big?
As Parrott says, it may be because of it being the new norm. With over 70% of Americans being overweight or obese, being at a healthy weight is actually a minority. Our family and friends may be overweight, as well as the people we learn our eating habits from. We’ve also become excellent at finding excuses for our conditions – everything from blaming genetics to doctors, to GMOs and growth hormones in the foods we eat. Practically every molecule found in food someone can find fault with, whether it’s a carbohydrate, lipid (fat), sugar, gluten, and so on. Every fad diet that hits the cover page of every predatory magazine has some ‘Weird New Trick’ to “Lose that belly fat fast!”.
The truth is that there is no quick, easy way of losing weight. As the saying goes, people will do anything to lose weight other than diet and exercise. Our bodies use the energy from the food we eat, and if we eat more energy (calories) than we use, we store that energy in the form of fat. To lose that fat, we must burn more energy than we consume on a daily basis. That’s it. That’s how you gain, and lose, weight. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Your body breaks down carbs the same way it breaks down sugar. There may be more nutrients in certain calories, such as the sugar in an apple versus the sugar in a Mountain Dew, but it’s still a calorie, and they add up quickly.
So we know that being overweight is bad for us, and we should know the basic formula for losing weight. So why don’t we do it? Is it ignorance in the total amount of calories we consume daily? Some people can easily consume over 1,000 calories – more than half of a recommended daily intake – in the drinks they consume. A venti Starbucks in the morning, a coke with lunch, energy drink during the midday slump, and a couple beers at night and you’ve consumed half your calories through a straw.
Support networks have actually sprung up during the last decade in support of being overweight or obese. Organizations like ‘Health at Every Size’, ‘Eff Your Beauty Standards’, or ‘Fat Acceptance’ champion rights for people to be fat and happy. Of course one has the right to be happy, but these organizations spout dangerous rhetoric that convince people that they cannot lose weight on their own, or that losing weight has no medical benefit. NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance), says under their FAQ page that “Scientific studies show that the majority of people cannot achieve long-term sustainable weight loss”4. They of course provide no link to any ‘scientific study’ to support this claim. Society backs these organizations by spreading their articles, championing plus-sized models like Tess Holiday, or glorifying obesity though shows such as ‘My Big Fat Fabulous Life!”.
But pretending that being overweight or obese is normal or okay isn’t just dangerous – it’s deadly. Those who speak out against these organizations can easily be labelled as intolerant or prejudice against fat people, and with the rise of Fat Acceptance groups their voices are easily squashed out. But as being big gains social acceptance, people who are unhappy with being overweight suffer. They may lose resources to help the lose weight, lose access to medically accurate information, and may easily be convinced that losing weight is impossible as unfounded claims are made that it is impossible, that everyone gains the weight back, or that one must starve themselves to lose weight.