Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Obesity Epidemic

Scientific American: Obesity: An Overblown Epidemic? [ NUTRITION AND HEALTH ] A growing number of dissenting researchers accuse government and medical authorities--as well as the media--of misleading the public about the health consequences of rising body weights

Several myths about obesity, or as they say, "conventional wisdom" about the health effects of fat, were questioned in the article. I first learned the CDC's figure of 300,000 deaths per year from obesity was blatantly wrong in the zine Figure 8 #3. (Figure 8 is written by my sweetie's sweetie. She has some really cool interviews in there.) She talked about The Obesity Myth by Paul F. Campos, which figured prominently in the Scientific American article.

There are a few things I have learned over the years from reading fat activists, as well as through my own experience, and I've concluded the greatest risk to our health is not our fatness, but the response to our fatness. The way we are treated due to our fatness affects our access, our willingness to see doctors, and increases our stress.

There are doctors will prescribe weight loss rather than address the symptoms, and the standard strategy to that is to ask, "How do you treat thin people for this problem?" Fortunately with my doctors I have not had to resort to that.

My healthcare provider has a newsletter, and recently they featured the strong connection of body health to mind health, the gist of which is "you are what you think." More than anything else, your state of mind determines how healthy you are, or how susceptible you are to illnesses or injury. (Through the years, I've wondered why a practice of meditation and a vegetarian diet never earned me points with the insurance industry.) I've been meaning to ask them why they don't address the effect oppression has on state of mind, and consequently health. Studies have shown that black people have higher rates of hypertension and heart disease. Hmmm, so do obese people. Is it our eating habits, or the stress from oppression?

If excess weight were treated as a symptom rather than a cause of poor health, life would be so much simpler. I truly believe my gaining of weight in the past 10 years should have been recognized as a symptom of sleep apnea, among other things. Why did my doctors never ask me if I was famous for snoring? The only way I have ever lost weight was through starving myself...so why haven't doctors ever discussed with me reasons for a low metabolism?

Certainly, I have not had a normal relationship with food. I think I do now, and in my estimation have for about ten years, but the damage was already done. If I suffered from an eating disorder, it was a societal one. As a child becoming a woman, I was taught shame for every morsel of food that entered my mouth. I was taught my curvy, rubenesque body was not good enough, would never be good enough. I was taught that I was unacceptable.

I'm sure that some women thinner than me think my obvious enjoyment of food signifies an eating disorder. This societal eating disorder, it is rampant in Wisconsin. When I visited there, I failed at explaining to my mom and grandma that I'd had to learn food was not the enemy. That by feeling guilty about every morsel, I was never satisfied and that kept me seeking satisfaction. People who are subject to this societal eating disorder, they never let go of the control. They always must worry about a gain of a few pounds. They must always talk about the diet they must maintain whenever food is mentioned. They can never be grateful for the food that sustains them, because it is the enemy. They can never be happy with themselves just as they are. The perfect diet is always in the future. What a sad way to live.

I think this was a key for my recovery. I needed to accept and love myself, and I needed to learn gratitude, not guilt, for the food that sustains me. Loving myself, I find and accept my limitations, but I also push at the edges of those limitations to keep moving, to stay healthy. Now I am quite healthy emotionally, but the karma of my past is available for all to see, my big body. There are many factors that contribute to this societal eating disorder, including a weight loss industry that benefits from an "illness" that resists treatment, but I have to wonder if scapegoating enters into it. It is easy to see "overweight". It's easier to hide the karma of other addictions: alcoholism, aggression, obsession, the list could go on. We fear and we judge, and the spotlight gets put on the most easily seen.

No comments: