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You might actually be fat

I can only assume the majority of people have by now seen the quote "You aren't fat, you have fat" or some other iteration plastered as an image, designed to be both forgiving and inclusive, on their social media. Aside from the obvious inability to distinguish between the use of the word fat as a noun or an adjective, something I thought we had all covered in late primary education, this mindset causes issues.

adjective, fat·ter, fat·test.

having too much flabby tissue; corpulent; obese:a fat person.


any of several white or yellowish greasy substances, forming the chief part of adipose tissue of animals and also occurring in plants, that when pure are colorless, odorless, and tasteless and are either solid or liquid esters of glycerol with fatty acids; fats are insoluble in water or cold alcohol but soluble in ether, chloroform, or benzene: used in the manufacture of soap, paints, and other protective coatings and in cooking. definitions of "fat'

Before the "medals for everyone" brigade start drafting their signs for the inevitable protest, allow me to elaborate. I DO NOT think we should be strolling around Tesco, pointing at people and calling them fat. This is bullying, and so are many other examples I'm sure we can all bring to mind. What is not bullying however, is an appropriate use of the word fat in a descriptive sense. This is not just because it is objectively, and measurably true, but further because we are running the risk of concept creep. It is a well established concept in the social sciences that we are more inclined to aspire to the norms and values which we see rewarded around us. By removing health bound stigma from being overweight, and stopping the use of the word fat in a misguided attempt to be nice to people who fit this description, we are in fact normalising excess body fat, and making it aspirational for the next generation.

It will always seem nice on the face of it to not use the word fat, and to not allow stigma to exist, but in reality it is dangerous and harmful. This normalising of overweight and obese people is contributing to a sharp rise in the amount of both, particularly among children and teenagers. This in turn is directly feeding the increase in chronic disease that is directly fuelled by the growing waistlines of the average westerner. The truth is, those taking a harder line, who are still prepared to openly state that being fat is unhealthy (this is objective truth, not opinion, and is supported by a body of evidence), actually have the interests of overweight people at heart. As a short thought experiment, imagine a personal trainer who encouraged the overeating and under-training of her clients because they believed that weight and health weren't related. We can likely agree that is irresponsible.

So what does all of this mean? Importantly, being overweight, to any degree, unfit or unhealthy does not decrease someone's worth as a person, and they shouldn't be in any way treated as a lesser person. Nature, however, does not discriminate, positively or otherwise. History teaches us that nature does believe being overweight is unhealthy, and punishes infractions sooner or later. Having abused my body with a combination of alcohol, tobacco and food for the majority of my teens and twenties, I fully expect nature to demand payment at some point. This, ultimately, was my doing, and something for which I accept responsibility. That said, there are certainly environmental and societal pressures, norms and values that contribute to this, and by openly talking about the existence of such problems, we can open people's eyes to the dangerous narrative that allows us to convince ourselves that 10kg of extra weight won't do us any harm. Below, I have laid out 3 of what I consider the most dangerous dogmas currently doing the rounds:

Healthy at Any Size

Like many initiatives, this started out with good intentions. The theory, at least to begin with, was that following a healthy diet, exercising well, and living a good life, would lead each person to look different, with different physiques and shapes. This is a sentiment I support fully! The mistruth that a person can be healthy at any weight is a dangerous, destructive lie, and is demonstrably false. It, by design or by accident, preys on the vulnerable, and those with low self esteem, and compounds the issue.

There is no such thing as bad food

False. Trans fats are a great example of something we just shouldn't consume. We are frequently told that calories in and calories out (energy balance) is all that matters. In terms of body weight, this is true, in terms of health, it is not. It is not only possible, but increasingly common, for people to get enough calories, often more, yet still be deficient in nutrients. Those foods which are not nutrient dense are often encouraged by those pushing macro plans as a means of appealing to clients so their approach can seem less restrictive, ignoring the fact that these foods are not satiating, leave people short of key nutrients, and can often lead to lower calorie expenditure during non-active periods of the day. Demonising foods isn't a great idea, but neither is the nonsense phrase that "there is no such this as a bad food".

You don't need to train if you're a healthy weight

Okay, this is technically true, but think about it; most problems experienced by the elderly arise from an inability to do things for themselves such as climb stairs, carry shopping, or even get in and out of the shower - all of which can be maintained through strength training - or trips and falls - which can be mitigated against through stability and balance training, and increasing bone density through resistance training. So no, you don't NEED to train, in the same way you don't NEED to pay into a pension pot, but you'll reach an age sooner than you might think, where you wish you had trained. The earlier you start, the better.

This is never an easy subject to talk about, but as with any problem, the first step to solving it is admitting it exists, and accepting that you are fat. Once you accept this, the path becomes much clearer, and has been trodden by many before you. We know there is a problem with too many people being overweight and obese, now it's time to own up and take responsibility, one person at a time!


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