Talk about deadly obesity risks in America? Fat chance


Is it fun to be fat? That´s what Cosmopolitan magazine claimed in February 2021. That month’s cover was of a morbidly obese woman looking cheerful while attempting some acrobatics. The headline: “This is healthy! 11 women on why wellness doesn’t have to be one size fits all.”

The timing could hardly have been worse. After all, this was in a period when the Coronavirus was leading to lockdowns around the world. And one thing we knew very early about the virus was that one of the main factors that lead to hospitalizations and even death was if the patient was fat. Almost nothing in the often confusing COVID era was ever as clear as this. Nearly 80% of Americans who were hospitalized with COVID were obese. And just as being obese put you at special risk from the virus, so losing weight lessened your chances of being hospitalized.

But you can tell a lot about a society by what it will not say. And through the whole of the last two years almost nobody in any position of authority dared issue any public lessons about this.

By contrast, there was very scant evidence that a little cloth mask could save you from the virus. Yet we were all forced to wear them. There was no evidence that children were at any risk from the virus. Yet we shut all the schools. But when it came to the question of obesity and the virus nobody dared say anything.

Most likely because America is the fattest country in the western world.

The facts on that are also painfully plain. An estimated 40% of Americans — that is 138 million people — are overweight. The only country near us is New Zealand, where 30% of the population are overweight. But obesity in America is a serious public health problem. And the COVID era ought to have concentrated our minds on that fact. If the government and others cared about saving American lives they would have said as much.

Is it fun to be fat? That´s what Cosmopolitan magazine claimed in February 2021.
Cosmopolitan talked about body sizes on a previous cover.
Cosmopolitan Magazine
Is it fun to be fat? That´s what Cosmopolitan magazine claimed in February 2021.
The magazine issue was published about a year into the pandemic.
Cosmopolitan Magazine

They could have said that to dodge the worst of the virus Americans should aspire to a healthy weight. Not to the look of some skeletal model. Of course not. And not because the politicians should police the public’s waistlines. But just to say that it’s a good idea not to be grossly overweight. It’s best not to spill over into the neighboring seats on public transport. Not to be someone who needs XXXL sizes for everything. To skip the odd meal and try to eat healthy if you can.

Such advice could actually have saved lives. But the authorities wouldn’t do that. Because in modern America there is apparently something worse than dying of coronavirus. And that is to “fat-shamed,” or be accused of “fat-shaming” others.

That is the new pseudo-medical term for pointing out that someone’s weight isn’t healthy. Even to say that is to provoke howls of outrage.

Of course people who cannot do anything about their weight shouldn’t be shamed or made to feel less than anyone else simply because of their size. But there are a lot of people in this country who are not overweight because of genetics or bone structure. They are overweight because they put too many cakes in their mouths. And don’t even try to burn off the calories that come from that pastime.

But no. “Fat-shaming” is high on the list of modern no-nos. One of the great crimes of the age. Like transphobia, biphobia and racism. In a society that cherishes victimhood, everyone wants a piece of the victim pie. Including fat people, obviously.

So perhaps it was inevitable that eventually all the sins would be rolled into one. Events at the University of Illinois, Chicago, certainly suggest so. The school of public health this week issued a health brief titled “Addressing weight stigma and fatphobia in public health.” The paper claims that what all public health focus on obesity is in fact bigoted. At risk of increasing negative attitudes towards people with bigger bodies.

COVID-19 positive patient
Countries with higher obesity levels saw a higher number of deaths from COVID in the early stages of the pandemic.
AFP via Getty Images

So if you worry that the hospitals are being clogged up by overweight people you should know that you are part of the problem. You are the “phobe.” And yes, inevitably, you are the “racist.” Because according to the experts at the university of Chicago noticing someone is overweight is also “racism.”

The “experts” say that lots of societies actually favor larger bodies. And that is true. There are societies in the world today that favor the fat body. There have been times in the Western past when our image of beauty was more curvy. And of course there were times where obesity was a signal of wealth. Only in the modern west has skinniness become a sign of wealth and obesity a signal of poverty.

But changing attitudes to size show that you probably can change a society’s attitudes towards weight if you want to. But only in one allowable direction. For the experts at Chicago say we need to look at “the association between racism, weight, and health.” Perhaps inevitably, other academics have brought out even bigger guns.

Sabrina Strings of the University of California explores “The racist roots of fatphobia.” And she has even managed to claim that this “phobia” goes back to — you’ll never guess — “slavery.”

“While many believe that fatphobia is a relatively recent invention” says Strings, “I will underscore the centrality of slavery and race science in its perpetuation throughout the western world.”

An overweight woman
Sabrina Strings of the University of California has discussed there being racist roots of “fatphobia.”
Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Of course academics in America are now paid to trace absolutely everything that they don’t like to “racism” and “slavery.” But I have an idea for them to explore.

What if the source of concerns about obesity are not prejudice? What if they have nothing to do with racism, slavery or anything else? What if they are motivated by a desire to see as few people as possible die unnecessary early deaths. Especially members of ethnic minorities. Especially during a pandemic. Is such a thing possible? You would thought so. But it takes American academics to say “no.”

Only in America. Only in this era.

You want to stop people dying? “Bigot.”



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