I often think of something Fabienne says in Pulp Fiction, “It’s unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same.” It doesn’t especially mean anything other than that our ideas about beauty are arbitrary. And I’m fine with that. But what most bothers me about the modern world is that we have convinced ourselves that what is pleasing to the eye is healthy. And it turns out that it really isn’t. What’s more, there was never any reason to think that it was. It seems too obvious that what’s really gone on is that society decided to shame the ugly people, because the biggest prejudice in society is against the ugly — and especially the fat.
One of the problems with the constant concern trolling about obesity is that it actually is bad to be very overweight. But regardless of how we ought to try to help people with body mass indexes (BMI) over 40, our societal focus seems to be on “helping” people that are far less overweight. Consider for example, Meghan Trainor — she’s that young woman who does that “All About the Bass” song. I had lunch with Will the other day and he mentioned that people were talking about how fat she is, even though her dress size is 12. I replied, “You mean less than average dress size of American women.” Yep. That’s what passes for fat in modern America!
I found some statistics on Ms Trainor. She is supposedly 150 pounds and five foot two. That makes her BMI around 27. This is considered “overweight.” It’s weird, right? She is thinner than the average American woman. But that’s not all. French women have the lowest BMI in all of Europe: 23. And that is distinctly on the high side of “normal.” English women are on average about where Trainor is. Maybe it is time to reconsider what is normal.
I can hear the outraged responses to this, “But that weight is unhealthy!” Well, let’s just start by noting that this belief is not based upon data. This is Madison Avenue defining what is healthy. Recent research has found that being modestly overweight is not bad for people. In fact, a two decade long study involving a million people found that people in the “overweight” category (BMI 25-30), were actually 6% less likely to die during the study period. So this isn’t about being healthy. And in my experience, people don’t get a lot of positive feedback for making positive changes in their lifestyles if it doesn’t lead to weight loss.
Well, we have another study. Aaron Carroll provided the overview, What Are the Healthcare Costs of Obesity? And what it found is that, as expected, obese people consume a lot more of our healthcare dollars. But it isn’t about the “overweight” (BMI: 25-30) or even the class 1 “obese” (30-35). The study found no significant increase in healthcare costs for them. But the costs go up exponentially from there.
Now I don’t especially care about healthcare costs. We already pay far too much for healthcare in this country — for purely political reasons. Trying to blame it on the fat or the old or whatever seems a pretty vile approach. But I am interested in the way that people will use a study like this to go on shaming fat people — Like Meghan Trainor! — because they’ve decide that fat starts at a 25 BMI. It’s ridiculous. If people want to hate fat people, have at it! I’ll just write them off as I do with all the other bigots of the world. But let’s not pretend that this bigotry is about concern for the health of our heavier friends.