Don’t View Obesity as a 'Health Issue,' Professors Say

Mid-Section of an Overweight Man Sitting on a Park Bench With Take-Away Food

A group of professors from York University in Toronto recently published an academic article calling for an “end to seeing obesity as a significant health issue,” since doing so perpetuates “stereotypes” and “fat-shaming.”

Led by Stella Medvedyuk, a health policy professor at York University, the professors argue that people must instead redirect their attention to “the social determinants of health” -- such as whether someone is gainfully employed or is a person of color.

These factors, the professors allege, are significantly more predictive of whether someone is going to be unhealthy or not. In fact, they even suggest that obesity doesn’t cause health issues at all, claiming that “the role of obesity in producing adverse health outcomes is at best minimal and it may not play any role in adverse health outcomes.”

How so? Despite hundreds of thousands of studies linking obesity to diabetes, cancer, and chronic back pain, the professors allege that the link is not proven yet, and thus, that the link isn’t rooted in reality. (There’s a reason nobody has proven the link between obesity and health issues yet. To do so would require conducting experiments to see if inducing fatness in a group of people would cause health problems when compared to a control group. It’s unethical.)

In fact, the professors even allege that obesity has positive health effects, explaining that “there is much evidence to suggest [there are] health-protective aspects of being overweight.” Clearly, this isn’t true. Doctors do not praise the health benefits of being 100 pounds overweight. Because there are NONE.

Nevertheless, the professors continue their call for an end to seeing obesity as a health issue. One of their main concerns, they note, is the potential for “victim blaming” to arise, which they explain as an “unintended effect of stigmatization of obesity.” They also claim that talking about obesity suggests that people, especially low-income racial minorities, are irresponsible with their life choices. Having good health, they lament, has been unfairly promoted by the Canadian government as being synonymous with “individual responsibility.”

It’s unclear what they find to be so problematic about individual responsibility.

Do they think being responsible for yourself is an elitist, racist social construct? Are only upper-middle class white men able to make healthy decisions? Last time I checked, nobody was stopping me, a young woman who grew up on welfare, from exercising instead of watching TV.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt that obesity, for some people,  is caused by hormonal imbalances or other health problems. However, in most Americans, obesity-related problems are caused by lifestyle choices. When taking personal responsibility is the only way you can solve your health issues, why not do so?

It’s almost as if these professors would rather fat people develop more health issues instead of taking the responsibility to lose weight. Indeed, nowhere in their article do they suggest that fat people could lose weight by being more responsible. Of course, why should anyone take responsibility for their lifestyle when they could blame racism, sexism, and classism instead?