It's worth exploring the cancel culture impact, and whether it is actually harming us by not allowing for discourse around scientific health data. We often see someone silenced for expressing an opinion that differs from the masses. That's troubling, but even more so is the silencing of those expressing points of view based on actual research in the world of health.
Is canceling someone for wanting to have a science-based discussion about obesity, hindering the progress that could be made to help people who need that support and education to get well?
Let me start by saying, being overweight has nothing to do with your worth. Being overweight does NOT mean a person is lazy. It does NOT mean a person isn’t smart and funny and caring and successful and worthy. I think — I hope — we can all agree on this part.
However, large amounts of excess fat on a body — any body — does play a major role in health.
That is a fact. That is science. That is indisputable. The CDC defines obesity as a chronic disease and notes that it “puts people at risk for many other serious chronic diseases and increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”
From 2000 to 2018, as noted on the CDC website, obesity prevalence in this country rose from 30.5% to 42.4%. That is both astounding and terrifying. We seem to have more information and more morning routines shoved in our faces at every turn, yet we are getting sicker and sicker.
How could this be? I would argue two things. The first — that I won’t dive into in this post — is that knowledge doesn’t automatically lead to behavior change. Changing the habits that are woven into the fabric of our lives is a hefty challenge. We have to unlearn behaviors, have regular accountability and create systems to fall back on when the motivation isn’t there. More on that another time.
The second, and the subject of this post is that at the same time that we have countless wellness practices, healthy habits and morning routines hurled at us with gale force, we have equal or more voices shouting ideas at us like, “health at any size” or the notion that we should just “listen to our bodies” and incorporate intuitive eating — as the only guiding light to health.
Further, when some health professionals attempt to (using science) warn about the damaging effects of obesity on the body, the SJW’s come out in droves with their picket signs and pitchforks. They cancel anyone with ideas other than their own — possibly misguided — ways of thinking. They don’t allow for discourse around the actual scientific data. The conversation is silenced.
It’s beyond confusing to be a consumer of this health “advice.” It’s difficult enough to change behavior when we know the exact behavior to change. Now, we’re being asked to change our behavior to…whatever conflicting idea is being thrown at us in a given minute. And some of the most important health data is being cancelled because it’s…offensive? How can data be offensive?
Let’s unwrap the idea that we can be healthy at any size. I think part of this concept has legs. Health doesn’t mean visible abs, though it can for some. Health doesn’t mean restrictive diets that limit a certain food or macro nutrient, though it can for some with autoimmune diseases or allergies. Health doesn’t mean a specific body fat percentage or distribution of fat and muscle on the body. But it does mean that there is a point at which the amount of visceral fat is high enough that we are clinically unhealthy — clinically sick.
When we glamorize obesity and push the idea that one can be healthy while being morbidly obese to align with a definition of body-positivity, we are sending a message that the concepts of health and worth are tied together. They are not. You can be smart, funny and caring and still be physically unhealthy. You can be successful, worthy and very much not lazy, and still be on a path toward disease. You can know your worth, wear the shorts, not apologize for your size or shape, be confident and love yourself in whatever body you are in right now, and still want to improve your health. You can still want to reverse or prevent chronic disease by taking steps to eat better and move more…and yes, lose excess weight if you carry it in harmfully high amounts.
When we glamorize obesity, we are sending a message that listening to your body is enough. It is not. Our bodies are designed to crave calorie-dense foods because they are designed to exist in an environment where food is scarce. We no longer live in that environment, so our bodies will sometimes deceive us into believing we need that cookie. We should listen to them, like we listen to a child. The child knows how to get what she wants, and she knows how to ask really convincingly. Sometimes, she might really need that thing. But other times, she thinks she needs it, but her parents know better. She needs the broccoli. It’s up to us to use deductive reasoning to figure out which it is this time.
The headlines and IG reels often conflict on the newest trend or anti-trend. But a few constants for health have rung true since the beginning of Homo Sapiens.
Moving often and in varied ways, being in nature and eating real food lead to a healthier human. Show me one modern day hunter-gatherer community with high instances of excess visceral fat or a chronic disease problem. What are we doing that is different from how they live? We eat highly processed foods, stay inside and sit in front of computer screens all day. This isn’t revolutionary information. We see new studies and scientific progress in this area, of course. There are slight differences for different people with different genetics and conditions. But the main tenets stand. Move more, eat real foods, don’t consume in excess.
As a health coach, I wouldn’t tell someone with COPD that it’s okay to keep smoking, or tell someone with diabetes that it’s helpful to eat candy and white bread. I wouldn’t tell someone who’s skinny but eating processed junk all day that he shouldn’t worry about vegetables, just because he is thin. That advice would be irresponsible.
As a health professional, it is irresponsible for me to support the glamorization of obesity and mass amounts of excess visceral fat.
Period. Full stop.
In 2020, our world looks a little different. We have to understand the cancel culture impact, and how we are sometimes silenced if we point these things out. We might be called a fat-shamer if we point out that health comes in many sizes, but not all. We are likely to be bullied into submission if we attempt to highlight that sometimes, weight loss is helpful and appropriate.
Worthiness and health are not dependent on one another. We can have one, and still need to work on the other. Having 100 lbs of excess fat tissue on your body is not healthy. Having no muscle mass on a skinny frame is not healthy. Appearing “fit” because of age and genetics while eating a diet full of processed foods and smoking a pack a day…still not healthy.
Examples of bad health come in many forms, and we shouldn’t villainize obesity as the only cause. It is a chronic illness, and we should support anyone with that illness in being their healthiest, doing their best today, and loving themselves regardless of size. But we also shouldn’t cancel someone because they disagree with a confident, big, beautiful person who has grown an influence on social media and is pushing a message that health has nothing to do with excess visceral fat. Working out for 30–60 minutes a few times a week and eating salads now and then is not equivalent to “health.” This is true whether you have excess visceral fat or not. Even if there is a deeper issue with thyroid health, medication or some other cause of unexplained weight gain, these are all signs that something isn’t right in the body. It’s not an indication that it is your fault. But it is also not accurate to imply that there are no health problems going on.
We need to stop pretending that just because one should feel worthy and beautiful in their own uniqueness-and I believe they absolutely should, that by default they must also be healthy. These concepts are simply not connected.
If we are confident, love our bodies, and know our damn worth, why would we not want to treat those bodies with the utmost care? Why would we not support this notion of worth by feeding our bodies food that is WORTHY of such a bad ass beautiful human? Why would we not want to move those beautiful bodies in ways that help keep our hearts healthy, our lungs efficient and our liver and kidneys able to properly remove toxins?
When we cancel people and silence their words because they make us feel bad, that doesn’t serve us. But when we listen, investigate, decide whether and what we believe to be factual, and then make informed decisions and responses…that serves us all.