Obesity is an unhealthy condition, and overweight and obese people should work towards healthier body weights.
Obesity is not unhealthy in and of itself. It's the parallels drawn (often incorrectly) between obesity and other conditions that make it so fearsome.
Do ALL "obese" individuals have the symptoms society associates with their condition? Are all of them even at risk for them? No, and I'll tell you why: because only sick people visit physicians. So, physicians only see the worst case scenarios of every category they've lumped us into. They compile their facts based on what they see and then they guess at the rest of the world based on that narrow perspective. They don't see the healthy people who are fat, old, etc. and they are out there in droves, believe me. I was one of them.
When I was considered more than 100 pounds overweight, I had excellent cholesterol levels, perfect blood pressure, all my hormones were where they should be, and I could hike up a 14,000' mountain with no distress. I wasn't vegan back then, either, I was eating meat and sundry other evil delicacies, drinking, too. Kaiser Permanente couldn't figure it out. They did all sorts of tests on me (you had to back then to get individual health insurance for the first time) and I passed every single one of them with flying colors. I was healthier than my doctors and they admitted it unhappily. They perked up, though, when I stepped on a scale, because they thought they "had" me with my weight. I simply replied, "So, what? At this weight, I can run a landscaping company 14 hours a day for six days out of the week and climb a mountain on the seventh day to relax, and my body is in better shape than yours. Exactly where is this danger you speak of?" They hemmed and hawed and mumbled that, well, I could develop these problems because other people had done so before me. Yeah, and if everybody jumped off a cliff....
I kind of felt sorry for them after awhile because, in their profession and position, they will never have access to the sublimely happy, healthy people out there who go their whole lives never seeing a physician because they don't require the services of one. That is what a doctor is, you know, a service profession. It is not at all mandatory to survival as they would have you believe. If you believe that it is imperative to have a physician scan you for errors every six months, then congratulations, the commercials have worked on you. You are now out of your own loop and smack dab in theirs. Other people know what's best for you and you must listen to them or die. That is the baseline for every fear based, health related ad ever made. And, my, how profitable it is!
I knew a 96-year-old native Oregonian who still farmed the land he cut out of the forest for himself. He built his own house by hand, several historical buildings nearby that still stand, tilled and planted enough vegetables to give bushels of them away to family and friends even after canning enough to fill his larder, and he raised his own chickens. Towering over everyone at 6'4", he did not stoop unless he was picking up a tool and his mind was so sharp it was like listening to the Documentary Channel whenever you asked him about his ship building days. After awhile, you learned not to ask him about those days unless you had four hours to kill! He ate copious amounts of meat, cheese, butter, lard, you name it, and his sweet little wife made old fashioned candies like divinity and pralines by hand. The only thing that slowed this man down was the depression brought on by the descent of that lovely woman into Alzheimers. If he had walked into a doctor's office, he would have been told to slow down immediately and rest, he'd be put on half a dozen medications based purely on his age, not his actual condition, and told to alter his diet completely. And he would have been dead in a month from the stress of all the chemicals in his veins and the angst of his new limited embrace of life.
It is the height of short-sighted stupidity to assume that the whole can be accurately measured from the part. It leads to dangerous applications of "knowledge" and "fact" that harm many. The annals of medicine are chock full of health scares triggered by misinformation and a blind trust of certain iconic professions like doctors that have led to treatments so horrible that to read about them actually makes one sick. Take a gander at the founding father of the American lobotomy craze, Walter Freeman, who drilled holes in people's skulls through their eye sockets to relieve dreadful conditions like mild depression, insomnia, and menstrual complaints. He was a tad misinformed but his credentials were impeccable
. Then there were the tinctures of opium, morphine, and arsenic commonly prescribed to fussy children at bedtime. It put the little buggers right out, often permanently. (See: Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup) Probably the most hilarious example of skewed science was the pandemic infliction of "female hysteria" which seemed to sweep Victorian era women. The symptoms were declared by doctors to be everything from fluid retention and irritability to insomnia and "a tendency to cause trouble." The treatment was relatively simple: weekly "pelvic massages" by a qualified (male) physician involving manual stimulation of the genitals until the patient experienced repeated “hysterical paroxysm,” something we now call an orgasm. Let me recap: woman were sexually frustrated, labeled sick, then violated by strangers until they were deemed well. Not a bad metaphor for the entire medical system we have today, hunh?
But things have improved, right? We're smarter now, right? Enter Ritalin, the dumbest thing to come out of pharmacology since laudanum. I call it the Lobotomy of the New Millennium. Is your child acting out in class, tapping his pencil on the desk, not listening to the teacher? Dear god, that's ADD! Drug him, quick! We don't want him to miss out on any college opportunities! Holy frack, people, he's a CHILD. School is boring, what the hell do you expect him to do? I, myself, was a toe-tapper, an endless talker (I know, hard to imagine) and a constant challenge to nearly every teacher's authority. But they didn't have Ritalin in the 70's and 80's. They had rules
and they gave teachers the authority to enforce them. I was a straight A honors student all the way through 17 grades of higher learning, despite my...ahem...medical condition. If I was in elementary today, I'd be drugged up the ass, no doubt, and would glean from the experience the belief that I required medication to be a normal, functioning human being and would probably rely on drugs and other "helpers" for the rest of my life, never finding my own, true potential by harnessing my unlimited kinetic energy for good instead of evil. I sure as hell wouldn't be a weight lifter.
Be careful of labels, especially when they are called diseases. The ones doing the labeling are not doing it out of a pure, warm love of humanity, they are serving the voracious demands of the slobbering medical juggernaut, the drug companies, and the coat-tail riding health insurance companies. These Three Horsemen of the Medical Apocalypse push very hard to get new conditions acknowledged officially by the American Medical Association because if a disease exists, then patients can be labeled by health insurance companies who are then allowed to raise their rates on them whether they seek treatment or not. After all, they're at risk! The drug companies gleefully get busy churning out new medications for these conditions and natter away in physician's ears with all the charm of droning mosquitoes with one goal and one goal only: to get the physician to prescribe the drug. When the doctor complies, the circle is complete and the economy soars...for some. Have you seen the commercials? The list of potential side effects from the drug is more terrifying than whatever it was invented to cure. Robin Williams said it best: "Warning: may cause spontaneous gender reversal!"
This entire clusterfrock begins with an idea about illness, that's all. The idea is usually based on hastily gathered data with sour intent. If the data at hand doesn't suit, no problem, just tweak the numbers until it does. The proposed lowering of the BMI of obesity from 30 to 25 made commercial monsters like Jenny Craig and Pfizer (who makes Lipitor) wet themselves lavishly with joy. However, it would forcibly throw an even higher number of perfectly fit people into an imaginary danger zone while schizophrenically ignoring those who could use a little counseling. Countless people with diabetes, heart disease, and messed up endrocrine systems are waved through the doctor's office without a single test simply because they possess the correct BMI and jeans size. Meanwhile, bodybuilders are told they are at risk for those same diseases based only on a number, not a complete fitness profile. I'd like to see any doctor tell Robert Cheeke he's overweight and needs to drop a pants size.
Remember that a physician can only legally use the word "risk" whenever it comes to these groupings. That's because he's basing his diagnosis of you on a mathematical formula of probability, not an in-depth, thorough examination of your mental and physical system. He doesn't have time for that; he's allotted, on average, around eleven minutes to exorcise your demons while you freeze to death in that damned paper gown with the ties in back. His job is to scare you with numbers until you come over to his side and agree to pay for a lot of tests and medications, then he needs to get you out and the next patient in. Keep 'em moving, keep 'em moving, this is a business, people! A famous saying among physicians is that a patient is either cancerous or pre-cancerous. If that sounds creepy and entropic, then congratulations, you're awake. Encouraging healthy people to think of themselves as pre-cancerous is, well, sick. And misleading. But I'm sure it ignites a building fear that one can never be sure and the only savior available is your friendly neighborhood physician with a spanking new rectal thermometer gleaming in his front coat pocket and a well-used Merck Manual of drugs thicker than the New York City telephone book sitting behind him on a shelf.
"Let's see if we can find something to help you, shall we? Now, take off your clothes. I know you only have a sore throat but I'd like to start by finding your BMI. It can tell us SO much about you."