Have you heard the phrase, “health at every size”? Oh, if that were only true. There’s a huge movement going on at the moment called “Fat Acceptance” or “Body Positivity.” The idea is that, whether you’re a slim 140 pounds or a substantial 320, you can be considered healthy as long as you exercise and eat healthy food.
Let’s take a look at that for a moment.
First of all, the whole notion of the Body Positivity movement is an appropriation from those who have suffered from disfiguring illnesses or accidents - military veterans who have lost limbs, or cancer patients who have lost half their face, or burn victims who have had to undergo painful skin grafts. THAT is the origin of Body Positivity, NOT the person who consumes 6,000 calories a day and has grown to weigh over 400 pounds.
Take a look at the woman in the picture above. She’s a popular YouTuber with a supposed weight-loss channel. She started her YouTube career weighing in at around 320, and currently, she’s almost 600 pounds. She, along with many other Fat Acceptance activists, will talk about how you don’t have to be skinny to be healthy, and that as long as you eat good, clean food and exercise, you can be fine.
Tess Holliday, the model in this picture here >> has a similar message, promoting the idea that at 300+ pounds, she’s totally fine and perfectly healthy. She’s got a successful modeling career, gracing the covers of Cosmo and Sports Illustrated, so why shouldn’t she be considered beautiful?
But the question isn’t about beauty. Beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. Our very souls, as creations of God, are beautiful in their essence. It’s what we do with the natural beauty we are given that’s important. We are wonderfully, fearfully made, but we’re also imperfect, and prone to sin. Therefore, we indulge in gluttony far too often, and the result of that is excessive weight gain and all the metabolic issues and diseases that come with it: diabetes, heart problems, cancer, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, even Alzheimer’s has been connected to poor diet. It’s often referred to these days as Type-III Diabetes.
One major problem that people like Tess and Amberlynn and others who are obese face is called “visceral fat.” That’s the fat that gathers in your abdomen, around your belly. When you see someone with a beer belly, that’s a high level of visceral fat and a sign of insulin resistance, which is a serious problem that can lead to dire consequences if not addressed. Visceral fat is a problem because not only crowds your internal organs, but it also seeps into them. And if the pancreas gets filled with fat, it can no longer function properly, meaning it can’t produce the insulin the body needs - that’s why people with Type-II Diabetes sometimes have to start injecting insulin, because their pancreas has broken down. Many obese people have what’s called “non alcoholic fatty liver disease,” caused when so much fat has been stored in their liver over time, causing the liver to harden and not be able to function properly.
So what is insulin resistance? Typically what happens is that, over time, a person eats a lot of sugary foods, frequently throughout the day, so that the system is overwhelmed. The pancreas does all it can to keep up with the powerful onslaught of glucose into the system, but eventually, the cells just stop responding to insulin (insulin allows your cells to absorb carbohydrates into the liver and muscles as glycogen - too many carbs, especially fructose and glucose, cause the excess to convert into fat, which is stored in your liver and elsewhere). Insulin resistance can lead to Type-II Diabetes unless addressed. And once you get diabetes, your health is in serious jeopardy.
Do Tess or Amberlynn have diabetes? I have no idea. Amberlynn makes no claim to being healthy, but Tess certainly does. Both women have dangerous levels visceral fat, which is impacting their heart, lungs, liver, and pancreas, whether they know it or acknowledge it or not. And in truth, there is such a condition called “skinny fat,” where the person might look fine on the outside, even slim, but due to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, they have lost muscle mass and have also gained visceral fat. The number on the scale might be fine, but that doesn’t mean they are fine or healthy. Skinny fat people get the same problems as obese people.
In both cases, whether you’re obese or skinny fat, the solution is similar: diet and exercise. Some very heavy people might require the assistance of weight loss surgery, but not everyone needs that. Take the guy in this picture, Thomas de Lauer <<. He had gotten up to 280 pounds and was starting to experience a lot of health issues. Finally, he decided to clean up his diet and get into the gym, and as you can see from the picture on the right, he managed to do a 180 with his health. Not only that, but he has become a very successful health coach, with an extremely popular YouTube channel.
While there’s nothing nice about fat-shaming someone, that doesn’t mean that one can be healthy at any size. The denial of that, unfortunately, can cause deadly results. I think of 29 year-old Sean Milliken, of San Diego, California. Sean had been on TLC’s My 600-Lb. Life, weighing in at over 800 pounds. While he got his weight down with the help of Dr. Younan Nowzaradan, he ultimately lost his life just this year when his weight shot up again to over 700 pounds. Sean is the one I think about when someone says “you can be healthy at any size.” To that, I say, “Oh yeah? Ask Sean about that one. Oh wait, you can’t because he’s dead from his obesity.
We don’t have to be mean about, but we have to stop being enablers to those who choose to make such poor health choices. Obesity and food addiction is a complicated thing, often starting in childhood, so it’s not entirely the person’s fault, especially when their family has taught them to associate food with comfort and love. But that doesn’t mean we should affirm anyone in their deadly choices any more than we would congratulate a heroin addict or an alcoholic. We all have our own lives to live, and in the end, we are responsible for the choices we make, so it’s unfair to expect society to capitulate to what we allow ourselves to become. There’s nothing healthy about that.
(The video below is Thomas de Lauer’s weight loss journey)