Consider Fattitude: A Body Positive Documentary. The jokes practically write themselves. “Heifer, I’m positive your body is fat!” When someone attempts to present obesity as a condition that is acceptable and maybe even desirable, the temptation for critics to take those take easy shots is only one of the drawbacks. Lindsey Averill and Viridiana Lieberman say.
Fat people are subject to discrimination everywhere they look. In children’s books and stories fat people are villains and bad guys. On our television screens and in the advertising world the fat body is a joke. Magazines and entertainment news shows fixate on the “fatness” of celebrities’ bodies…. We want to offer a counter argument to the current popular notions that condemn fatness in all forms.
The filmakers’ Kickstarter campaign raised $44,000 to make a feature-length documentary that “exposes how fat hatred permeates our popular culture, spreading the message that fat is bad and in turn forwarding the idea that being cruel, unkind or downright unjust to a fat person is acceptable behavior.”
Discrimination, mockery, hatred, cruelty, unkindness, vilification—of course none of these things is good. Neither is injustice, especially the kind that assumes people with extra body weight are “less than.” But the part about how current thinking condemns “fatness in all forms” is iffy. Some forms of fatness should be condemned. Not on a moral basis, and not with any claim that overweight people are bad. It’s a matter of health.
In reality, the fact that morbid obesity puts people at risk is beyond question. Without a doubt, there are forms of fatness that should definitely be avoided or, if it’s too late for avoidance, fixed. The filmmakers cite “the bulk of epidemiological evidence” as showing that being 5 pounds underweight is more dangerous than being 75 pounds overweight. This might be a case of overreach.
Apparently their ground-level premise is based on a meta-study led by Dr. Joel Ray of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. The findings of this research, which encompassed 50 previous studies, were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health. For them to hold water, one first has to accept that the Body Mass Index is the most meaningful measure, which it may not be. Just for clarity, here is a chart showing what a 5’9” person’s BMI should be.
Underweight patients of all ages (those with a BMI of 18.5 or under) were found to face a 1.8 times greater risk for dying than patients with a normal BMI (between 18.5 and 25.9)… By contrast, obese patients (those with a BMI between 30 and 34.9) face a 1.2 greater risk for dying than normal-size patients. Severely obese patients—those with a BMI of 35 or more—faced a 1.3 times greater risk.
People who are clinically underweight face an even higher risk for dying than obese individuals, the study shows… Compared to normal-weight folks, the excessively thin have nearly twice the risk of death…
First, this is not stated with an eye to maximum comprehension. We all face exactly the same 100 percent certitude of death. Many websites that mentioned this study neglected to mention that it is talking about the risk of dying prematurely, which is quite different from simply dying. Many writers implied that being a bit on the thin side is not only horribly dangerous, but that the problem is destined to increase. For Salon.com, Mary Elizabeth Williams pushed back by noting that the observed populations were also challenged by poverty, substance abuse, and suboptimal mental health. Moreover:
…while being underweight is a significant health risk, obesity and its often-fatal effects are still affecting a far broader population… But in the quest to improve public health, the consequences of obesity don’t need to be minimized to make a point about the dangers of being underfed. Just because we’re finally making some small inroads in the quest to stave off the health problems that come with obesity it doesn’t automatically follow that we’re setting ourselves up for a whole new raft of thinness-related ones.
By the way, Fattitude, although it has staked out an anticipatory IMDB presence, is still in production. Its Twitter page says “coming soon.”
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Fattitude: A Body Positive Documentary,” kickstarter.com, 2014
Source: “Underweight Even Deadlier Than Overweight, Study Says,” healthday.com, 03/28/14
Source: “Is being thin more deadly than being obese?,” salon.com, 03/31/14
Image by Fattitude