I recently read probably the best editorial about obesity that I have ever come across. It was a difficult read: uncomfortable, honest, brutal, no-holds-barred, and yet still, somehow, sensitive. The author, an Australian physician who works at a bariatric clinic, has seen it all. I posted the article on Facebook, but not without much deliberation. I don’t want to engage in what is known as fat-shaming. I don’t want to alienate anyone who struggles with their weight – and I understand that it can be a struggle. In the end, I decided that this article was simply too important not to post. I wish that everyone who is at all interested in health, medicine, obesity, nutrition, policy, law (etc., etc.), would read it.
Here are a few of what I think are the most thought-provoking selections from the article:
- “I have heard people say thinness is beautiful and coveted because it is difficult to achieve and rare now, the way curves apparently appeal in times of famine…. Today when we look at those who are thin, part of what we see is a triumph of will over gluttony, so the beauty is a moral beauty; it has little to do with health.”
- “I listened recently to a neurosurgical registrar describing the difficulty of finding a spinal fracture under 10 centimetres of adipose (fatty) tissue. Neurosurgeons love precision; one false move on the inside and you won’t remember your mum. The registrar’s voice was filled with a kind of shocked horror. She had to send the car-crash victim to the scanner mid operation, with a metal screw embedded in his neck so the surgeons could find their bearings beneath the mattress of fat. Post-op, none of the neck braces were big enough to fit. To immobilise the man’s spine the team used sandbags.”
- “I had a friend who had been anorexic and spent her teenage years in and out of hospital, being fed through a nasogastric tube. She recovered in her 20s and managed to channel all of her intrusive obsessional thinking about food into athletics. One day she said to me that she didn’t understand why she could be hospitalised against her will for not eating enough, and yet there was no limitation on how fat you could get. It was completely unfair, she said, that you could be refused alcohol if intoxicated but roll into your local fish-and-chip shop 100 kg overweight and be served the equivalent of a week’s worth of calories for lunch.”
I also love the section on how our emotional state plays into eating, because it is so true and obvious, and yet so routinely overlooked. Give the article a read and then let me know what you think in the comments section.