No one should be bullied for their weight or food choices, but ‘fat pride’ promotes dangerous weight levels.
Body positivity began as a powerful antidote to the media’s obsession with skeletal models and beachball-breasted glamour girls. Empowering women of non-Barbie proportions to feel good about themselves, the movement has attacked impossible beauty ideals that confront us in advertising, branding and beyond, criticising everything from the thigh gap trend to green juice cleanses.
Its success has led to a series of positive changes, including the decision to ban the use of rail-thin models in several European countries. In the UK, body positivity has fuelled a backlash against the clean eating movement, with health experts linking questionable nutritional advice to a rise in eating disorders such as orthorexia. As glossy-haired treadmill unicorns continue to pout their way through Instagram with chia-seed recipes and colonoscopy recommendations, women are rejecting their raw food cleanses in favour of a balanced diet that includes the occasional doughnut.
While nobody should ever be bullied for their weight or food choices, it’s important to make a distinction between health awareness and cruelty. Cancer Research wasn’t criticising a specific person for being overweight, they were pointing out that obesity is now the second leading cause of lifestyle-related cancers, a fact only 15% of the British public are aware of.
According to the NHS, we’re in the grip of an obesity epidemic, which has led to increased pressure on the struggling health service. The latest figures reveal that weight-related hospital admissions have risen by 18% in the past year, with more than a quarter (26%) of British adults now classified as obese. Another recent study, which measured the metabolic health of more than 17,000 respondents, showed that overweight people who exercise regularly and consider themselves “fat but fit” still had a 28% increased risk of heart disease, compared to their slimmer counterparts. As well as being linked to diabetes, obesity can also be responsible for osteoarthritis, gout, breathing problems, high blood pressure and other conditions. While being thin won’t automatically grant you a clean bill of health or a long, smug life of squeaky clean arteries, there’s no denying that health risks are higher for obese people.