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Is It Hip To Be Fat?

The New York Times reported on a growing number of bloggers who identify themselves as “fat” and are proud of it. Their message is clear: accept yourself as you are, be proud of your body, and don’t feel forced to conform to the “thin is in” crowd. The Times continues:

Smart, sassy and irreverent, bloggers with names like Big Fat Deal, FatChicksRule and Fatgrrl (“Now with 50 percent more fat!”) buck anti-obesity sentiment. They celebrate their full figures and call on readers to accept their bodies, quit dieting and get on with life.

The message from the fatosphere is not just that big is beautiful. Many of the bloggers dismiss the “obesity epidemic” as hysteria. They argue that Americans are not that much larger than they used to be and that being fat in and of itself is not necessarily bad for you.

And they reject a core belief that many Americans, including overweight ones, hold dear: that all a fat person needs to do to be thin is exercise more and eat less.

What do I make of this? I think that the so-called fatosphere has hit on some important issues: discrimination against the obese, media pressures to be rail thin, and excessive yo-yo dieting are all unfortunate and perhaps dangerous aspects of our culture. Self-esteem can be rapidly eroded by unrealistic beauty ideals, and young women are particularly vulnerable. I whole heartedly agree with the fatosphere’s rage against the collateral damage of anorexic values. But I also think that the fatosphere goes too far in arguing that obesity is not a health problem and that some people are unable to lose weight and should stop trying.

First of all, there is no scientific doubt that obesity contributes to increasing type 2 diabetes and heart disease rates. Now, it’s true that some people’s bodies can handle extra fat without becoming diabetic or perhaps having a heart attack, but why take the risk?

Second, I agree that the jury is still out regarding how “dangerous” being overweight is (as opposed to being obese), and that people with BMIs <30 may indeed be physically fit with no obvious increases in morbidity and mortality. Yes, there is one controversial study that suggests that a little extra fat may actually be protective. But let’s not exaggerate those findings. It was a “little extra fat,” (i.e. being overweight) not obesity.

Third, I don’t believe that people are “doomed” to be obese. The National Weight Control Registry keeps a running list of thousands of Americans who have lost over 30 pounds of fat and kept that weight off for at least 5 years. Long term weight reduction is possible, and believing that it IS possible is important for success. So what do these successful folks have in common? No surprise here: long term, consistent calorie reduction and regular physical activity.

I have been cheering on my friend and blogger, Fat Doctor, as she works towards getting her weight out of the obese range. I do think that her voice is very much needed in the fatosphere: she acknowledges that weight loss is very difficult, she is honest about her struggles, she does not support discrimination against the obese or the pursuit of excessive thinness, but she knows that she must lose weight for her health, and she is getting medical help to achieve her goals.

If any of you out there would like to follow in Fat Doctor’s footsteps, there’s a weight loss group right here at Revolution Health (led by yours truly – and yes, I have some weight to lose!) that may help to get you back on track with regular exercise and healthy eating. Sixty percent of Americans are overweight or obese, which makes chubbiness pretty trendy. But we are not doomed… we can reverse this trend one person at a time. Let’s do it!This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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3 Responses to “Is It Hip To Be Fat?”

  1. C Coleman Brown MD says:

    Val, I think your “extra weight” is really that protective fat you are describing.

    As for the sentiment that being obese is ok, let’s get real. Not a chance. I see too many patients that have multiple health problems related to their obesity. From arthritic knees to diabetes and hypertension just to name a few. Yes, being an Olsen twin is perhaps not healthy, but having a diet and exercise regimen that actually burns more than you take in is the right way to go. Don’t fret, just do. Don’t diet, just plan better. Give yourself reminders to use small portions. Work out at least 3 times weekly. Make it happen.

  2. Amka says:

    Thank you for those words, Dr. Val! I think it is so important that people understand that it isn’t about looks, and shouldn’t be about looks. It’s about health.

    I may have said this here before, but I lost 70 lbs in nine months, post partum. My boy is nearly 3 and I’ve kept it off.

    I think that losing that weight for a health focus, like I did, is one of the main reasons I succeeded. I hadn’t thought of myself as fat. My husband thought I was beautiful. But woah, that blood pressure… didn’t want to go on medication. The alternative was exercise. 

  3. DermDoc says:

    I was just having a conversation about this with one of my colleagues yesterday. As a dermatologist I see plenty of patients with most of their clothes off everyday; I’m amazed at how many of them are grossly overweight. Sometimes it helps to give them feedback that their acanthosis nigricans and skin tags are a sign of increased insulin and future (if not present) diabetes. 

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