Overweight isn't *the* issue, but it often is *an* issue

A gaggle of eating disorder groups put out a release this week praising Michelle Obama for comments she made about weight during a Google Hangout, emphasizing healthy lifestyle and avoiding any talk about weight with her daughters.

I, of course, talk about weight all the time. Few topics, including this one, are black and white, but I acknowledge the gulf.

It’s actually a great lead-in for a point I’ve been trying to incorporate into my thinking since attending the national Binge Eating Disorder Association conference a couple of weeks ago. (Yes, BEDA was one of the groups applauding Obama.) So let’s see...

* I don’t speak only about weight. My experience shouts for lifestyle change and spiritual recovery. But my experience leaves me wondering about how much healthy lifestyle and spiritual life can coexist with the impediments of overweight.

* I don’t think obesity is a disease. I don’t think overweight is wrong, or bad, all by itself.

* I experienced heaps of weight stigma over 30 years, and being stigmatized sucks. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, though as I have disclosed several times, I have engaged in stigmatizing for weight, reflexively, for as long as I can remember. I’m not excusing this.

* A considerable percentage of people in the (enormous) population of overweight or obese people is not unhealthy. Estimates vary, but are in the neighborhood of 25 percent. That’s a lot of people.

However. Never talk about it? Pretend it’s not there?

There is a physical relationship between obesity and noncommunicable diseases, beginning with heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Depending on the study, “extra” healthcare costs attributable to obesity are $147 billion or $190 billion. Annually. Everyone is paying for that.

Physical unfitness is also a national security issue, all the more when it is as widespread as it is. Mission: Readiness, a nonpartisan group made up of retired military leaders, notes that about 75 percent of citizens between 17 and 24 aren’t eligible for military service, and inability to pass the physical is the foremost reason.

To those completely legitimate issues, I add my knowledge of what it’s like to live fat. Set aside stigma or fashion or anything else to do with other people, and it still sucks. The joint pain, the chafing, struggling up flights of stairs, surrendering opportunities because I didn’t think I could keep up, and many others.

Among my loved ones, I am saddened by those who are overweight, primarily because I know what it’s like. I would hate it if my son, only 3, developed it, again because the experience sucks. And for this, we can add back in stigma and fashions, because as wrong as it is, it IS part of the experience, and IMO, will continue to be for years to come, no matter how unfair that is or how assiduously it is fought

I am willing to have my consciousness raised. Fighting discrimination is a part of this struggle. But for me, so is taking responsibility for my actions, for working toward a healthier life for myself and others.

Establishing no-fat-talk zones may be part of the solution, but denying, or soft-pedaling, the reality that overweight is often a sign of ill health is not.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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