On Ted Kyle's "three tribes of obesity"

Ted KyleWriting on ConscienHealth, Ted Kyle talks about the three tribes of obesity, whom he labels the Healthies, the Quants, and the Buttouts.

It’s not hard to see where the sympathies of Kyle, chairman of the Obesity Action Coalition, lie, from his choice of descriptors: In his paragraph on the Heathies, he writes:

Calls for attention to treatment of obesity are seen as reminders of unfortunate failures to prevent it. People with obesity are to be treated with “informed compassion” that drips with condescension.

Not much admiration there! Meanwhile, the Buttouts’ first description is “fiercely independent,” and continues:

Some of them are dealing with obesity on their own terms and some of them simply reject the construct of obesity as a disease.

Divided this way — though it’s just one of many ways to divide the fractious forces focused on fatness — I’m a Healthy, though sometimes I wonder why I don’t have more sympathy for the Buttouts. The basis of my position is that I’ve been fat — about half my life, with a top of 365 — and I’ve been not.

Without a doubt, for me, “not” is much better! I speak only for myself, but not only have I no hesitation, I don’t get those who feel differently. (Please, let’s not fight. I’m only speaking of my own experience, not anyone else’s.)

I will say that I don’t consider obesity a disease, and don’t get why anyone does here, either. It is a result of many things — director of the Mass General Hospital Weight Center Lee Kaplan once opined to me that there are 66 kinds of obesity. I also don’t think that all overweight people are unhealthy, or that all normal-weight people are healthy. Even among, say, 300-pounders, there is a variation of health, from active and fairly limber to severely limited. But I do think that the heavier one is, the more likely one will experience ill health as a result.

As someone fat from childhood, I definitely experienced bullying, scorn, and rejection for my body weight, so I agree we all will be better off when fat stigma has gone. But I do not believe that when it is, the problem with fat will also disappear — shortness of breath, joint pain, inability to keep up were part of my reality that had nothing to do with what others thought of me.


I think obesity is a symptom of either processed food addiction or systematic, incidental exposure to calorie-dense foods.

Is it also a disease in it's own right?  Well, recent research shows evidence for a condition named, 'sick fat.' This is adipose tissue (fat) that is giving off 15 peptides that disrupt functioning in the rest of the body. That does sound like a disease to me.

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