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*This article is an opinion-based piece full of my own ideas. You should talk to your doctor about your health.
For many years I swung between a burning desire to lose weight and an indifference to my weight as I focused on other things. However, even during the times when I wasn’t focused on my weight, I felt guilty for not thinking about it. Shouldn’t I be wanting and trying to lose weight? In fact, I felt almost as if there was something wrong with me if I didn’t care about being fat and was just happy how I was.
Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t some negatives to being fat. However, the majority of the negatives are not from being fat in and of itself, but from how fat people are treated and perceived by others.
So, if I were to advise my kids, or someone else I cared about, where their attention should be focused, I would say that no, you should not care about being fat. You should simply be aware of the ramifications of being overweight and then either make a choice to accept yourself how you are and stay overweight, or accept yourself as you are and commit to change.
Hating yourself (or feeling like you should be hating yourself) for something that you aren’t changing (or don’t want to change) leads to a great deal of negative emotion and pain.
So, with that cheery introduction out of the way, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t necessarily care about being overweight!
The commonly touted “problems” with being overweight:
As a heavy guy I’m often the butt of jokes and have been on the receiving end of more “loving pieces of advice” than I can count. It is incredibly common for fat people to be denied affection or even be treated outright terribly. People justify doing this because they want to “help the person change…for their own good.”
Well, here’s a secret, you can’t hate people for their own benefit.
So, people’s incongruent social issues aside, let’s talk about some of the actual cons of being obese that people experience:
Despite some very interesting new research (and a slew of articles) showing the benefits that being overweight can have on your health, there are a few areas where you health can suffer as a result of your size.
Also, this is the most commonly cited reason for treating fat people poorly. As in, “I’m going to treat you poorly because I care about your health and want you to change…” Makes sense right?
Well, people’s foibles aside, here are some of the actual documented health issues related to obesity:
- High blood pressure
- Poor cholesterol (high LDL, how HDL)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Stroke risk
- Gallbladder Disease
- Most types of cancer
- Breathing problems
- Sleep disorders
- Body and joint pain
Now, you might experience many or only few of the above effects related to your weight. While there is a strong correlation (and you’re at increased risk for the above issues), health is not directly related to weight. In other words, the health of two people with the same BMI can be vastly different. Despite this, it remains true that people who are classified as obese (BMI >30) have greater rates of every type of mortality (meaning you are more likely to die).
When it comes to the health concerns of being fat you really need to take a look at how you are taking care of your health, not your weight. Some people are fat because their body like to store extra chub even though they eat well and maintain their fitness. Others are fat because they do not maintain their body in a healthy way.
If you are in the second group, your concern and focus should be be on whether or not you are fat. It should be on your health and what you can do to improve it. That may, or may not, include losing weight.
Mental Health Concerns
Being overweight or obese can affect your mental health in many ways. Although this can be a direct effect of your size (for example, hormone and metabolic disturbances) it is typically caused by either people treating you like crap, you treating yourself like crap, or you feeling like you deserve to treated like crap.
Being in control of your own choices and their outcomes (autonomy) is one of the biggest markers of happiness. If you feel that your life/weight is out of control, you may find it difficult to maintain a positve outlook.
The key to this is often to improve your health (not necessarily your weight) which will allow you to engage in things you might otherwise miss out on.
That is not to say that that will solve all your problems. Being fat does come with an increased risk of clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. If you are feeling anxious or depressed about life in general do be sure to discuss it with your doctor.
Just remember to treat yourself kindly, like you should do for anyone else you love and care about.
If I were the last person on earth, would I care about being fat? Well, probably. Because I’d have to do way more running to get away from zombies. But, that aside, the majority of my concerns with being fat would evaporate.
I wouldn’t care about finding dates.
I wouldn’t care about sweating through my clothes.
I wouldn’t worry about my daughter being made fun of for having a “fat dad” when I pick her up from school.
I wouldn’t worry about being mistaken for lazy during job interviews.
I wouldn’t fear going to the gym because it wouldn’t only be for skinny people (they all got eaten by zombies)
You get the idea.
Most of the things that make it difficult to be fat come from external sources eg. the way people treat you. As bad as this sucks, it is a reality of people either not understanding or just plain ol’ being mean.
If you face those realities in your life, you may find it helpful to lose weight. However, people who are mean to you for the simple reason that they want you to be different do not deserve a place in your life. If you don’t care about losing weight, surround yourself with like-minded people who are positive and will help you to weather the storm.
FOMO and Lifestyle Concerns
Beyond the “I’m too fat to be sexy” ideas that bounce around in my head all the time I do have some actual concerns about being fat that bother me.
Because of my weight, I can’t participate in things that I enjoy doing and that hold value to me. It is much more difficult to hike with my family, I don’t want to spend time at the beach or lake, can’t run around with my kids, etc.
And speaking of FOMO, there is also the worry that I’m going to miss out on the most important thing to me, my kids’ futures. Because I’ll be dead.
If there was ever anything that would encourage my weight loss, it would be that. I would love to live life more fully engaged.
The other part of decreased life-quality that comes with being fat isn’t my fault at all. At least I don’t think it is. The problem is that there are very few every-day products actually made for fat people. This makes what can be a hard lot in life even harder!
Whenever I try to find high capacity chairs, toilet seats, or even exercise equipment I’m bombarded with the message, “JUST LOSE WEIGHT!” It’s almost as if the industry doesn’t want to produce products for fat people because we might actually be comfortable. After all, they can’t “give us permission to be fat.”
In fact, this whole issue is actually what encouraged me to start this blog in the first place. After all, why should the motivation for someone to lose weight be simply because they can’t find a bed frame or dining room chairs?
New Research – The benefits of being fat!
With more than 1/3 of American’s being termed as obese it’s no wonder than weight and BMI are a heavily researched and discussed topic recently. And, whenever there is a lot of research done, you’ll find studies on both sides of the fence. While it remains clear that obesity is, in general, harmful to overall health and longevity, there are some interesting perks of being overweight which have recently come to light:
- Higher BMI in males may be linked to a lower incidence of rheumatoid arthritis
- Being overweight may protect you from dementia and related disorders
- Overweight people tend to have a more robust immune system
- Obesity is linked to longer survival time in patients with kidney cancer
Note that nearly all of the studies found benefits for being overweight, not obese. In fact, while obesity is correlated with higher mortality across the board, being overweight may actually be linked to lower mortality!
Are you obese or just overweight…? Check your BMI and find out.
How the weight loss industry destroys your happiness…
Being fat doesn’t cause mental anguish. What causes mental anguish is how you are treated and perceived if you’re fat.
The main message pushed by the weight loss industry (and every other product advertisement) is that you simply can’t be happy until you lose weight. Have you ever seen an unironic beer commercial with happy fat people?
I’ll tell you a secret, if you buy in to the idea that your weight directly causes your unhappiness, you won’t be happy when you lose weight either. You will simply find another future event to hang your happiness on and it will be forever postponed.
Learning to accept yourself as you are is a key component not only of happiness, but of being able to get where you want to go. In other words, if you want to lose weight, learn to love and accept yourself as a fat person and then you’ll be better able to motivate yourself to go where you want to go.
What if I don’t want to lose weight?
Then don’t. Just be sure of two things: you are aware of what being overweight means for your health and the way people treat you, and that you can’t both choose to be fat and hate yourself for being fat. Well, you can, but don’t. You won’t like it.
So, should you care about being fat?
Yes, if you want something else. If you are unhappy for any reason, do your best to fix what makes you unhappy. If you are unhappy because of your weight, this may include options like losing weight, removing negative people from your life, engaging more fully in life, building self-efficacy, etc.
In parting, I will say that losing weight is not a key to happiness. So, while you should be aware of risks that your choices pose to you, whether or not you should care about being fat is totally up to you.