It is ok to be fat, time to change our attitude: Indian-origin academic

New Delhi: It’s time to rethink our attitude to fatness as prejudice against fat people is endemic in our society and public health initiatives aimed at reducing obesity have only worsened the problem, an Indian-origin academic said on Monday.

In her new book titled ‘Why It’s OK To Be Fat’, Rekha Nath who is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama in the US, argued for a paradigm shift in how society approaches fatness.

“Being fat is seen as unattractive, even gross. We view fat as a sign of weakness, of greediness, of laziness,” she wrote.

“And we have made the pursuit of thinness, bound up as it is with health, fitness, beauty, and discipline into a moralised endeavour: making the ‘right’ lifestyle choices to avoid being fat is seen as a duty we each must fulfill,” Nath added.

According to research cited in the book, global obesity rates have tripled during the past 50 years, while the World Health Organization has deemed childhood obesity “one of the most serious global public health challenges of the 21st century.”

According to Nath, society must stop approaching fatness as a trait to rid the population of, and instead, approach it through the lens of social equality, attending to the systematic ways that society penalises fat people for their body size.

Fat people are bullied and harassed. They receive worse healthcare, frequently at the hands of doctors and nurses who endorse harmful anti-fat stereotypes.

“Fat students are ridiculed and teased by classmates and even teachers. In the workplace, fat people experience rampant discrimination, which is legal in most jurisdictions,” the author emphasised.

Surveying a body of scientific research, Nath showed that diet and fitness may bear more on our health than weight alone.

For instance, a 2010 systematic review of 36 studies found that fit, obese individuals were less likely to die prematurely than unfit normal-weight individuals.

Nath also pointed to evidence that advice dispensed to fat people to lose excess weight — eat less and move more — is ineffective and can even be harmful.

“Numerous studies indicate that people who experience weight stigma are more likely to suffer depression and low self-esteem,” she explained.

“It is OK to be fat because there’s nothing wrong with being fat,” she concluded.


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