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Are We Headed Towards a WALL-E Reality? The Dangers of the Fat Acceptance Movement

Taken from the animated film WALL·E. Property of Pixar.

In one of the most thought provoking and eye opening scenes of Pixar’s 2008 animated sci-fi comedy titled WALL-E, the considerate trash compactor robot named WALL-E races through a hallway in an attempt to save his romantic counterpart EVE.

As he speeds down the hall, he is cut off by what seems to be an obese human in a floating mobile recliner with a screen projected in front of their face. Despite being in a hurry, nevertheless, WALL-E stops to examine this strangeness.

Looking into the projected screen WALL-E notices that the human in the floating recliner is video chatting with a colleague, asking him to, “head over to the driving range and hit a few virtual balls into virtual space,” to which the other human responds, “nah, we did that yesterday, I don’t want to do that again.” 

It is at this point that WALL-E is caught off guard as he notices that the other human to whom the one to his left is video chatting with, is floating in an identical recliner with an identical projection screen parallel to them, only a few feet apart. As they exit into a roundabout however, WALL-E is even more shocked to discover that all humans are now fitless, obese, and in floating recliners.

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!

As WALL-E proceeds down the hallway the viewer is introduced to a bizarre new world where people ride around in floating recliners, their eyes glued to their screens, and service robots fulfilling their every request, such as retrieving a milk shake and taking away the empty cups.

In this next portion of the scene the ridiculousness of this bizarre scenario is exhibited in its entirety. The human WALL-E has been following mistakes him for a service robot and reaches out to WALL-E, his eyes still glued to his screen, stating “here, take the cup, take the cup!”

As the bewildered robot scoots away in hesitation not knowing what to do, the annoyed human aggressively reaches a little too far out and rocks himself out of his chair. EMERGENCY! As if an accident had just occurred, two robots immediately come in to redirect traffic out of the fallen human, who is on his back begging for help, similarly to when a turtle is turned over on its shell and rocks waving its limbs helplessly.

The traffic bots assure him to remain stationary and that service bots will arrive to assist him; at this point WALL-E scoops the helpless and fitless human up off the floor onto his floating recliner and continues on his search for EVA, his romantic robot counterpart.

Origin and Causation of the Fat Acceptance Movement

origins of fat acceptance

The above, of course, is an animated comedy film, but is it too detached from the realm of possibility? As one looks at the over consumerism plaguing our society today and the obesity statistics, the scenario described above doesn’t seem too far-fetched all of a sudden, at least partially if not in its entirety.

The beauty of the film WALL-E is that it was able to tackle extremely sensitive topics with a lightness of touch, by doing so it allows the viewer the option of accepting or ignoring the message. As one film critic put it depicting future humans as “a flabby mass of pea-brained idiots who are literally too fat to walk“, WALL-E is darker and more cynical than any major Disney feature film in recent memory. [1]

Fat Acceptance Movement– A sensitive topic

The Fat Acceptance Movement is a social movement whose aim is to change and/or end an alleged anti-fat bias in social attitudes. [2] The movement itself is a small portion of an exhaustive list of movements which occurred and stemmed from the identity politics of the 1960’s, which argued that fat people need to be treated equally both socially and legally.

No reasonable person can argue against an obese person’s natural human rights, which is something that should have nothing to do with a person’s weight, nor race, nor religion, etc. The movement’s original intent was to reiterate this to society and in particular prevent any and all alleged discrimination against fat people and argued for size acceptance.

The Fat Acceptance Movement arose out of and continues to address in particular weight discrimination experienced by overweight women in our society. As a matter of fact, the first book to be published on fat acceptance, titled Fat Power, was written by a man responding to weight discrimination endured by his wife.

Good intentions can lead to adverse outcomes

Undeniably, we all need to treat our fellow brothers and sisters with the utmost respect and acceptance, no matter the color, gender, ethnicity, or any other perceived divider of human beings. As to where we draw the line between acceptance and encouragement of certain lifestyles and reason, however, is certainly a worth a discussion at the very least.

As a society, we need to differentiate between acceptance, political correctness, and sound reason backed by scientific studies and experiments. It is not enough to stand idle as over consumerism takes over our lifestyles and we indulge ourselves in food and disregard exercise, while encouraging others to do so as well, without the fear of any repercussions.

Therefore we should be careful as to the approach we take when it comes to the fat acceptance movement. As the obesity specialist Dr. Arya Sharma has mentioned, fat acceptance movement activist should stay away from using bad science tactics, such as those previously used by tobacco companies to minimalize and promote denial of health risks caused by smoking.

Additionally, the numbers do not lie; to suggest that there is no such thing as an obesity epidemic is simply going against all evidence to the contrary.

Being Fat is NOT a Good Thing

being fat is not a good thing

Being overweight is not health neutral, to the contrary there are many medical studies linking health issues to obesity. To better understand the adverse effects of treating obesity as being health neutral, let us take a look at just what obesity is, the diseases it can cause, and the effect it has on a person’s lifestyle.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is one of the most prevalent health issues for which new approaches for medical treatment and avoidance are needed.

The technical definition of being obese is when your Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds 30 kg/m2 , translated  into English, it is simply dividing you weight by the square of your height.  The 25-30 kg/m2 range is considered overweight.

What is often overlooked is the fact that obesity is a medical condition. It is not something that should be looked at as having no detrimental consequences on one’s health, when in fact it increases the risks.

Diseases Caused By Obesity

Obesity is a leading cause of morbidity, disability, healthcare utilization and costs, as well as mortality in the United States. This disease continues to burden the healthcare system and does not seem to have an end in sight. There are currently more than forty known medical conditions that are linked to obesity; obese persons are at risk of developing one or more of these serious conditions.

Here are the top ten obesity related diseases:

High Blood Pressure: As the leading cause of death among Americans over the age of twenty-five, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It has been observed through research that blood pressure often increases as people gain weight and as they age. In obese individuals it is realized through arterial resistance and increased blood volume.

Diabetes: When it comes to diabetes it is all about insulin resistance, and obesity is one of the major factors when it comes to development of resistance to insulin, resulting in type II diabetes. Maybe this does not seem too significant until one realizes that according to the World Health Organization (WHO) [3] type II diabetes is the type that ninety percent of the worldwide diabetes population have. Insulin is used to treat diabetes and obesity makes cells more resistant to the effects of insulin.

Heart Disease:  The American Heart Association (AHA) [4] has continuously advised that obesity is a significant risk factor in an individual’s development of coronary heart disease, which in turn leads to heart attacks and strokes. Overweight people run a greater risk of suffering a heart attack before the age of 45 whereas for obese individuals that number is decreased by 10 years bringing it down to 35.

High Cholesterol Levels: We often hear people discuss cholesterol, and especially with the marketing boom of Honey Nut Cheerios, it has become a common term, as it should be. High cholesterol is one of the major causes of heart attacks. There are two types of means that cholesterol is being transported through a person’s blood, the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and the high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL transports cholesterol to the cells that need it, and the HDL is the healthy cholesterol which reduces a person’s risk of heart attacks.

An individual with high levels of LDL has their risk of a heart attack increased by twenty percent.

Cancer: The American Heart Association has released that a study conducted by their organization determined that being overweight increased a person’s chances of developing cancer by fifty percent, with Women’s risk being even higher if they are over twenty pounds or more overweight.

Infertility: Women’s hormonal levels are affected by being overweight and/or obese as well, which in turn manifests in ovarian failure. Being a female who is fifteen to twenty pounds overweight increases your risks of infertility as well as ovarian cancer. As strange as the preceding may sound, women’s bodies need to be in the applicable weight range in order to produce the optimal amount of hormones and properly regulate ovulation and menstruation cycles.

Back Pain:  Probably the most common issue associated with obesity when people think about it is back and joint pains. Our spines are capable of only so much, and putting extraneous strain and pressure on it can understandably cause problems; of great significance considering the spines role in the body and our lives. When it comes to obesity, because the spine has to carry so much excess weight, the risks of structural damage and developing a spinal injury are increased.

The risks of developing osteoarthritis, lower back pain, arthritis, and osteoporosis are all increased with obesity and being overweight.

Skin Infections:  An uncommon realization is that obesity can lead to skin infections; this is so due to the skin folding over itself in obese people. These folded areas tend to become irritated and due to all the rubbing and sweating can and often do become infected.

Ulcers:  Based on a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) [5] being obese can contribute to an individual’s development of gastric ulcers, more commonly known as stomach ulcers. Stomach ulcers are caused when there is an imbalance between the amount of acid that your stomach produces and the mucous defense wall; an imbalance causes the acid to damage the covering of the stomach. Overweight men are at higher risk of developing and suffering from stomach ulcers compared to women.

Gallstones: As is suggested by the name, gallstones are formed in the gallbladder, which is just under your liver. The gallbladder controls the storage of bile, which is a fluid that is produced by your liver. Gallstones are mini stones that form in the gallbladder as a result of cholesterol and pigments in bile at times forming hard particles. Gallstones are more commonly found in older women, and in addition to being overweight they can be caused due to genetics.

Effect of Obesity on Lifestyle

effect of obesity on lifestyle

There are many aspects of our society which were not built with obesity in mind. Take for example our vehicles, amusement parks, most clothing options, etc.  Below we will examine in more detail the physical as well as social effects that obesity has on a person’s life.

Physical Activity Related Effects

Doing “normal” things is significantly more difficult when one is obese; even something as simple as taking your dog out for a walk can leave an obese person short on breath. In addition, a lot of items in our society have weight limits, such as beach chairs, support boards, etc. When obese, those mundane warning stickers on such items all of a sudden gain greater significance.

Clothing is a challenge, with the stylish clothes usually not being available in an obese person’s size. So are sports, they are almost out of the question, whether it be with your friends or with your kids; except maybe for football, but that too turn out to be a challenge.  Walking around is tiring, and that limits many activities, including fun, but enduring, ones.

Social Effects

When it comes to obesity, the physical effects are dwarfed in comparison to the emotional ones cause by living in a society not built for obese persons. We don’t often see obese celebrities being idolized in Hollywood; because fat doesn’t sell as well as sex and skinny. Because most people are influenced by their environment and what is constantly presented to them, which for the most part is an ideal body image, fat and obese people are made fun of; blatantly or through a whisper.

The way a fat person is treated in their daily interactions in our society tends to manifest itself in lowered self-esteem and therefore lack of self-confidence. Mating and searching for a mate is a tremendously difficult task with such tools. Clouded thoughts and self-deprecation can lay the foundation for mild or serious depression; at which point, though obese people may smile on the outside, they are suffering inside.

The Dangers of Fat Acceptance

dangers of fat acceptance movement

In today’s highly sensitive society, we are often conditioned to be a passive bunch and essentially have to walk on eggshells throughout our days for fear of hurting someone’s feelings; even if your argument is valid, because we’ve also been conditioned to have our feelings hurt when we hear things that challenge our comfortability.

Whether we like to admit it or not, there are dangers in this approach when it comes to certain things in life. Supporting obesity and accepting unnatural fat behavior are such things. By choosing to accept and validate such behaviors with disingenuous words of approval and seeming support we are not only lying to our fellow friends and family but doing them a disservice.

Some may read the above and argue that the writer is suggesting that the reader turn into a criticizing machine and go around spewing insulting and derogatory slurs at every fat person they come across. To the contrary, what is to be taken away from all of this is that you should encourage and validate positive actions and discourage in a kind and considerate way the detrimental ones.

Let us take a look at the dangers which can arise from fat acceptance and why they are important.

The False-Consensus Effect of the Fat Acceptance Movement

It is safe to say that almost all of us have at one point or another in our lives, watched a movie or a show in which one of the characters gets hypnotized or led to believe something that the viewer can clearly see as adverse to them; yet the character in the movie is blinded by the illusion and firmly stick to their deceptive course.

This is often true of real life as well, and the false-consensus effect falls into this realm of thinking. What it means, simply, is that a person regards their beliefs (whether they came to them on their own or with the help of others) to be typical and commonplace. People under this misconception believe that their beliefs, values, habits, and opinions are of a normal nature and that others also think the same way that they do. This in turn leads them to generate an incorrect viewpoint of a consensus, when it actually does not exist; thus the “false-consensus.”

This bias is especially strong and commonplace in group setting (i.e. the Fat Acceptance Movement), where one believes that the collective opinion of their own group is comparable and in tune with the opinion of the larger population as a whole. This is caused due to the group members, of most groups and not just the Fat Acceptance ones, come to a consensus and rarely encounter resistance in their environment to the contrary.

Probably the most disturbing aspect of this bias is that, when the biased person is confronted with hard evidence challenging their false consensus, they often disregard the evidence and assume that the people who are not in consensus are defected or something. With regards to the Fat Acceptance Movement, the members may think that the people who are presenting them with evidence against obesity may be incapable of acceptance, etc.

Psychological Risks for Obese Individuals

The real danger in and to our society however is not the false-consensus effect being held on its own by obese persons, but rather it is this bias combined with the pluralistic ignorance exhibited by the non-obese population which fuels the firmly held false beliefs on the outside and ridicules them on the inside.

Pluralistic ignorance is when the majority privately reject something (i.e. obesity), but for whatever reason erroneously assume that most of the others in society accept it and thus they go along with it for fear of making a stand or whatever their rationale may be.  This can also be summed up into, “I don’t actually believe this, but I think everyone else does, so I’ll pretend I do too.” It’s almost like when a group of bystanders do nothing to help someone in danger, and someone passing by looks at the situation, and y the looks of it think that they shouldn’t take any action to help, because everyone there is standing by idly.

This incorrect view can lead to obese individuals developing psychological conditions, some of which are hard to break free of. Though depression and low self-esteem are often associated with obesity, these two are not the psychological results of the dangers mentioned above; unless the obese individual is aware of pluralistic ignorance and believes that the majority is lying to them and really do not approve or accept their obesity.

Depression and low self-esteem in ANY individuals should not be further escalated and perpetuated by derogatory remarks and improper treatment. Studies have actually shown that “we should not assume the common assumption which states that obesity is broadly associated with depression and other psychopathology.” [6] In fact obesity itself is as much of a psychological problem as it is a physical problem.

Additional psychological risks that an obese person may suffer in society are mood disorders, anxiety, substance abuse, uncomfortableness in one’s body, binge eating disorder, night eating syndrome etc. These risks are a result of our past and current treatments of obesity, in which we readily engaged in pluralistic ignorance. The way forward is to accept obesity for what it is, but offer the obese individuals solutions instead of criticism leading to enhancement of varying psychological disorders.

A Matter of Life and Death

The importance of getting this right is a matter of life and death for the individuals involved. It is often too easy to label obese individuals as weak-willed and unmotivated, and take a negative attitude to the issue such as “they get what they deserve.” This way of thinking has not and will not get us anywhere as a progressive society that focuses on the solutions to ever-changing and evolving problems presented in our civilizations ascent.

Obesity, and obese individuals, need the society’s help, not in the form of pluralistic ignorance, which simply means being two faced and not having the courage to stand out and do the right thing. Obesity needs our help by challenging us to get to the root of the issue, by creating proper psychological triggers early on in a person’s life, by providing assistance before it is too late, having information readily available and proudly distributed.

As participating members of our community, we need to understand the seriousness of obesity and the burdens associated with it for the individuals involved; we need to understand that this is a matter of life and death. By taking a long term approach instead of a short term position, we can continue to come up with ways to tackle this beast and save the lives of millions of people suffering on a daily basis.

No one aspect of society can do this alone, rather it needs to be a collective and multi-disciplinary effort in addressing the social, environmental, psychological, and biological factors; this is critical if we are to achieve comprehensive care as well as develop the best methodology and outcomes going forward. Millions of lives are at stake of leaving us too soon; instead of taking the all too easy detached coldhearted approach, we need to focus on solutions and change.

Looking at the Statistics

most obese countries in the world

When properly measured and/or observed, without any manipulation or intentional skewedness, raw data in the form of statistics in this case, should be about as accurate of a reflection of the phenomenon being observed as it gets.

That being said, when it comes to obesity, the data is scary. Here are some of the more recent key global facts provided by the WHO (World Health Organization) [7] :

Health statistic of top quality are integral to planning and the implementation of health policy in all countries across the globe. The World Health Organization is a data warehouse which took on this challenge; it collects, stores, and present the countless hours of research its members are doing on a daily basis all year round.

The significance of the importance of this task undertaken by the WHO and other health organizations cannot be stressed enough, data is crucial when trying to almost any problem, but especially the one of predicting future burdens of health diseases in populations across the globe and also identifying solutions beforehand.

As mentioned earlier, all data should be taken with a grain of salt, margin of error should be incorporated, and a background check should always be completed on the source of the data. Thus, the statistical resource used in the following section are as transparent, traceable, and accessible of a data source as we are able to achieve in today’s world for an endeavor of such a colossal scale.

With that in mind, let us dive into the data for obesity at different stages of life.

Youth and Adolescents Obesity Facts

Agreeably the most important and crucial stage at which obesity should be combated. Our youth need proper guidance in early development and should be looked after if we are to create a better future. Currently, however, as things stand in the United States, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and increase four times over in adolescent over the course of the past 30 years.

Back in the 1980’s the percentage of kids aged 6 to 11 in the United States that were considered obese was 7%. Judging by the first paragraph, we can expect the second number to be more than twice the 7%; indeed the percentage of kids aged 6 to 11 in the United States in 2012 was almost 18%. As bad as that increase is, the increase in adolescents aged 12 to 19 over the same period is even more provocative.

Adolescents aged 12 to 19 over the course of 1980 to 2012, who were considered obese, increased from 5% in 1980 to nearly a shocking 21% in 2012. These numbers are encompassed by the fact that in 2012 nearly one third of all children and adolescents in the United States were either overweight or obese.

Some of the immediate health effects of obesity on our youth and adolescents are the cardiovascular disease risks, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure mentioned earlier in this article. A population based sample of 5 to 17 year olds disclosed that 70% of those studied has at least one risk factor for a cardiovascular disease of some sort. They are more likely to have pre-diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems that come with obesity,

Other, more long term effects, of obesity in youth is the fact that children and adolescents who were obese as youth are likely to continue the obesity into adulthood as well; thus carrying with it all of the health risks associated with adult obesity, such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease among others.

It is also worth noting that obesity prevalence varies between racial/ethnic groups. There is a significant disparity in obesity prevalence among children of Hispanic origin who were at 22.4%, non-Hispanic black youth who were at 20.2%, and non-Hispanic white youth who were at 14.1% in a study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). [8] Suggesting that childhood obesity is correlated with adult head of households level of education for some of the children studied.

Adult Obesity in the United States

If one seeks proof that we are not doing enough to combat youth and adolescent obesity in the United States, they need not look any further than the adult obesity statistics. Let us take a look at the jarring statistics which shed light on the prevalence, costliness, and seriousness of adult obesity in the US.

According to the Journal of American Medicine, greater than one-third of adults in the United States are obese; numerically represented, that is 34% or approximately 78.6 million people. Jarring stats indeed. In addition to the individual health costs on the body exhibited earlier in the article, the estimated annual medical cost in the US as a result of obesity was $147 billion in 2008 U.S dollars. The medical costs of an obese individual were $1,429 US dollars greater than those of a non-obese person.

That cost has increased significantly according to a new analysis for The Fiscal Times provided by Scott Kahan, who is the director of the National Center for Weight & Wellness at George Washington University. Kahan elevates the total cost of obesity in the States to $305.1 billion annually, including factors such as premature death, disability, decrease in worker positivity, and direct medical and non-medical services.

If we are to add being overweight into the mix, our numbers jump from 34% of the population being obese, to 68.5% of the population being either overweight or obese; which is a shocking two-thirds. As with youth obesity rates, the obesity rates for adults, sadly, have also more than doubled over the past 35 years. The average American nowadays has 24 pounds on an average American back in 1960’s.

Once again, it is important to note and conclude with the evident racial and ethnic disparity in obesity, as can be deduced from the chart below sourced from StateOfObesity.org [9].

To put the above statistics into perspective consider that according to the American Journal of Public Health [10], obesity and being overweight combine for the second leading cause of preventable deaths in the US at approximately 20%, or one in five recorded deaths. Though obesity itself is not listed as the cause of death, the mentioned diseases and increased health issues associated with it mentioned earlier are.

Seniors: Obesity Later in Life

Obesity has increased in all age groups over the past few decades, not excluding the elderly, which we will define as persons 65 years of age or older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2012 published study on Prevalence of Obesity Among Older Adults in the United States between 2007 and 2010; more than one third of seniors aged 65 and over were obese.

Additionally, obesity was higher for those aged 65 to 74 than for those aged 75 and over for both men and women. Roughly 35% of seniors aged 65 and over were obese between the years 2007 and 2010 in the US. This figure represents over 8 million individuals between the ages of 65 and 74, and also almost 5 million adults aged 75 and up; totally tally of roughly 13 million obese seniors.

As Americans continue to extend the life expectancy and the age distribution continues to shift bringing a greater number of older adults along with it, these statistics will likely grow; even if the percentages stay the same, the number of people will increase. The CDC predicts that by 2050 the number of US seniors is expected to increase twofold, from 40.2 million to 88.5 million.

Wrapping Up

obesity if preventable

The conclusion to be drawn from all of the points addressed above is a simple natured one: as people become more obese, their well-being declines significantly. Their risk of contracting various and serious diseases increases and it affects all aspects of their lives. Resting on the other end of the malnutrition scale, and paradoxically coexisting with under nutrition, obesity has reached epidemic status and has overtaken many parts of the globe. If we do not act immediately, millions upon millions of people will endure a great number of serious health disorders.

The Fat Acceptance Movement, though rooted in a noble cause shared by other human rights movements, need not be expanded into a movement that condones adverse health effects for its member. Being obese is not a good thing, as any obese person will gladly share with you. A look at the statistics tells us that obesity has been on the rise the past few decades and that now, more than ever, we need to combat this growing epidemic.

Conclusion

The WALL-E world first pictured at the start of this article is the extreme purposefully amplified to drive the message home, a message that has evidently been ignored for the past 35-40 years, as is proven by the rising obesity epidemic. Therefore, just as the obese human In WALL-E’s world who rocked himself out of the floating recliner and fell but couldn’t get up, we too, as a society, should we not balance our lifestyles and tackle the obesity epidemic on all fronts; we too will fall, and will not be able to get up.

Link to this article: http://www.gymventures.com/dangers-of-fat-acceptance/

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