Is Obese the new ‘F’ word?

When I was growing up I had two very good friends who were sisters, they were smart, they were fun and funny but they were taunted at school because of their size. We met up for dinner several years ago to catch up and part of our conversation has stayed with me.

They said that they feel discrimination against people who are bigger than average is one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination. The eldest sister described how complete strangers would stare at what they were eating and openly comment on their food choices, they’ve been insulted for being ‘FAT’ and even had the ‘Jenny Craig song’ sang to them as they walked past.

In recent years, there has been much focus on the need to curb obesity because of the role it plays as a risk factor for chronic disease. Social exclusion is also acknowledged as an important social determinant of health but this hasn’t had nearly the attention that obesity has.

Earlier this week, The Vancouver Sun reported on two recent studies which provide some evidence that “a significant proportion of over-weight people are metabolically healthy”. It also found that “just because you are a ‘normal weight’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re healthy”.

At BCAHL, we’re moving toward dropping the ‘O’ word in favour of ‘healthy weights’. We recognize that the ‘O’ word can stigmatize people who find themselves on the bigger side of average and we risk turning people off before they hear the health message that we all need to heed.

Fat or thin, we can all benefit from “eating five to ten servings of vegetables and fruit daily, being physically active most days of the week and not smoking”. And it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit kinder to others too.

Rita Koutsodimos
Manager, Advocacy and Communications
August 2011

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