Newsflash: Weight Is Not A Measurement of Health, So Let’s Get Over It

Obesity undeniably exists. People are fat, and they’re not just fat in America. Strategies such as ad campaigns and straight up ostracism have been put in place to tackle the problem, but things just got worse.  New Zealand’s government recently proposed a solution to its very own obesity epidemic: deport all the “fat” people.  I’m serious. New Zealand has socialized medicine, so they figure that the overweight immigrant population is costing “healthy” citizens too much money, and the only reasonable way to deal with this problem is to ship off all the people who qualify as “fat”. While they’re at it, maybe they should consider shipping off smokers, alcoholics, drug-users, and people who have lifelong debilitating issues that cost the country tons of money as well.

I’m not a nutritionist, but I do understand that weight is not always measure of health. The women in my family have always been overweight, and it’s not because they solely chowed down on Taco Bell. In fact, I don’t even think my stout grandmother even knows what Taco Bell is. My family’s culture believes in hearty food and incessant feeding, and maybe this obsession comes from a time when my ancestors didn’t have enough food. I’m not sure what it is, but all I know is that every single time I step foot inside a Russian household, I’m asked two things: 1. Are you hungry and 2. When are you getting married, but that’s a totally different story.

Okay, so I’m not trying to avoid a very obvious reason why so many people are obese or overweight. Healthy food is expensive. Junk food is dirt cheap. Fast food companies want to perpetuate this imbalance and encourage it any way they can (hello, McDonald’s Monopoly game?). While I’m not sure what New Zealand’s fast-food options are, I’m confident they have their share. Fast food companies are playing the social system because they know lower-income families will eat their food out of convenience and financial reasons.

So, we have two problems, here. First of all, it’s bullshit to claim that a person’s weight justifies their health. For the record, my grandmother has been overweight her entire life, and she’s 92 years old. Yes she loves food, but she didn’t and doesn’t eat garbage.  It’s easy to attack a person who is overweight and claim that it’s “their fault” and “why don’t they lay off the KFC.” You have to take into consideration that that person may have genetics working hard against them. They may have a heart condition they were born with. I have friends who go to the gym constantly, maintain a moderately healthy diet and still struggle to lose weight. On the flip side, I have a friend who is in amazing shape but has ridiculously high cholesterol levels for a 23 year-old because he eats In-N-Out three times a week.  Let’s stop over-simplifying the problem and assuming extra weight means a person is unhealthy. Health absolutely cannot be measured by size, okay? If you don’t have someone’s medical records in front of you, stop judging.

The second problem is a social one. New Zealand is using their overweight immigrants as scape goats because a)immigrants are typically and historically always lowest on the totem pole, and b) in a lot of cases, immigrants don’t have as high of incomes as natives (which makes sense, since it’s immensely difficult to start over again in a new country). Thus, the government is assigning the role of “fat and unhealthy person” to these immigrants. Does this mean these overweight people are unhealthy? Do they lead unhealthy lifestyles? We don’t know because their system is simply basing their conclusion from a number, not the whole picture.

We treat people who are overweight like crap, we ridicule them. “Fat” people are the dopey characters in every Pixar film, “fat” celebrities are plastered all over the tabloids, and if I see one more photo of an actress’s butt in a swimsuit coupled with a caption that includes the word “cellulite” I will officially lose hope in humanity. We fat shame because it is a problem, but so is smoking. So is stress, anxiety, and depression. Shaking our fingers at the overweight and obese is counter-productive. According to NBC News, “Weight discrimination, in addition to being hurtful and demeaning, has real consequences for the individual’s physical health.” Every single person is physiologically different, and lumping everyone into the “unhealthy” category simply because they don’t meet a certain numerical criteria is part of the problem.

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