The Obesity Myth: Part 1

Do American's Really Need to Go on a Diet?

Posted May 06, 2013

“Americans are obese,” “We need to lose weight,” “Try my diet plan, it really works”—our concern about weight loss has become a necessary and regular part of our national conversation. But care and critique is called for when this conversation paints a distorted picture of the problem and encourages the kind of criticism that can injure as often as it heals.

Obesity Myth David Bedrick
It is true—many people need to lose weight and take more care of their diet and health. However at least as many people need to stop worrying about their weight and living in a house built on body shame and self-hatred.

Fat jokes are fair game from barber shops to The Tonight Show; disgust with large people sitting on airplanes or buying an order of French fries goes uncensored; free advice about weight loss from non-professionals is offered as guidance and eldership; and reality television shows suggest that ‘tough love’ around dieting is the only medicine that is appropriate and effective.

However, while we see the occasional story about eating disorders among famous models, our eyes have been conditioned to see beauty in “starving people,” especially women, who are greeted with open doors literally and figuratively.

The “Americans need to go on a diet” message comes across the radio waves, our television sets, the Internet, and from family, friends, and community at an alarming frequency. Just the other day I read an article on ABC News warning us about the “crisis” of childhood obesity. While I listen to and heed these warnings knowing that 18% of children ages 6-11 and 36% of adults are obese, this message is not the whole truth; the dominance of this message blocks out the rest of the weight-loss story. Consider the following facts: 50-70% of normal-weight girls think they are overweight and 81% of 10 year-olds are afraid of being fat. In addition, more and more research on the relationship between weight and health shows that being overweight, and even mildly obese, doesn’t lead to greater health risks while gaining and losing weight—perhaps the most common result of diet programs—is clearly linked to health risks.

Our concern with people’s weight needs to be thought about and spoken about by elders, not critics. We need the whole truth—that many women and girls suffer from this message, many people don’t need to lose weight, and that this message, simply put, does not help.



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David Bedrick
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About the Author

David Bedrick, J.D., Dipl. PW, is a counselor, educator, attorney, and the author of Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology.

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