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Fat = Lazy & Gluttonous, says World Health Organization

How can we trust a new report that's so clearly judgmental?

Used with permission from Creative Commons
Source: Used with permission from Creative Commons

File this under all-too-believable: A new report on childhood obesity, commissioned by the World Health Organization, adds a helping of weight stigma to its recommendations. The co-chair of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, the group offering the report, has gone on record with one of the most staggering public comments on weight I've heard. And I've heard a lot.

Co-chair Peter Gluckman, a respected pediatrician in New Zealand, was quoted in the Associated Press today on the report, calling for policy-level changes by saying, "You can't blame a two-year-old child for being fat and lazy and eating too much."

Way to stereotype, blame, and discriminate, all in one comment, Dr. Gluckman! You've single-handedly reified the stereotype that all fat people are lazy and eat too much. You've certainly added to the public stereotypes that hurt the health of fat people.

Let's set the record straight.

According to a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition--hardly a bastion of fat acceptance--there is very little difference in the way thin people and fat people eat in terms of nutrition and calorie intake. All categories of people in the study—"normal" weight, "overweight," and "obese"—consumed more calories in 2006 than comparable subjects in 1971. The differences between intake in each weight category were small, and nutritional profiles were similar. In other words, we're all eating more than we used to, but overweight and obese people, at least in this study, are not eating substantially more than thin people.

On a population level it's simply inaccurate to assume people are obese because they're sitting on the couch eating bon-bons all day. A similar study of physical activity among Canadians concluded that thin people and fat people are equally active (or inactive).

That whole fat, lazy, and gluttonous conceit? It just doesn't play.

The fact that a comment like this was made by someone in charge of a report that will no doubt provoke not just lots of cultural conversation but actual policy changes horrifies me. It tells me that this commission had an agenda, perhaps from the start, and that the people driving these policy changes hold outdated and damaging ideas on weight and behavior.

Dr. Gluckman, you have some 'splaining to do. Show me the data supporting your commission's recommendations and how they account for (or don't) the research I've cited here. Explain to me how we can trust your recommendations and your report when they come from a place of such obvious bias and stigma.

Then please issue an apology for your uncalled-for, unscientific, and judgmental remark.

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