WIN Wyoming and WIN the Rockies
The Obesity Myth -- Book by Paul
During the summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Australia and witness
the kick-off of the Everybody project on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
While I was there, Lily O’Hara (our international member of WIN Wyoming),
alerted me to a newly released book called The Obesity Myth by Paul
Campos. After I arrived home, I ordered the book. I share some of my highlights
from the book with you in this month’s thought bullets, but you really need to
read the book and challenge your own beliefs, ideas and thoughts concerning the
harmful ways obesity is approached in America. While I was in Australia, I
marveled at Lily’s ability to never waiver in her commitment to address the
harm caused when we approach the subject of healthy lifestyles with judgments
about body weights. I dedicate the thought bullets this month to Lily and other
members of the Everybody project. The group’s passion, enthusiasm, and
commitment was a great inspiration to my own personal journey with embracing the
amazing diversity of healthy body types.
- Campos makes and defends a strong argument that obesity in not a medical
issue, but rather a cultural, political, social and aesthetic issue. I loved
the point he made in his book that the "war on fat" should outrage
us because it is violates our values of equality, tolerance, fairness and
"indeed fundamental decency toward those who are different."
- Current cultural values toward body image ensure that relatively few
people will ever be at peace with their bodies. There is growing intolerance
for even the mildest forms of body diversity. Campos argues that although
the current "war of fat" is marketed as a way of making us
healthy, it is really about making a few people very wealthy, and most of us
continually dissatisfied about our bodies.
- Part of the obesity myth is based on the false assumption it is
possible to determine if people have a healthy lifestyle by knowing their
weight. Studies cited in the book demonstrate that people who engage in
varying degrees of physical activity and caloric intakes can have the exact
same body mass. Other studies verify that some people can maintain
"ideal weights" despite very unhealthy lifestyles. Campos joins
the health at every size approach in promoting the understanding that
healthy people come in a variety of sizes. Improved fitness and a healthy
diet are the key components to good health.
- The size of the "ideal female body" has been ratcheted down
until we have now reached a point where the cultural ideal female body type
is hard to distinguish from the body of a female diagnosed with anorexia
- Chapter 14 was my favorite chapter of the book. Campos shared excerpts of
interviews from several individuals of varying body sizes. All individuals
could share the pain, anger, and all-consuming nature of dealing with issues
surrounding body image. One woman shared her insights with the "absurd
hierarchy" of women hating other women who are thinner, and yet being
disgusted with women who are heavier. The woman goes on to observe that this
"absurd hierarchy" effectively alienates women from each other.
- Campos observes that thinness is the desirable body type in societies
where food is cheap and abundant and fatness is the desirable body type in
societies where food is scarce and expensive. The desirable characteristic
is the one that is the most difficult to achieve, and quickly becomes
identified as the symbol of social rank and privilege.
Campos, P. The Obesity Myth - Why America’s Obsession with Weight is
Hazardous to Your Health. New York: Gotham Books; 2004.
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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