Friday, May 13, 2011

The Obesity/Emaciation Connection

I believe that behind both the person who weighs 400 pounds and the one who weighs 85 there is a lot of baggage, and it has nothing to do with their bodies.  - Kirstie Alley

I thought I posted this last night, but alas I find myself typing it again.

Not too terribly long ago I saw the first episode of Oprah's Addicted to Food and while I'm waiting to see a few more episodes before I form an opinion it did leave me thinking.... which is always a good thing. Even more recently I was over at Nourishing The Soul and was reading Ashley's post questioning do fat memories ever fade. Together the two of those things left me wondering a multitude of things... about anecdotes involving friends on the internet, about whether or not having cameras around would be good for treatment (though undoubtedly I imagine having them there outweighs not being in treatment at all), which in turn made me think of prohibitive treatment costs in the United States, and then I also thought of similarities.

What kind of similarities?

The similarities between those that are obese and those that are emaciated.

Aside from the fact that both have been on the rise... both impact millions of people (which right there makes me wonder if there IS a connection)...

If you examine the health effects of both you'll find that they share a lot of the same possible ones (obviously, not everyone that's emaciated or obese will have these, but these are the common ones). Infertility, negative change in blood pressure (extremely low in the emaciated, extremely high in the obese), heart problems, stroke, skin problems, bone problems (recent studies have concluded that obesity is bad for the bones - and osteoporosis for the emaciated), diabetes (type II for the obese, type I for the emaciated), and digestive issues.

The similarities do not end there. Treatment plans for both involve creating a healthy lifestyle and adjusting one's diet. As well as trying to pinpoint a cause for turning food into a weapon used against oneself.

Clothes shopping can be difficult for either party, not having any cute options, or having to find clothing in the children's department.

Having a stigma attached when going out in public is also present in both -- be it laziness that is often associated with the overweight... enough to make anyone self conscious of eating in public or going to a gym; or having people think you have an eating disorder or are "sick" if you're emaciated -- also complicating eating in public and going to the gym.

With all of these similarities why is the plan of attack so different for both?
While there is currently progress being made on banning emaciated models, that's about the extent of action being taken against those that are emaciated.

I worded it that way for a reason... because actions are currently being taken against the obese. If you haven't seen the childhood obesity ads from Georgia:
(photo credit to Huffington Post)

It's clear that there is a war being waged on the obese. Not only with advertisements, but also with taxes (taxation for products including fructose have been proposed as a means of countering obesity) ... extra costs for riding on airplanes... television shows such as The Biggest Loser... and whole campaigns targeted directly at them such as the one above. None of them, however, offering up proposals that deal with nutrition or developing healthy relationships with food.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to be one of the children featured in that ad. A walking example of something Georgia is telling their children they should not be. They're becoming a target for a nearly encouraged barrage of disdain since obesity intolerance is fairly socially acceptable.

Yes, I agree that obesity is not healthy, but I'm pretty sure we all knew that anyway.. before we decided that it was okay to label pictures of kids with a "warning"

I honestly wonder what would happen if we handled this with compassion or education instead of aggression and seemingly hate filled campaigns. I imagine quite a few obese individuals have eating disorders... In various forms such as bulimia, binge eating disorder, compulsive over eating, and ED-NOS (I think we forget anorexia and bulimia are not the only disorders out there and that anorectics don't become emaciated overnight). We should be tackling the question WHY?? instead of tackling the person.. or the food... Neither are the problem. While we're at it, we could be tackling the eating disorder crisis as well as the "obesity crisis" (as they may very well be one in the same) in this very same COMPASSIONATE way.

Just my thoughts... what are yours?


DAY 02 - A picture of you and the person you have been closest with the longest
I don't have a picture, but definitely dear Dani.


  1. I am with you all the way.
    I feel that either extremes, need dealing with in a manner that is compassionate.
    I agree, not all, but many, obese people are eating disordered, and could you imagine if we tackled Anorexia etc in the same way.
    I don't know, I just have an issue with the whole way the 'obesity crisis' is managed, when we seem to equally be having a eating disorder crisis. Something isn't right in all of it.

    For me, they are both extremes, both as serious, both as problematic.
    Both need thinking about in a manner that is helpful not attacking xxx

  2. it should be noted, that in research, prevention of eating disorders increasingly falls into the category of preventing disordered eating, and is targeted not only at under eating, but also over eating. The key, thus far, is to teach the best way to have a positive self image, which will help a person in everything they do, and the younger they learn it, the better.

    But it also comes down to education, as with everything else. Education about positive health, about healthy eating, and a healthy approach to physical activity. Education about how parents and other community members can foster positive self esteem in youth (and each other). Education about changing the language we use and the way we talk about our bodies and ourselves.

    It needs to happen on all levels of society, but likely will have the most effect from the "bottom up" as in, children influencing their parents.

    But yes, they are often the same.

  3. Education is definitely paramount --- as well as HOW we go about educating.

  4. My councellor calls it 'doing funny things with food' - and she's right, whether it's overeating or undereating there are often underlying emotional reasons why. They just manifest differently in different people - but the similarities are there.
    And yes I agree - can you imagine if there were ads for blaming children with anorexia and their parents - the outcry would be heard from Mars!!

  5. It is strange isn't it, how similar both extremes are in terms of treatment. And I totally agree, it is totally uncalled for, and probably damaging and hurtful to the kids on the ad. It is terrible.

  6. LOVE THIS! I agree 100% with everything you wrote - from the similarities between the overweight/underweight to the inherent discrimination in those obesity campaign ads.

  7. Looking at the similarities between obesity and emaciation is something I hadn't thought about before, but it makes a lot of sense. It all really does come down to how warped our society's relationship with food and body image has become.

  8. you're completely right; whether I was starving myself or binging away, in both cases I was trying to escape emotional issues. that ad makes me so sad. it's just so mean & hurtful. how can we address these types of health issues without blaming and shaming the individual suffering them? :(

    but yeah; people also forget that binge eating is an ED too...

  9. The ads are for the parents, you know. And with kids that young, it's really the Parents that have the baggage and the problems - not the kids. The ads are supposed to be a way to wake up parents to the fact that they are passing along their unhealthy relationships with food to their children, and in the process damaging their health in all the ways you mentioned.

    I actually find it interesting that so many people who see these ads immediately think that the stigma is on the children. If the ad showed a kid who had been beaten by the parents, would our knee-jerk reaction be that the kid would be stigmatized for being the kind of kid who would get beaten? Or how about an ad showing a kid in a car without a seat belt about to get into a horrible accident? Would we say that ad is shaming the kid for being negligent? Of course not. You'd blame the parents (only).

    So why when the ad is obese kids do we say they shame the kids? It's the adults, the parents, who are passing down harmful lifestyles. For some reason we've decided that parents who don't buckle their kids into the car or who hit their kids or who neglect their kids deserve strict punishments while those who allow their kids to become morbidly obese are innocent of all charges. Hardly. There are many ways to damage a kid, and the physical and emotional damage from passing along an unhealthy relationship to food are not minor. That's what the ads are trying to say. Wake up, parents. It matters.


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