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Is it okay to be fat?

http://www.hulu.com/embed/gpabQ23QRCHrDSAA80er1g

I just came across this Nightline Face-off episode on the concept of "fatness" as it relates to health, government policy, and cultural ideals of beauty. It was really interesting and especially relevant to conversations that have arisen in several different threads on the forums recently. Above you can watch a sort of 20 minute summary with a whole bunch of excerpts from the debate. You can watch the full debate on ABC's website, but it's quite a bit longer and I wanted to post something brief enough that people will have time to watch it and share their thoughts.

So, vegwebbers, what do you think? Is it true, as one panelist claims, that the notion of a person being fat and healthy is an oxymoron? Who (if anyone) should decide where we draw the line that distinguishes "healthy" bodies from "fat" bodies? What do you think about this idea of reclaiming the word fat so it's no longer a dirty word? What's your reaction to the panelists arguments about biological determinism (i.e. you're fat because your genes make you so) versus behavioral control (i.e. your eating habits determine how your body looks)?

One thing that struck me was that it was a debate amongst women. The moderator was female, as well as all four panelists. Uh huh. That's all I'm going to say about that.

wait, there are levels of veganism?!

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vh, Simpsons reference

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Totally agree, VeganRun.

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vh, Simpsons reference

oh..now i feel stupid! lol

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a lot of people were being very judged for their judgments (lol), which is why i prefaced my comment the way i did, hh.
sorry about it being slashed through, earlier. i did that accidentally.

yes, hh, i certainly do not think fitness=health. i believe there are many components to health. i am certain there are people who have ran marathons and had cancer.. does that mean they are healthy? i do believe that it is an important component to health and would go as fart as to say one could not be healthy w/o fitness.

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i know this is a serious discussion, but you said fart..heheheh  ::)

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Right on, Hespedal!  I can honestly say that I know that I will never be "healthy", but I can and do say "I'm feeling better every day."

I think that health, wellness & fitness are all about choices.  Like an alcoholic has to choose to get help and get bet control of their problem, so too do folks who are uncomfortable with being obese/fat/at unhealthy for them weight need to choose to get their diets and lives more in tune with the needs of their bodies.  My diet and fitness choices, for example, are made in close communication with my doctors.  I'm lucky to have doctors that are willing & able to work with me to help me feel as well as I can.  Other folks are not that lucky.

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I've stayed out of this so far, but some of what's being said about disease gets to me. Because I have two diseases that are autoimmune. From my understanding, there is usually a trigger that causes the immune response within the body, but the predisposition for acquiring an autoimmune disease is just in one's body from the start.

Healthy people shouldn't be getting colds. I am a type 1 diabetic. Type 1 is not caused by being overweight or unhealthy. When I was a healthy diabetic (good control of blood sugar levels, running every day, eating super well) I still got colds. Diabetes gives you a weaker immune system. I got plenty of vitamins and tried to stay away from people who were visibly ill. I still got colds. At the same time, I was 20 pounds heavier than I am right now. From my understanding synthetic insulin causes a person to be heavier. You retain water, and it stimulates hunger.

Now I know I'm completely unhealthy. I know it. But I'm 20 pounds lighter and STILL heavy. Overweight according to the tables in my health book. But to a lot of people (including my own mother) think I look "a lot healthier" than I did when I actually was healthy.

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yes, hh, i certainly do not think fitness=health. i believe there are many components to health. i am certain there are people who have ran marathons and had cancer.. does that mean they are healthy? i do believe that it is an important component to health and would go as fart as to say one could not be healthy w/o fitness.

Fit / healthy makes sense.  I think that the people in the video clip were using "healthy" to mean "fit".  I'm hypothyroid, so by your definition, I was born without the opportunity to be "healthy".  I'm okay with that.  I think it's almost semantics.

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lol @ fart.

courth, i'm sorry if i've offended you in any way.

as you can see from my posts, i never mentioned that i believe that true health is always possible (but i do believe that it is always possible in the right conditions--when we feed ourselves a species specific diet and we have pure air and water, exercise, emotional poise, sleep, etc. etc.), nor that everyone is responsible for their own health maladies, nor that anyone should be blamed and ridiculed. i am not trying to judge anyone, i am merely trying to point out what true health is, and that we have a very skewed sense of it.

i never even said i was perfectly healthy, as i am sure that i am far from it, but i do hope that i have not wreaked too much havoc on my body thus far and i can continue to do so and hopefully attain something like good health at some stage!

it's totally semantics, hh.

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I'm with hespy--we need to be focusing on health, and (I think) the weight will adjust to where your body wants to be. So, I agree that overweight does not = unhealthy, and I said that previously. BUT overweight CAN POSSIBLY = unhealthy, and should be used as a means to begin evaluating healthy.

I don't think anyone would debate you on that.

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eta:  I think I figured out where some of the fitness disagreement comes from.  I thnik some people, like miyself, are talking about the wider range of fitness, and some people are talking about a narrow range of ultimate fitness.  For example, most people would say that if you can bike across the country, then you are fit.  Hesp disagrees that it's a fitness indicator.  I think it's like Level 5 vegan.  Is a Level 3 or 4 vegan still vegan?  Is a Level 3 or 4 fit person actually fit?  Some people would say no and others would say yes.  Even if we thought a Level 4 fit person was fit, it doesn't mean we don't recognize that Level 5 is even more fit.

Hmmm. Good point. So here's what we agree upon: we can't pinpoint a definition of "overweight," and we can't pinpoint a definition of "fitness" or "healthy." Soooo, let's just all be the best we can be--our own version of healthy, and our own version of happy!

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as you can see from my posts, i never mentioned that i believe that true health is always possible (but i do believe that it is always possible in the right conditions--when we feed ourselves a species specific diet and we have pure air and water, exercise, emotional poise, sleep, etc. etc.), nor that everyone is responsible for their own health maladies, nor that anyone should be blamed and ridiculed. i am not trying to judge anyone, i am merely trying to point out what true health is, and that we have a very skewed sense of it.

If you think of "health" as this lofty goal, high in the sky that you can achieve and then either have to maintain that or fall back to earth, then it seems difficult and unattainable. But if we just think of health as doing the best the can with what we have--diabetes, IBS, cancer, etc. and treating our bodies the best we are able to--compensating for what life hands us, then it seems much more attainable for many more people. And that comes back to doing what is best for your body and what your body determines is right. Some people will never be a size 0 or 100 pounds--and most people WERE NEVER INTENDED TO BE. If we do not hold up one ideal to try to achieve, and if we could use the ideal of every person being as fit in their own bodies as possible, we'd all be a lot happier and frankly a lot healthier by consequence.

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If we do not hold up one ideal to try to achieve, and if we could use the ideal of every person being as fit in their own bodies as possible, we'd all be a lot happier and frankly a lot healthier by consequence.

I agree with this completely.

If the US wants radical health care reform, we also need to have a radical shift in how we think of health.  We are so obsessed with the illusion of health—thinness/muscular, perfect skin, full shiny hair, etc.—but fall so short of the behaviors necessary to achieve and/or maintain actual good health.  Eating organic, whole foods has only recently become a mainstream approach to eating.  Huh.

The problem, however, is if we all reach our personal ideal (and stop feeding into this obsession), then who will subscribe to Shape Magazine?  Who will tune into “The Biggest Loser”?  And whose triple bypass will Blue Cross profit off of?  There are a lot of people who stand to lose/gain a lot of money at the expense of other peoples’ health.  It is wrong.

I hope that in reforming health care, the government will also reform the food industry, because it is all related.

People will still get disease, some people will still smoke, not everyone was meant to be a size 8.  There is absolutely no universal picture of health.  But I know that the general population can do a lot better than what we have been doing.

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I agree with this completely.

If the US wants radical health care reform, we also need to have a radical shift in how we think of health.  We are so obsessed with the illusion of health—thinness/muscular, perfect skin, full shiny hair, etc.—but fall so short of the behaviors necessary to achieve and/or maintain actual good health.  Eating organic, whole foods has only recently become a mainstream approach to eating.  Huh.

The problem, however, is if we all reach our personal ideal (and stop feeding into this obsession), then who will subscribe to Shape Magazine?  Who will tune into “The Biggest Loser”?  And whose triple bypass will Blue Cross profit off of?  There are a lot of people who stand to lose/gain a lot of money at the expense of other peoples’ health.  It is wrong.

x2  Well said. ;)b

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If we do not hold up one ideal to try to achieve, and if we could use the ideal of every person being as fit in their own bodies as possible, we'd all be a lot happier and frankly a lot healthier by consequence.

I agree with this completely.

If the US wants radical health care reform, we also need to have a radical shift in how we think of health.  We are so obsessed with the illusion of health—thinness/muscular, perfect skin, full shiny hair, etc.—but fall so short of the behaviors necessary to achieve and/or maintain actual good health.  Eating organic, whole foods has only recently become a mainstream approach to eating.  Huh.

The problem, however, is if we all reach our personal ideal (and stop feeding into this obsession), then who will subscribe to Shape Magazine?  Who will tune into “The Biggest Loser”?  And whose triple bypass will Blue Cross profit off of?  There are a lot of people who stand to lose/gain a lot of money at the expense of other peoples’ health.  It is wrong.

I hope that in reforming health care, the government will also reform the food industry, because it is all related.

People will still get disease, some people will still smoke, not everyone was meant to be a size 8.  There is absolutely no universal picture of health.  But I know that the general population can do a lot better than what we have been doing.

I agree that the general population can do a lot better  than what we have been doing.

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If the US wants radical health care reform, we also need to have a radical shift in how we think of health.  We are so obsessed with the illusion of health—thinness/muscular, perfect skin, full shiny hair, etc.—but fall so short of the behaviors necessary to achieve and/or maintain actual good health.  Eating organic, whole foods has only recently become a mainstream approach to eating.  Huh.

The problem, however, is if we all reach our personal ideal (and stop feeding into this obsession), then who will subscribe to Shape Magazine?  Who will tune into “The Biggest Loser”?  And whose triple bypass will Blue Cross profit off of?  There are a lot of people who stand to lose/gain a lot of money at the expense of other peoples’ health.  It is wrong.

A shift in how we think of health would be good, but I honestly think that where I live, the people need to start thinking about health at all. Most people here do not correlate what they put in their mouths with how they feel, until they have their first heart attack or they've lost their first limb due to diabetes. Things seem so desperate here, and I have no idea what is going to make people open their eyes to what is happening to their health. People laugh at me for running and eating vegan, but I have enough energy to use the stairs when I go to buildings, or I don't have to park in the fire lane or on the sidewalk at Wal-Mart because I can walk from the parking lot.

I've always said that veganism is terrible for businesses. How much does say, Doritos spend a year on advertising? And how much does an asparagus company spend? Vegans are bad for food businesses, and they're bad for health/insurance/pharmacy businesses. That's why our society seems to send 2 messages. We produce "foods" that are full of empty calories and no nutrients, while still upholding this ideal of the "perfect body" through television and magazines. No wonder people feel conflicted. You could never achieve one while eating the other. Veganism has allowed me to open my eyes to things that would have never occurred to me as an omni, eating the crap that all the industries were force feeding me.

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Unfortunately, that is how things are in the country.  No industry is pro-active when it comes to health, the environment, social well-being and so on.  It takes dedicated individuals that are willing to educate themselves and go against the grain that make any headway.  Look how long it took organic or vegetarian to become even remotely 'mainstream'.

I know that this sounds harsh.  It is a generalization that applies to the population as a whole not the individual.  People are not motivated.  Either it is too much of a bother or too discouraging to really think about their lives and the world around them and to want to invoke change. 

For those of us that are motivated and want to improve ourselves and society it is very fusturating. 

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Just going to jump in to say: I don't think of health as a state of being. You can't unequivocally say "I am healthy. The End." No matter how healthy a person is, as long as they're alive they could always be healthier or unhealthier. You run a four minute mile, breathe only the purest cleanest air from the untouched wilderness, have exactly your ideal body fat percentage... well, why couldn't you put on some muscle, or do more meditation, or run faster? You have pancreatic cancer metastasizing to your bones, gangrenous limbs, congestive heart failure, and a four-inch nail stuck in your eye socket? Hey, you still have a pulse.

I think it's stupid and self-defeating to regard health as your ultimate goal. Sure, you can make it your goal to run a marathon some day, or get your weight into a healthy range by eating a more balanced diet. But 'healthy' is not a number. You just have to make what choices you can to try and improve your quality of life.

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Courth, I'm really sorry, but I am either really dumb or really dense. What has been said that has bothered you? Because of your disease, you have a completely different life or set of rules, and you have so much more to deal with, other than "can I bike across the country" or something like that. Nobody is pointing the finger at you, saying you should be doing anything different. I'm sorry, will you elaborate more on what has bothered you? I think your point of view is very interesting, and very pertinent to the conversation, and I just want to make sure I"m understanding you. (If you don't mind sharing more).

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I guess I didn't realize we were talking about the population without chronic illness. The yardsticks that are traditionally used to indicate health are body weight and how often you get sick. Autoimmune conditions weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to common colds and such. Both diabetes (synthetic insulin) and thyroiditis cause you to be heavier. I guess I was just giving more examples of exceptions to the rules.

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