Well, if you look at the blogging universe, all indications are yes. And it's important to note that these bloggers, many of whom see nearly 4,000 unique pageviews a day, aren't just arguing that 'big is beautiful'. They're actually arguing that the medical experts are wrong and there's no obesity epidemic, that people come in all shapes and sizes, and as long as you exercise, eat sensibly, and are healthy (a philosophy known as 'Health At Every Size'), it shouldn't matter what your physical measurements are, or what size clothing you fit into.
The bloggers argue that changes in definitions over time, along with flaws in the body mass index formula, have pushed more Americans into the “fat” and “obese” categories, and they point to provocative studies suggesting that there may be benefits to being overweight, including a large study that found that underweight Americans are more likely to die than those who are moderately overweight.These are certainly complicated and often sophisticated arguments coming from people who are both vested in their interest, and are lay people who've done a remarkable job at educating themselves in a subject that many medical professionals don't full understand. But I see several inherent dangers in the fat-acceptance movement in the blogging universe.
Several other recent studies on heart patients and dialysis patients have also reported higher survival rates among heavier patients, suggesting that the link between body size and health may be more complex than generally acknowledged. Another study of people over 60 found that being fit has more bearing on longevity than simply being thin.
The bloggers’ main contention is that being fat is not a result of moral failure or a character flaw, or of gluttony, sloth or a lack of willpower. Diets often boomerang, they say; indeed, numerous long-term studies have found that even though dieters are often able to lose weight in the short term, they almost always regain the lost pounds over the next few years.
First and foremost is a tendency to not separate out the difference between overweight and obese - and these are terms that, in medical parlance anyhow, do have different meanings. And while these bloggers have gone and educated themselves, their issue with the concept of BMI to determine health of weight has led them to lump the reports they cite, the ones that indicate being moderately overweight might have health benefits, with those who are morbidly obese. And there is a big difference to your health and body between being 20lbs overweight and being 100lbs overweight.
I'll be the first to agree that there is a problem with the BMI scale - but also the first to point out that you'd be hard pressed to find someone whose health would not improve if they were to lose 100lbs of extra weight.
The second, and perhaps more serious, problem I see with this fat-acceptance movement is that people are notoriously bad at underestimating the amount of food they eat. It is because of this typical tendency to underestimate the calories we consume that the New York City health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, is once again pushing to have calorie information clearly labeled on menus in the City. He believes (and I tend to agree) that people will quickly stop ordering their favourite appetizers when they realize that appetizer has 2500 calories.
It's very easy to say that you eat right and exercise and cannot lose weight - but in my experience, at least, I've found that most people who make this claim (myself included) tend to "forget" a lot of the calories they consume over the course of the day, or overestimate how many calories their exercising should burn. And without a strict log of what you're eating, and the help of a nutritionist, it's often difficult to know both of these numbers.
We do need to be careful that there is not a moral judgment when talking about people's weight. Shaming doesn't work as a weight loss tactic, and people shouldn't be shunned or ostracized for weighing more than normal. But at the same time, most people who are overweight are, at least in the eyes of people who work in this field for a living, like Dr. Walter C. Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, overweight because of their lifestyle and not their genetic predispositions. I think we're doing a disservice to everyone by coddling feelings and pretending that weight doesn't have the ability to negatively impact health.
Now to be clear, I don't think everyone should be a size 6, nor do I think being ultra-thin is any better than being seriously overweight. But the condemnation of the so-called "thinspiration" blogs is pretty universal; no one seems to think they are a healthy concept, no one seems to think that they are standing up against some great medical conspiracy or anti-thin hysteria. In fact, just about everyone seems to think they are very unhealthy mentally and physically, and something should be done about them. I just wonder why blogs on the other side, making the argument from a "fatspiration" rather than "thinspiration" point of view don't receive the same critiques.