Walk in Our Shoes
I would like to take a moment today and respond to a recent New York Times article, titled “Our Absurd Fear of Fat,” written by Paul Campos. Earlier this week, a meta-analysis (combination of several studies) was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The analysis reviewed data from epidemiological studies to determine the connection between body mass index and mortality. As a result, the meta-analysis determined that individuals affected by excess weight (overweight) or obesity have a lower mortality rate than individuals classified as “normal” weight.
Mr. Campos takes an all too often short-sighted approach when discussing this analysis and only furthers the bias and stigma facing the millions of Americans affected by the disease of obesity. Furthermore, Mr. Campos is twisting the study by ignoring a major finding: Obesity at all levels increases the risk of death. Obesity carries with it a host of related disease greatly impacting an individual’s quality of life and health, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, GERD, some cancers, and much more. Make no mistake about it; if you’ve ever battled obesity, you know first-hand the lack of understanding of society when it comes to this disease. In fact, this can be clearly illustrated in the severe lack of safe and effective treatment options for the disease of obesity we contended with until very recently.
Campos states, “In addition, baselessly categorizing at least 130 million Americans — and hundreds of millions in the rest of the world — as people in need of “treatment” for their “condition” serves the economic interests of, among others, the multibillion-dollar weight-loss industry and large pharmaceutical companies, which have invested a great deal of money in winning the good will of those who will determine the regulatory fate of the next generation of diet drugs.”
Why is it okay to attack treatment options for obesity? Why does Mr. Campos feel it is okay for him to mock those needing “treatment” for their “condition”? Would we ever attack or mock another disease state? The statements made by Mr. Campos show a clear lack of respect to millions of individuals affected by obesity who are seeking (or who have sought) treatment to improve their quality of life. His statements reflect the weight bias that has become so common in our society, where it has become socially acceptable to mock overweight people, treat them poorly, and discriminate against them in many facets of life.
As OAC members, we must stand up together, all 40,000 of us, and put a stop to weight bias. The disease of obesity is very individualistic. A treatment option that works for one person may not work for someone else. Battling obesity is a life-long task that may take not one, not two, not three but a variety of options to manage. And guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that. We should not let a biased op-ed piece make us feel “bad” for having to utilize multiple treatments nor should we allow it to go unnoticed.
It is also important to note that since the publishing of the analysis, esteemed obesity experts have criticized the study Campos bases his article on. In fact, Walter Willett, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health was quoted as saying, “This study is really a pile of rubbish and no one should waste their time reading it.”
According to the University of Colorado Law School Web site, Mr. Campos’ “graduate studies in English literature, which culminated in a thesis on Shakespeare’s King Lear, provided him with rigorous training in literary theory that has been helpful in his current work in constitutional interpretation.” Shakespeare once said, “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.” Before Mr. Campos writes his next piece de-humanizing obesity, I invite all of you to raise your voice – hopefully, he will listen.
Pam Davis, Chairman of the Board of the OAC