Writing online for Newsweek today, Daniel Heimpel has a simple message: Overselling the “obesity epidemic” isn’t getting us anywhere, since you can be both overweight and healthy. Fit and fat can be healthier than unfit and “normal” weight. A few extra pounds aren’t necessarily bad for us. In fact, two studies published in the journal Obesity in June found that overweight and obese people can expect to live at least as long as “normal” weight people. In other words, packing a few extra pounds isn’t a one-way trip to unhealthyville.
What is unhealthy is the activist-driven public obsession with weight, which redirects energy away from meaningful initiatives that encourage exercise—and toward ineffective government control of our food choices.
Distractions from moving our bodies enough can have serious consequences. A 2007 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) determined that low physical activity levels, regardless of weight, determine the likelihood of dying prematurely. And the authors of another JAMA study found that “the lack of physical fitness is a stronger risk factor for developing heart disease than being overweight or obese.”
As Heimpel concludes:
Americans are fatter than ever, and that isn’t healthy. But hyping an obesity epidemic and stigmatizing people with big bellies hasn’t made us any thinner and doesn’t appear to have gotten us any healthier. The sooner we learn to look past the fat and to focus on health, the sooner we will be able to effectively combat all the obesity-linked ailments we fear so much.