Thoughts around O*****y


So, I’ve been asked to appear in a short video explaining why I don’t believe we should classify “O” as a disease. This video is going to be shown as part of a debate at the Royal Society of Public Health. This is BIG for me. Quite an honour actually, because my view goes against the current rhetoric of Public Health and the medical profession.

My view is that we shouldn’t even be calling it the “O” word, let alone classifying it as a disease!

I did as a friend suggested, looked up what ‘disease’ means in popular parlance.

‘Absence of health’, ‘something being wrong’, ‘malfunction,’ .... Turns out that disease isn’t an easy concept to define.

But I am none of those things so how can the term ‘disease’ apply to my body or specifically how much fat there is on my body?

Most of what I found online discussed the arguments for ‘O’ being either solely an individual’s responsibility (which it isn’t) or a result of it being a public health issue, with much wider causal factors, involving social, environmental and economic aspects to name a few. This I agree with, but then the multifactorial basis is then extrapolated into the argument for it being called a disease…...(disagree)

It’s complex stuff.

When you learn about weight science, weight phobia, weight stigma, weight prejudice and weight bias.... you start to unravel what we’ve been told and why.

It’s not pretty reading but it’s illuminating.

So why is the “O” word not a disease??

The presence of fat on my body or anyone else’s doesn’t = ill health and I defy anyone to suggest otherwise.

What you decide about me, based on how I look shows your ingrained prejudice-This is prejudice you aren’t even aware of.

Let me explain, ‘health’ is multifaceted and whether I’m a ‘socially acceptable weight’ does not determine whether I am healthy or not. Far from it. For me to be in the ‘desirable’ BMI range would involve me stepping right back into diet culture and would no doubt result in a return to disordered eating- because that’s where I was for all the years I thought I was too big, too fat and that my body was wrong.

I imagine that some professionals in Public Health might want to classify “O” a disease in the hope it would take the ‘blame’ away from those considered to be “O”. The argument is that there are so many factors involved in “O” it is wrong to ‘blame’ those affected.

But I don’t think it would.

I think it would reinforce the narrative that fat= bad.

Which it isn’t.

Also, if you call it a disease, you are making it something that needs fixing. It doesn’t.

What needs fixing is our attitudes and prejudices to those people in larger bodies. We need to be inclusive and value people unconditionally.... and have environments that are set up for people of all sizes.

For me, calling it a disease is the wrong message. The message should about wellbeing, about health, about moving your body for fun, about living your best life irrespective of your body size.

It should be about how to support people with eating disorders, or disordered eating.

The focus around people’s relationship with food should be being on helping people deal with the WHY rather than the weight.

Focusing on weight doesn’t help.

I did it for years and all it does is make you feel bad, bad that you can’t lose it, bad that you can’t control yourself, bad that you don’t look like society says you should look. It causes low self esteem, depression, reduces confidence, raises cortisol levels. THIS is what makes us sick.

Calling it a disease is just going to further stigmatise people in higher weight bodies.

Calling it a disease further medicalises and pathologises the situation.

What if we are meant to be different shapes & sizes- as I (and many others) believe we are.

Another thought that keeps popping up for me is this:

If we are trying to eradicate “O” then has it occurred to anyone that for people in larger bodies, it’s like saying we want to eradicate them? Because “O” doesn’t just affect one aspect of a person, it kind of encompasses more, like most waking thoughts....unless you’ve done some radical healing and work around this as I have.

And if we go down the path of wanting to ‘fix/cure’ where does that leave us? - back to the aim of weight loss (diet culture/thinking) which we also KNOW isn’t effective and causes patient harm....

But if it’s not a disease, and it’s not something to blame the individual for what is it??

It’s a descriptor. Like tall, like short. We don’t go around saying “I’m worried about you, you should be taller.” We accept height as something that can’t be changed. Why can’t we do this for people in larger bodies? Why can’t we accept and VALUE people as they are? And leave the weight loss focus alone?

I help women find peace around food, weight and body image without dieting.

I use a mindful and intuitive approach to help you understand why you eat in the way you do and unlearn diet thinking and move towards being the expert in yourself.

My philosophy is based on ‘Health at Every Size’ which is weight inclusive and values all bodies.