Obesity: the debate over weight

By Stephanie Saviola

Since controversy sparked in the ’90s after skeleton-thin models appeared on runways and in advertising campaigns, there has been a long standing debate on what’s considered too fat or too thin.

“Fat stigma spreads around the globe,” was the March 30 headline on a NYTimes.com blog. The writer discusses stereotypes being created for overweight people as a result of increasing obesity rates worldwide.

One major question came to mind when I read this. How much money are governments—America’s and other countries’—going to continue pouring into anti-obesity campaigns and studies? Who cares what people eat? Everyone is responsible for his or her diets. People don’t need to be educated on what their appropriate weight or body mass index should be to the levels certain branches of government have taken it. People do need basic guidelines and regulations to follow. But guidelines should be kept simple. There are a lot of contradictory facts about food.

No one can even keep up with the information released on dietary options half the time anyway.  The Food and Drug Administration is pushing for a new campaign to warn the public about the dangers of eating products with food coloring and dyes. Simultaneously, there’s an advertisement for high-fructose corn syrup products claiming to be “fine in moderation” on another channel. It seems a bit contradictory.

Some health experts concerned about the overweight stigma said that campaigns targeted toward weight loss are claiming obesity is a disease. For some people, yes, obesity is a disease and is carried through genetics. But for many others, factors such as exercise, food options and lifestyle choices play a major role in the number they see on the scale.

However, in some ways these advertisements are fostering a negative environment to make overweight people feel guilty. It’s placing blame on them for being overweight.  Maybe some people are comfortable with the way they are.

Whose business is it to dictate how people should feel about themselves. And if people aren’t at the weight they “need” to be, there’s a good chance they already know and want to make a change.

In Mexico, ad campaigns crossed the line featuring a poster of an overweight person eating greasy food. People of all shapes and sizes eat greasy food regardless of their body type. I wonder what Americans would say or do if campaigns like that ran in this country.

These advertisements need to be phased out. They are cruel and have an obvious message, to say the least. Government branches like the FDA need to stick to the basics and stop with all the confusion and contradicting information.