On April 3rd, Gillette Venus—Gillette’s women’s razors—tweeted out a photo of plus-size model Anna O’Brien with the caption “go out there and slay the day.” Fashion and health companies using plus-sized models to advertise has been a growing trend for some time now. However, their intent isn’t only to advertise the aesthetics of their products on plus-sized models but to push the body positivity movement.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with advertising to a broader base, or even pushing the notion that everyone deserves to be happy regardless of their size. Recognizing the faults of the body positivity movement is not the same as condoning the mistreatment of those who struggle with obesity. It does become an issue, though, when the facts about health and the dangers of obesity are downplayed to achieve these goals.
This is essentially what a UK study published in June 2018 in the journal Obesity showed. The study’s primary question was people’s underassessment of their weight, and the secondary target was to assess whether patients were trying to lose weight. They concluded that the normalization of obesity is a possible reason for people’s misperceptions and, thus, lack of diet and exercise.
In its introduction, the study discusses the 5%-10% increase in obesity between 1997 and 2015, and the misperceptions that have come with it. Almost 60% of overweight men think they aren’t overweight and over 72% of those who were either overweight or obese felt their health was either good or very good.
The danger here, as the study points out, is the effect this misperception has on exercise and healthy decisions. Those who underestimated their weight were 85% less likely to try to lose weight than those who accurately identified themselves. Of the over 40% of individuals who were overweight and underestimating it, only a little over 50% of them were trying to lose weight.
The conclusion of the study was that there is an upward trend, specifically within the last few years, of people underestimating their weight; because of this, they were 85% less likely to try to lose weight. This has major implications for the health of millions and our healthcare system.
The fact is that we do have an obesity crisis in the US. According to federal data gathered just last year, nearly 40% of US adults were obese in 2015-16, a 6% rise from 2007-08. And, according to the Center for Disease Control, when overweight people—between normal and obese—are added in, this number rises to 70% of the US adult population.
The severity of this crisis has both health and fiscal implications. According to Stanford, obesity causes around 300,000 premature deaths and costs around $150 billion every year. Obesity greatly increases one’s likelihood of developing high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and much more. The State of Obesity annual report estimates that obese adults spend approximately 42% more on healthcare than non-obese adults.
The normalization of obesity is neither a direct nor a sole cause of the obesity crisis; it plays a part. It will continue to worsen it as long as our society refuses to speak honestly about the issue, which, in today’s political realm, seems quite unlikely.
We, as a society, must acknowledge the dangers of obesity and understand how normalizing it will not help the issue. Again, in no way should we want to create a community where we mistreat people because of their struggle with obesity. It is an incredibly hard thing to fight and a commendable one. However, when 70% of our adult population is either overweight or obese, we simply cannot afford to ignore or, even worse, glorify it.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.