Measuring the “Obesity Crisis”
Dorm the Beaty Redefined Blog
“From unfortunate fat-shaming in Georgia’s “Strong4Life” campaign put on by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to kids being graded on their weight in public schools across the country via their BMI score on their report cards, we see well-meaning people using harmful and ineffective strategies like crazy to try and counteract this country’s weight problem. This overwhelming focus on body size has stolen the spotlight in mass media and scholarly research since the mid-‘90s, all citing an imperative to end an obesity crisis that has been championed by the federal health agencies.
With the health and fitness of the nation as the key justification for calling high levels of obesity a “crisis,” it is important to understand how bodily health is defined in research. How is health measured? What defines a healthy or physically fit body? In a country where both obesity and eating disorders have skyrocketed simultaneously, it is crucial to understand how physical health has been and is being understood, tested and promoted.
Scholars are concerned that very little evidence has been produced regarding the question of exactly how body fat is supposed to cause disease (1). With the exception of osteoarthritis, where increased body mass contributes to wear on joints, and a few cancers where estrogen originating in adipose tissue may contribute, causal links between body fat and disease remain hypothetical. Researchers are asking health professionals and policy makers to consider whether it makes sense to treat body weight as a barometer of public health. Despite this shaky foundation for defining physical health in terms of body fatness, much of current health and communication research measures health through simple measures of a person’s body fat, and that may be doing more harm than good for the health status of this country….”