"The problem is that if we can't link it to obesity, people don't care so much" says UCLA sociology professor Abigail Saguy. "But since we're all so obsessed about weight, linking issues of nutrition to 'We're going to get fat, our children are going to get fat,' that draws people's attention."
Saguy is the author of the new book, What's Wrong with Fat? and in the book looks at how obesity became framed as a public health crisis--an assertion she says is blown out of proportion. She says that when we talk about an obesity epidemic we assume moving from non-obese to obese is like moving from health to illness. There are plenty of people with a BMI over 30 that are healthy and plenty of people with a BMI under 30 that are unhealthy and the obsession with being over or under that line is the real problem.
That obsession is only fueled by attention seeking politicians and the media. A large portion of the book is devoted to a study of the media and its thirst for sensational headlines about an impending epidemic. Saguy asserts that the headlines may be dramatic but offer little to the discourse about healthy living.
She also points out that when health messages like Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign link nutrition and physical activity to obesity, it could have a negative effect on how children view their own bodies.
"Here they are being told by adults, adults in position of authority, that their bodies are not okay. Is this going to have a positive effect on them? Is this going to make them take better care of themselves, probably not," says Saguy.
Produced by Paul Detrick. Camera by Alex Manning and Zach Weissmuller
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