Meme Roth

Is It Okay To Be Fat?

February 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm , by

IMG_5615Is it OK to be fat?

It’s not a trick question. The answer isn’t as obvious as it seems.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to watch a taping of a Nightline Face-Off that tackled this very issue. Moderated by Good Morning America news anchor Juju Chang, the debate pitted Marianne Kirby, blogger and advocate for the fat acceptance movement, and Crystal Renn, the highest-paid plus-size model, against Meme Roth, president of the National Action Against Obesity and Kim Bensen, author of Finally Thin. It was a heated discussion, to say the least, and their conversation touched on everything from fat-phobia to anorexia, and from genetics to yo-yo dieting. Watch the show here.

But back to the question at hand: Is it OK to be fat? I think we have to first look at what do we mean by “OK”? (Is it healthy to be fat? Is it somehow morally or socially wrong to be fat, and therefore okay to discriminate against those who are?) Second, how are we defining “fat”? (Waist size? Percentage body fat? BMI?)

However, let’s put semantics aside and look at the science. On the one hand: People who are overweight tend to live longer than their skinnier counterparts, according to McGill researchers. On the other hand: Living longer isn’t much of an advantage if your quality of life is compromised. We also know that being overweight or obese (as defined by BMI) increases your odds for diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, arthritis, sleep apnea and more. On the one hand: You can be fit and fat. Half of overweight people and one-third of obese people still have healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, says a 2008 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Meanwhile, a quarter of normal-weight individuals were found to have two risk factors for heart disease. On the other hand: It’s better to be fit and trim than fit and fat. Active women with normal BMI have a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who exercise and are overweight, says another study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

So what do you think? Are Americans fat-phobic? Is it okay to be fat?

Photo (left to right): Emily Chau, Marianne Kirby, Juju Chang, Kim Bensen, Meme Roth