This term’s writing project will be on obesity. This project began last year during a reading course with my supervisor. Originally the topic was mainly focused on body mass index (BMI) and its specific problems when used in reference to measuring metabolic fitness. My supervisor and I tailored this topic as such because of a call for papers for an obesity journal that focused on ‘healthy’ obesity. Unfortunately problems arose with submitting our piece to this specific journal, and since the second term has begun, the paper has evolved to include a larger emphasis on the culture of obesity. Here is an outline of the newly designed paper, a general schedule to which I would like to follow in order to submit the paper at the end of the term, and some of the difficulties I am anticipating having to tackle in order to end up with a final product of sound quality.
This paper will argue for a shift in the way we view obesity. The first part of the article will describe why obese individuals not at considerably higher risk of disease than their normal-weight counter parts. This will include discussion about a new phenomenon called ‘the metabolic healthy obese’ a sub-phenotype within the obese category of BMI over 30 who seemingly have no undesirable physiological symptoms of obesity. They are not at an elevated risk for heart disease, they have normal levels of inflammation, and their lipid profiles are healthy. What this condition is suggestive of is that ‘fitness’ not ‘fatness’ is more important with respect to health and maintaining it. I will also introduce a phenomenon now prevalent in the obesity literature called the ‘obesity paradox’ which claims that in fact being over-weight or mildy obese, in certain circumstances, can be advantageous to health.
The second part of the argument will focus more on why we are so misinformed as to the health risks of obesity and how it is our culture that is driving this misinformed position. This argument will develop first from discussion of the BMI system and why it can be a deceiving form of measurement. I will also discuss what I feel is an interesting simantic point regarding the use of the word ‘paradox’ in the literature, and why this particular word, defined as ‘something contrary to its nature’, is important with reference to cultural perspectives driving biological ones. This section will also emphasize how skinny ideals are driving obese negativism and how issues of publication bias are perpetuating certain obese stereotypes.
In the third section i will discuss why we should care about cultural influences on the biology of obesity and why it matters to the health of our communities. Here I will discuss how body shape is used to make certain judgements regarding the character of an individual and how issues of morality and discipline tend to be conflated with body size. This obesity stigma also seems to be one of the only remaining accepted discriminatory practices and I will make an argument as to why this form of stereotype is still prevalent. There are also relevant clinical consideration in this discussion and I will outline why they are relavent in the delivery of proper health care. I will finally discuss some evidence that the obesity paradox does not apply to measures of quality of life and that there are important mental health considerations in addition to the biological ones with regards to obesity.
Ideally, I would like to submit this article to an anthropological or social science journal by the end of this term. My supervisor and I are anticipating that some revisions will be necessary if the article is fully reviewed and ideally the final revisions for this paper will be during this summer.
I am anticipating quite a few challenges with this writing project, and I am happy to be able to share some of my fledgling ideas here on a public forum. The principle challenge will be in the organisation of the argument. The material for this article is from discussions I have had with my supervisor in our review of the obesity literature. As such the pieces of the article are somewhat disparate and I have found it difficult to fit all of the points I would like to make within a logically consistent argument. I feel that once I can clarify in my mind, and on the page, what it is exactly that I would like to offer in the article, the transition from ideas to words will come rather smoothly.