At least that's the gist of an interesting new study that's just out in the American Journal of Public Health.
Lead researcher Peter Muennig, of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, set out to examine the relationship between stress over being fat and physical and mental health, and found that
the difference between actual and desired body weight was a stronger predictor than was body mass index (BMI) of mental and physical health.
He and his team concluded that
some of the health effects of the obesity epidemic are related to way we see our bodies.
I'll forgo commenting on the assumption that obesity = unhealthiness and will instead applaud Dr. Muennig and his team for at least asking the question.
And I'll pose them another question: What if it's not just internal stress, but external stress? What if judgment and discrimination from the rest of the world affects the health of people who are fat?
We already know that it does, of course, judging by these firsthand accounts.
Might make a good next study for someone. I hope.
Meanwhile, here's more from the Conclusions section of the paper:
If our findings are correct, the policy implications may be counterintuitive. Foremost, if more of the association between BMI is perceptual, some public health messages that advocate idealized body types may be harming their target audience.
Ya got that right.
Concerted efforts to disassociate health messages, such as encouragement of exercise, from obesity stigmatization may circumvent the paradox.
Tell it to Rep. W.T. Mayhall, Jr., who introduced this lovely bill to the Mississippi legislature this week.
I wonder why fat people might feel stressed?