The OAF in the room
One would think with an obvious truth like the obesity epidemic, society would be waging a serious war of action to cage and control this growing beast. Unfortunately, we don’t just have an elephant in the room, because as the elephant grows, in its shadow, so does the OAF in the room!
The Obesity Acceptance Factor (OAF):
The OAF started very insidiously. It quietly infiltrated most every corner of the room before even the more vigilant people began to take notice and sound the warnings. Over time, there were undercover discussions with occasionally more strident voices, yet nothing was ever done to prevent its happening. Now, our acceptance of obesity is so widespread that it is approaching normal, and our prior state of health and wellness is slowly being relegated to some aberration that used to be back in the day.
Interestingly, there is a group acknowledgment of the growth of obesity as evidenced by all the continual conversation and discussion about the problem, but at the same time, there is individual denial that the problem even exists, as evidenced by the widespread signs and symptoms.
Signs and symptoms:
The signs and symptoms of our society’s acceptance of obesity are everywhere. Have you noticed how mirrors are disappearing? Clothing is vanity sized where the original number scale is now meaningless. People’s increasing girth has prompted size inflation throughout the fashion and apparel industry. The clothing industry has conveniently accommodated expanding Americans by increasing sizes. For example, what once was a women’s size 8 is now a size 4, and today’s size 8 would have been a size 12. Men’s clothing also has expanded where pants that were formerly termed a “regular” now are called a “slim cut,” or “easy fit,” and baggy styles have become popular to accommodate our excess weight. I’ve even heard that shoes are undergoing the same type of size inflation.
I think most of us are familiar with the increases in the size of furniture, interiors of cars, ambulances, and even coffins to accommodate our now accepted enlargement.
Arthur Caplan, chairman of the ethics department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, had this to say about these signs and symptoms: “On one hand, we have to make the world safe for a fatter population, but the more we adjust our world to accept our weight, the harder it is to motivate us to do the healthier thing and lose the weight. If we tacitly readjust our world, in some sense we are responding to reality. At the same time, there is no doubt that making those adjustments makes it easier to live bigger.”
The fat acceptance movement:
Initially, the principal goal of the fat acceptance movement was to decrease discrimination against people who are overweight and obese. However, along with this worthy goal came those whose mission leaned more toward the feeding of the OAF and the societal acceptance of obesity as a condition that has not been proven to be unhealthy, despite voluminous data to the contrary.
It has now even been shown that our misperception of overweight status can actually increase over time in tandem to the increase in the average BMI of the US population. It seems the more overweight the people around us become, the more our sense of normal weight is increased, and the less likely we are to consider ourselves overweight, even though according to medical standards we actually are. Unfortunately, as in today’s world, the majority of individuals we interact with on a regular basis are likely to be overweight or obese, and it becomes more and more difficult to remember what someone with a normal weight looks like.
The big bottom line:
It is difficult for me to believe even with our growing Obesity Acceptance Factor, that the elephant can remain unnoticed in the room, yet a preponderance of the heavy evidence does seem to be weighted in that direction. I’m afraid that our population is getting fatter, and the fatter we get, the less we seem to notice, and the less likely we seem to want to do anything about it.
I fear that rather than confront this problem, we have, as a society, chosen to concern ourselves with a myriad of irrelevant issues rather than honestly face, and diligently deal with, the real problem.