Every few years we’re met with yet another “miracle medication” that promises that goal so many strive for: weight loss. If we look back to the 1800s we can see the origins of many of these various medications and what they promised.
News articles and many in the medical field talk about the weight epidemic in our country with urgency, calling on individuals to “be part of the solution!” But what these news briefs and individuals tend to ignore is the lack of long-term research, the side effects, and the way that these medications have been proven to cause severe injury at times.
I am angered and heartbroken by a lack of sensitivity, consideration, and consideration of human dignity that exists in our world today; instead of beginning with respect for all individuals, people are looked at and judged based on a number or size. Assumptions are made about health, when in reality health is so much more complex than appearance. So many thin people are unhealthy, and so many people in bigger bodies are perfectly healthy; health is not determined in one particular manner. For some people health means hydration or being mindful of cholesterol while for someone else health is about stamina, sleep or lab results.
In reality, health is too complex to limit to any one area though we can loosely define it as all systems running the way that they need to—including mental health. But it feels so much easier for some people to define health based on a quick, easy-to-measure judgment and to fiercely believe there is no way this is incorrect. When I deliver research based materials clearly contradicting this firmly held belief that “weight must equal health,” people respond by asking how so many people could be wrong about an issue, including healthcare individuals—people in positions of respect and power? And, all too often, it reminds me of how so many people can be mistaken and have misinformation about many subjects, which in hindsight turned out to be so obviously mistaken.
I am not saying that there aren’t research articles about correlations. I am saying, though, that there are many overlooked spurious factors. For instance, I recently saw a post by Dr. Alexis Conason about the connection between those in higher weight bodies and depression—sounding the alarm for the need to “solve this crisis!” Conason noted the fatphobic nature of our society and the resultant bullying and lack of safe and respectful emotional and physical space created for those in bigger bodies, is a likely cause of this depression—not anything inherently medical.
Recently, our community has been discussing weight loss drugs, the new AAP guidelines, and so many more proven harmful interventions because we simply cannot tolerate the idea of accepting those around us as they are. We assume it all relates to medical risks without actually asking the questions and pursuing what is actually about health.
This is not to say that some people may have medical complications—but people in all bodies have medical complications—so why can’t we approach the pursuit of support with the same dignity and sensitivity for all. Instead, we demonize, judge, and put a number as a goal. We offer harmful solutions; most weight loss medications have been proven harmful, people regain the weight, and the medications are often not originally created for the direct objective of weight loss altogether. This winds up causing those who need those medications for medical issues to have difficulty in readily accessing them because our society has decided it is more important to pursue thinness than to help those who have a physiological medical complication.
It is time to wake up. The problem is not your body. The problem is not an epidemic. The problem is judging an entire group or someone’s health based on size. The problem is that we do not have space in our medical office, the shidduch world, or the playground for those who may not conform to a diet-obsessed world.
See if you can take one step toward recognizing the other side of all of this; whether that’s reflecting on your connection to the topics mentioned above, supporting someone who may be having difficulty in this world, or even noticing the way that your self-worth is tied to appearance, perhaps under the mask of the pursuit of health and wellness. Most often, weight loss injections, fad diets, bariatric surgery, and so many other practices will not actually help you toward achieving good health or self-acceptance. There are other routes to pursue and I believe that when you’re ready, you can live a much more free, self-confident life.
Temimah Zucker, LCSW, works with individuals ages 18 and older in New York and New Jersey who are struggling with mental health concerns, and specializes in working with those looking to heal their relationships between their bodies and souls. Temimah is an adjunct professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, an advocate and public speaker concerning eating disorder awareness and a Metro-New York supervisor at Monte Nido. To learn more or to reach her, visit www.temimah.com.