Aliens Have Landed

Who Are These Creatures with Obesity?

“Obesity is a disease that hides in plain sight,” says Harvard’s Lee Kaplan. So perhaps we should not be surprised when the Journal of Public Health publishes a study that asks, “Who are the obese?” The authors propose that there are six types (stereotypes?) of these creatures with obesity.

If we can set aside the dehumanizing language that considers “the obese” as some kind of alien race, perhaps we should rejoice that these researchers have considered the possibility that not all people with obesity are just alike. It’s a step toward acknowledging our individual human dignity.

A much better approach could be found in a public engagement workshop leading into the Fourth Canadian Obesity Summit in Toronto yesterday. Seven Canadians living with obesity joined a group of leaders in the Canadian Obesity Network (CON) to consider how to fully engage people directly affected by obesity in the work of CON.

CEO Joe Nadglowski and Chairman Ted Kyle of the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) provided perspective on how it was possible to build a vibrant organization of 50,000 people affected by obesity in the U.S. The critical importance of putting people living with obesity at the center of efforts to address the condition was a recurring theme.

In the end, it was clear that the biggest challenge is overcoming the staggering bias against people with obesity. This bias is everywhere we turn. It’s such bias that allows a public health journal to use dehumanizing language in describing a third of the population and wonder aloud, “Who are the obese?”

We hope those researchers figure out that they are our sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. The leadership of CON already knows it.

Click here for the cluster analysis of people with obesity. Click here for more on CON’s efforts to engage people living with obesity.

Aliens Have Landed, photograph © K’s Photo’s / flickr

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2 Responses to “Who Are These Creatures with Obesity?”

  1. April 28, 2015 at 11:42 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Us vs. Them, again…..

    It is almost like this is a law of nature, Ted. Yathink? Jonathan Haidt, much?

    Anyone else want to join in either breaking some laws or, perhaps more constructively, follow your guidance in your penultimate paragraph to see all humans as our cherished brothers and sisters?

    One way or another, time to grow and change, IMO.

    • April 28, 2015 at 9:35 pm, Ted said:

      Don’t know if it’s possible to escape us v them. It’s so fundamental to human nature. But worth a shot. Respect is not a bad value to uphold.

      Thanks, Joe!