The Obesity Myth

The Obesity Myth, by Paul Campos, is a book which talks about how the correlation between weight and health is more tenuous then most people tend to believe. The book relates a lot to what Wann talks about in her “Fat Studies” article because it emphasizes the fact that it is impossible to actually tell a person’s health just by looking at them. In addition, it cites multiple studies that have proven that people in the “overweight” range on the BMI scale actually live the longest, and people considered “underweight” are much less healthy. Still, fat people are judged; people are mean to them, or are even just uncomfortable with them. We live in a culture that shames fat people constantly; they are ridiculed on television shows and in movies, as well as in real life. Even doctors have less respect for overweight patients (Science Daily). What is it about fat people that makes us so uncomfortable? And why is it socially acceptable to treat them like second class citizens?


Campos, Paul. The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health. Gotham Publishers. 2005.

“Physicians Have Less Respect for the Overweight Patients.” Science Daily.

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3 Responses to The Obesity Myth

  1. gabygos says:

    This research that you have discovered could be really groundbreaking if it is developed and publicized further. Especially during my time at college, I have noticed that many of my friends and classmates are more sensitive to overweight people and obesity than I. These individuals are more likely to make a comment about a person’s weight and more often than not make a joke about it. I find that the Penn atmosphere makes people more desirous of control over their bodies and much more likely to point out when others appear to be out of control.

    A psychology professor once described obesity as “the last acceptable prejudice.” This description is incredibly accurate because most prejudices, like gender and race to name the most obvious, are out of a person’s control. However many people see weight as something directly within a person’s control; and that consequentially everyone wants to control their weight to conform to what is acceptable by society. I have found that many “overweight” people are happy with their bodies and lead successful, personally-fulfilling lives. Like you said in your post, our culture shames fat; as a society we believe that overweight people have less self-respect and are less competent than those of average or smaller sizes. As is the best way to deal with most prejudices, understanding the unique situation of overweight individuals as well as recognizing their ability to achieve can help to lift this stigma.

  2. mikeal0102 says:

    Sorry my footnote didn’t publish for the Hesse-Biber quote: It came from Hesse-Biber; The Cult of Thinness, 67

  3. mikeal0102 says:

    Not that this is your argument per se but I think it is going a bit far to call obesity a myth but in general I do agree with Campos’ overarching thesis. From simple interactions with people on a daily basis it becomes abundantly clear that being fat does not solely make one more unhealthy than someone who is so called slim. For starters, I know plenty of overweight people who live on a diet of fruit and vegetables and protein and just can’t shift the kilos yet quite a few of my skinny friends down a cheeseburger everyday and remain the “ideal” form. Outwardly, one would probably see the overweight friend as infinitely unhealthier than the skinny friend but in reality that is not actually the case. I am sure from deit alone that my cheeseburger skinny friends have more fatty arteries than my so called fat friends; they may not exhibit any problems now but only time will tell when we all grow up. One does not maintain this wondrous metabolism forever although I know we all wish we did. I just don’t understand why fat people are judged so much all the time; its like you said society seems to be scared of them.

    It is like they represent some form of evil gluttony or the end result of a life of giving into advertised desires. As Hesse-Biber notes, “Were being fattened up by the food industry and slimed down by the diet and exercise industry.” I have often heard people say that fat people are just lazy, but has anyone stopped to think that will power and determination are not the only things that are involved in weight loss. Things like genetics have to be considered as not everyone is predisposed to being slim and some people are born with conditions, which make exercise difficult or are prone to store more fat. Simply put, everyone is different. It really suits the people in society when they want to be treated like individuals or when they want to be a homogenized whole. I truly believe, being once a “fat person” myself, that people feel more uncomfortable around you when you are fat because they see you a lazy or ill or devoid of caring about your appearance.

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