Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, "The weight is over!"

Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, "The weight is over!"

Summary: Are you over being overweight? If so, what are you gonna do about it?

TOPICS: Health

In one of my first columns here at ZDNet Health, I asked readers what kind of coverage you'd like to see. Reader Jerry1956, a personal trainer, said he wanted to see some articles about what he called the "fat epidemic," citing his concerns about the toll it's taking on America, especially in light of the increasing costs of healthcare.

I've decided to start addressing this important issue in a new series in this blog, and to call the series "The Weight is Over." Lots of people have used this catch phrase, and I like it because overweight is something that's really bothering a lot of us. We are sooo over it. We desperately want to find ways to get over being overweight, and get over it for good.

Although Americans are often called out for being overweight, Europeans aren't far behind. The UK also has a really big problem with big people; fattism and bullying are matters of great national concern.

In terms of statistics, 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese. According to my colleagues over at CBS News, 85% of Americans have admitted to not eating right.

See on CBS News: Americans Don't Eat Healthy

That means that roughly 18% of us either have great metabolisms or we simply aren't showing consequences of our dietary misadventures...yet. The other 15% of us are apparently the only ones in right relationship with food, which probably looks something like what Michael Pollan describes in his book Food Rules.

So here's my take on it. I mean, if only 15% of us are abnormally perfect (or virtuous, depending on how you look at it), and 18% of us are self-righteous while at the same time getting away with murder, and 67% of us are actually overweight or obese, don't we kind of have to admit that fat is the new normal? So how do we deal with it when aspiring to normal isn't desirable?

Maybe we need to stop pretending and get honest. At some point, if the statistics are really true, and overweight is the new normal, all the anti-fat hatred really amounts to just so much self-hatred, no?

If we admit that we don't like the status quo, and we want to change for the healthier, coming from a place of self-hatred isn't the most empowered spiritual stance from which to battle the bulge.

Next: Exclusivity, class rage, politics, capitalism, and moral virtue »

« Previous: Is fat the new normal?

Exclusivity, class rage, politics, capitalism, and moral virtue

It doesn't help that to a lot of people, the lean ideal amounts to wanting to belong to an exclusive club that it's getting harder and harder to get into -- or to stay in if you actually make it there.

In terms of classism, for a large part of history, fat was considered a status symbol. It still is in some poorer countries. After all, if you could afford the finer things in life, you could afford to have a little extra meat on your bones. Now, it's considered classier to be leaner.

This is how it becomes a political issue.

People love to look down on the fat guy or gal gobbling down a bag of dollar-menu fast food, in the car, on the way to a second job. But it's probable that a lot of the "fat cat" banker types who destroyed our economy are actually having no problem eating right in nice restaurants, filling their refrigerators with healthy foods (a diet comprised of fresh foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables is quite costly), employing good cooks to prepare them, and attending sessions with personal trainers.

Skyrocketing costs of healthcare in our society is often cited as a justification for hating fatty, but how much did the fat cats cost us all?

Fat is a serious problem when it comes to women's issues, too. I found it mind-boggling when I read in The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf that most women would rather lose five to ten pounds than meet any other goal. ANY other goal. That's amazing to me. How much big world-changing energy is tied up in our desire to get smaller?

Women, who already earn less money than men, spend a lot of time, money, and energy on the pursuit of beauty because we've really bought into the messages that how easy we are on the eyes is the most important thing about us.

And who can blame us? We want to be good. We want to be liked, and even loved. We also want to make a decent living. Weight discrimination loses us even more money than it does our male counterparts.

Because of a desire to be thin and in control, eating disorders are destroying a lot of lives, even killing some sufferers -- not only women now, but also men in increasing numbers.

Plus, of course, there's the fact that in our economically competitive society, there are a lot of corporations vying for our food buck. They've employed the most talented scientists to come up with the most hyper-salient (tastiest) foods that'll keep us coming back for more, and the best marketers to introduce us to, help us fall in lust with, and constantly remind us of those foods.

This means we've gotten into an addictive cycle with food-like substances that are packed full of an unnatural amount of fat, sugar, and salt. I read a great book on my Kindle about this practice, and what can be done about breaking the food abuse cycle that ensues, entitled The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David A. Kessler, M.D.

Finally, we've come to equate fat with moral deficiency, and being thin with moral virtue. This isn't a new idea. After all, gluttony is listed as one of the seven deadly sins. It's probably one reason we'll accept cruelty and hatred toward fat people that we wouldn't accept toward any other group. Being thin is the 21st century way to be a good person. Eve Ensler explores this concept really well in her book The Good Body, which I enjoyed listening to on my iPod while trying to get in some cardio on my treadmill.

What makes me angry as a nurse is seeing the effect of the myths of weak-will and worthlessness take root as self-hatred in my patients. I am angry about the oppression they are experiencing from their obesity itself, and from other people in the form of abuse, ostracism, and economic punishment. To read another RN's perspective, check out Barbara M. Maxwell's Medscape article Obesity: Pain and Prejudice.

Next: What you can do about it »

« Previous: Exclusivity, class rage, politics, capitalism, and moral virtue

Nevertheless, what can we do about it?

If you, like me, are currently overweight, and you're sooo over it, what are you going to do about it?

Obviously there are a lot of factors conspiring to make this a difficult challenge. It's easy to point fingers of blame, it's easy to feel stuck or doomed, and its easy to fall back on emotional eating and simply give up. But in the long run, that "easy" way is the hard way, too, because of the many health problems (including adverse effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin resistance, depression, and more) associated with being heavy.

See also: Another reason to eat those leafy greens

See also: If cholesterol had a love child with DNA, it’d look like this

So what can we do to be the change we want to see in the world? What can we do, even in these challenging circumstances to create ourselves as human beings who are leaner, fitter, more active, more comfortable socially, and most importantly, healthier?

Are you going to make a commitment to lose weight and do your best to keep it off? Are you going to become more active? Are you going to become more activistic on the issue in some way? How can we use tech to enhance our journey?

See also: Can iPhone Meal Snap photo app magically tell what’s in your meal? We put it to the test.

Weight, I am putting you on notice. You are so over.

Stay tuned for future articles in "The Weight is Over" series here on ZDNet Health, where I'll share relevant tips, techniques, stories, and tech. I'll also reveal what I've personally decided to do about it in my own life.

What are you going to do about it? Tell us in the TalkBacks below. Please try to be constructive. I don't want to see any "hate fatty" type stuff, whether that's in the form of self-hatred or hating others. Let's be loving and supportive here.

Topic: Health


Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.

Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


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  • My story

    I have never had a weight problem, until the past 5 years or so that is. Slowly but surely my weight kept creeping up until I had gained 25% body mass. It was disgusting, nothing fit and it became more difficult to bend over. I am at an age where heart attacks, strokes, cancers etc. start to become possible concerns. <br><br>Last fall I made a radical diet change, I became a vegan. My wife has been very supportive. My new food is tasty and the pounds started dropping off, with no additional exercise at all. It has been surprisingly easy. I am now back down to within 5 lbs of my ideal weight.<br><br>I have started to eat fish occasionally, particularly salmon. I rarely miss meat, sweets or fatty foods. As a matter of fact much of the "normal" food I see is beginning to disgust me. This diet is not a principle with me. If the family goes out for a meal once in a while I select carefully from the menu and enjoy the experience.<br><br>I think I may stay on this diet for the rest of my life. I feel considerably better.
    • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

      @Economister I've been toying with the idea of a modified vegan diet to help with my diabetes - my wife had to go on a vegan diet for health reasons and she has made a big improvement in the few months she's been on it. I can deal with giving up red meat and pork but I would definitely miss chicken.
      • My advice: Go for it


        In particular since you have your wife's 110% support. She probably already knows how to make her own food taste good. There are also resources on the web that my wife has found very helpful.

        I thought I would miss the meat and chicken, but it happens surprisingly infrequently. I have two children, 19 and 21, who eat the stuff right under my nose, but I am fine with it. Considering the easy weight loss and the other health benefits I am experiencing, the temptation to return to my old diet is almost nonexistent.

        Give yourself 6 to 12 months. Follow a vegan diet almost religiously, and just see what happens. It is not like you can never go back to eating whatever you want, but you owe it to yourself to at least try it for a while. Once your children if any are taken care of, there is nothing in life more important than your health.
    • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'


      Not saying a vegan diet is wrong but it's not for everyone. I tried a vegetarian diet back in the early 90s when it was the FAD thing to do. I did for a month. I was always hungry and felt terrible and developed a nasty skin problem. So I started eating meat again and my health improved. My skin problems disappeared. Now I don't eat unhealthy. I avoid fast food for example, it just make me sick when I eat it. Same with most processed food. Anything you take from the box in freezer that you nuke. Like those rice bowls, just upsets my stomach. So I eat a lot fresh vegetable and fruits about 8 servings to one serving of meat and one serving of carbs. I've gained weight but gaining weight is what I wanted, always been too skinny.
      • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'


        Considering that fast food is not anything different than what most people make at home, I find it EXCEEDINGLY hard to believe that was causing your problems.

        Hell, I'll be blunt: LYING!

        The fact is that most weight problems come from people not moving around as much as they did as child and/or using food to distract themselves when they are at their boring-as-heck jobbies.
      • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

        Yes, the weight is over, [url=]Best Exercise to Lose Weight[/url] is: "the exercise you'll do," says Timothy Church, MD, MPH, PhD, a professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.
    • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

      @Economister So for your heart you went vegan and can begin to worry about your kidneys and a protein deficiency eh? Though if you eat fish I think you mean vegetarian not vegan - vegan is a lot stricter and arguably not healthy.
      • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

        @ITSamurai<br>First, kidneys are NOT affected by a low amount of protein, and second there is NO evidence that vegan diets lead to protein deficiencies. Western cultures get FAR too much protein in the diet, leading to a nitrogen imbalance, most of which is secreted as urea in the urine.<br>Also, there is no evidence that vegan diets are not healthy. It is not arguable, if your positions are based on empirical facts.
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  • I'm not really sure

    What this has to do with technology, or why it has been posted on zdnet
    • What it has to do with tech

      @mcudmore thanks for expressing your confusion with regard to relevance. Perhaps I didn't make it clear until the end that we'll be exploring ways to use tech to help with the issue. Also, our society is more sedentary, in part because of all the time we spend sitting in front of our various screens. Finally, this is ZDNet Health, where tech meets health. Sadly, if you talk about health in the 21st century, you have to, sooner or later, get around to discussing weight. Otherwise it'll just be the elephant in the room no one wants to bring up.
      Denise Amrich, RN
      • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

        @Denise Amrich, RN

        You didn't make anything at all clear about the tie-in of this article to technology. In fact, the ONLY reference is the "and tech" tacked onto the end of a sentence.

        Focus on health tech first, and bring in the medical stuff when appropriate. Health itself is a matter between an individual and their doctor, and too many people already self-diagnose based on things they read online as opposed to going to their doctors. No health regimen, bolstered by technology or not, should be undertaken without consulting with a medical professional. As an RN, you should know that.

        We all know Americans have become fat, lazy, and entitled, but keep in mind that ZDNet does not have an exclusively American audience.
      • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

        The problems you site are not American ones. We are most certainly not lazy nor entitled, we are among the hardest working people in the industrialized world (,3746,en_21571361_44315115_47567356_1_1_1_1,00.html) and our upward mobility is among the worst (

        We are getting fat because our incredible increases in productivity (yes, US workers are extremely productive) have come largely through technologies that encourage a sedentary lifestyle, while our food industry almost literally poisons us with high-calorie, high sodium foods, designed to "satisfy" an exhausted and increasingly time- and money- poor population.
        x I'm tc
      • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

        @ jdakula

        While I agree with most of what you wrote, there is no evidence that high sodium diets are bad for health.
    • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

      @mcudmore Medicine is one of the biggest tech sectors in the country. I'm only suprised its taken this long for any tech sites to focus on it.
    • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'


      Well you did post on a "health" blog...
  • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

    There are two parts to this. People need to exercise more. I read somewhere that taking just a 30 minute walk a day would reduce the number of overweight people as well as diseases and other health problems. It'd be great if your employer would allow you 30 minutes to do such a thing. Sure you can do it on your lunch hour but that time is for you and if your like me your not the fastest eater so a half hour walk and half hour lunch would be hard to pull off.

    The other part is the price of good healthy food. Lettuce and celery is fairly cheap, but fresh strawberries and blueberries can get pricey. Then you have things like swiss chard and kale, who knows how to prepare those. While I can't be vegan because I enjoy turkey and on occasion ribs, I do try to watch what I eat. Coincidentally I'm having salad today.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

      @Loverock Davidson I can see an employer giving someone time to get a walk in if they are working 10-12 hours per day but 30 minutes a day should not be that hard to work into a reasonable schedule...

      Kale - well kale done up "right" (cooked with bacon drippings) is definitely NOT on the vegan menu... LOL

      In all seriousness it's all about moderation, portion control, and exercise. At one point I used to have a pretty fast metabolism but now not so much.
    • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

      @Loverock Davidson

      The simplistic calories in calories out mantra has no empirical support. In fact, walking an extra 30 minutes a day will have almost no effect on your weight. It WILL improve cardiovascular health, but the scale will hardly be affected.
  • RE: Is fat is the new normal? It's time to say, 'The weight is over!'

    Diet is only one part of the equation. I have noticed that many people just refuse to do any type of exercise. For example I weigh just over 2 pound per inch in height. I know a few people, that weigh over 5 pound per inch in height. There are even people that are so grossly overweight that they collect disability due to their weight.