Obesity: the real cost could be your life.


I had the displeasure of trawling through celebrity choreographer and Loose Women panellist Arlene Phillips twitter after she posted a hashtag she was trying to trend: #fitnotfat. The usual apologetic diatribe you’d expect from someone telling fat people to “close their mouths” and “pick up a skipping rope.” Naturally, my heckles went up and I had a few choice words.

But after I calmed down, and with cup of tea firmly in hand, I started to think about why yet another hashtag, why yet another anti-fat campaign was rearing its ugly head. January is a loathed month for most fat people as our social media news feeds begin to clog with the “New year, new me!” mantras as people’s self-loathing drips like sweat at the newly joined gym.


Not that I feel it’s necessary but I want to preface this with a couple of things.
Firstly I am not claiming to be, nor have I ever claimed to be, a medical professional. These are my opinions, my thoughts, based off my own lived experiences and my own reading. It is very easy for people to scoff and undermine me because medical professionals allegedly know better than I do. But know this: doctors are people too and therefore will carry their own biases. Fat people are more likely to receive inaccurate medical care.
Twitter hashtag: #diagnosisfat

 My doctor thought it was appropriate to address the issue of bariatric surgery when I went in to discuss HIVES.
In fact that was why the BMI chart was created in the first place: by insurance companies and was introduced in the early 19th century by a Belgian named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. He was a mathematician, not a physician. He produced the formula to give a quick and easy way to measure the degree of obesity of the general population to assist the government in allocating resources.
I’m not saying that weight doesn’t carry risks. But what I am saying is question just how much risk, instead of what people are telling you because you can’t really be sure how much of their concern is pourely objective and factual. As you’ll read on you’ll see these figures being thrown at us are based off very old research models.
There are a lot of scary figures out there about what obesity costs the NHS. If there’s one thing that is going to put fat people in place is the guilt of pressuring a precious, and already strained, resource like our free healthcare system. Who would take you seriously then?
But I got to thinking, sure enough I’d seen enough figures in the billions, but I’d never seen an actual breakdown of the costs. WHAT was costing £4 billion? You can’t just say “obesity”. It’s a very vague term and tells us literally nothing.
David Cameron gave a speech where he stated that obesity was costing the NHS £4 billion a year, with an expectation of it rising to £6.5 billion by 2015. This figure coming from the Department of Health and estimated by Foresight report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-obesity-modelling-future-trends

I found a website hat stated the report was “..looking at current obesity and associated costs and sought to model future trends in obesity and its impact on health. Doing this, the study produced a series of cost estimates for obesity to the NHS, for elevated Body Mass Index (BMI) to the NHS, and the wider costs to the economy of elevated BMI. All of the projections are set at 2007 costs for easy comparison.”

Wait..hold up. There’s that horrible little word again: BMI.

HELP! IT’S THE ATTACK OF THE MEDICALLY INACCURATE HEALTH MODEL!

Immediately my eyebrow went up in a quizzical stance. If we are created a supposedly accurate report then why are we referencing a proven inaccurate model like the BMI scale?
As I continued to read the website it stated that : “The Foresight report goes into some detail on the associated conditions. For example, the note that: “The risk of developing type 2 diabetes, for instance, is some 20–80 (OK, anyone else think that is a huge jump?) times more likely for people who are obese compared with lean people. Coronary heart disease (which itself is slightly more common among obese people) is 2–3 times more common among diabetic men and five times more common among diabetic women.) Other health risks are also mentioned, such as strokes, many cancers, and osteoarthritis. “

Associated. Associated conditions. Herein lies the problem. Many people fail to realise that correlation does not equal causation. So while there is a risk factor, it is not fat exclusive diseases we are dealing with. The only thing that I can think of that is directly associated with obesity is mobility caused by a fat body, and even then this is only in extreme cases where people have become bedbound by their size.
Another thing I found interesting was that since that report was published in 2007 there has been no significant research into the economic costs of obesity, according to the National Obesity Observatory. So everything we are reading is based off an outdated model. These figures are also based on upon obesity levels where no action is taken to address the problem. So general and outdated still. Most research since has been based in the US and not from Europe.

So where does that bring us? I don’t feel any closer to understanding the real, factual impact of Obesity ™ on the NHS. Given that all of the reports used an outdated, inaccurate, and medically false mode in which to group people it gives it a crumbling foundation insofar as all diagnoses made in terms of health and diseases are based off an inaccurate guide. Simply put the bmi scale says you’re obese-you are “treated” for being obese (medication, surgery, healthcare initiatives)-NHS picks up the bill. But if the BMI is inaccurate then how much treatment is necessary?

diagnosisfat, fat, fat acceptance, fat discrimination

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  1. SUCH a great post! Love that you've actually taken the time to look at the gov website for reference… so refreshing!
    I too have been victim to the "you're ill because you're fat" stigma. It's now reached a point where I've been ill since early november with a bad chest and won't go to the doctor because it'll likely become a fat issue. Maybe I should fwd your post to my GP haha xx

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