Sugarcoating food and the truth
4 May 2018
Couples don’t have sex, they ‘make love.’ The dead did not die, they ‘passed away.’ Sick people aren’t sickly, they’re just ‘feeling under the weather.’
‘I’m not fat. I’m plus-sized.’
Like sex, death, and disease, weight has become one of the topics most shrouded in euphemism. In all of those instances, the use of softer language has the effect of blunting certain words and their connotations. If you want to let someone down easy, a good way to do it is with fluffier language.
Euphemisms serve this purpose. They can be used to lighten a severe situation or inform children of things their minds aren’t ready to hear. Both are true of the language now used to describe overweight and obese people.
It wasn’t too long ago that NSW Health, a department of the New South Wales Government, released new guidelines explicitly informing doctors not to use the medical term, ‘obese,’ to describe patients who were obese or approaching the condition. Other terms that were warned against included, ‘skinny,’ ‘malnourished,’ and ‘morbidly obese.’
In place of these words, the new directive instead asked health professionals to use ‘positive’ language in relation to the ‘sensitive’ subject, as that would ensure patients didn’t get offended from their diagnosis.
This is not just an Australian problem. The ‘Body Positivity Movement’ is worldwide, with its influence engulfing the very medical institutions that are supposed to give us objective facts. By sugarcoating the English language in euphemism, proponents of so-called body positivity are making it more difficult for overweight people to access help.
As a culture, we are losing our grip on reality.
Weight is a polarising issue, but one that we should tackle head-on. The answer to an obese society is not to make seeking help even more stigmatising than it already is. That’s what body positivity does.
When something is talked about in hushed tones or in this case, polite synonyms, the subject becomes even more of a taboo. It can also cause a great deal of human disconnect, as the severity of a situation is made lighter, not through action but through the manipulation of language.
Fat shaming is bad. I don’t see any merit in making people feel terrible about themselves as a way to ‘jump-start’ their journey to weight loss. If anything, negative reinforcement only deepens the rabbit hole of eating to make yourself feel better. There’s also the chance you’ll just double down and accept the fact that you’re overweight, which definitely doesn’t solve the issue.
But the complete opposite of fat shaming—the idolisation of an unhealthy body—isn’t the answer either. Making your situation seem better than it is, is a good way to make sure things never change.
Although well-meaning, body positivity is ultimately predicated on normalising symptoms of an early death.
As a society, it would be better for all of us to have an objective view of what constitutes a healthy person. Never mind ever-changing beauty standards, we need to focus on making sure we don’t cultivate a generation of unfit people, all because of our inability to speak the truth and hurt some feelings
I’m fine with people doing what they want with their lives, picking and choosing their vices. However, there often comes a point when you’re no longer only hurting yourself by choosing to live poorly. We need to look at this on a larger scale. It is proven that obesity and malnutrition are linked to low socioeconomic status, with children in low-income nations especially vulnerable.
Should we be positive about that?
A completely sanguine attitude toward obesity will also lead to the same being demanded from other groups. Soon enough, we’ll have smokers and drinkers lobbying for doctors to soften the cultural outlook on their vices.
Fat acceptance is the product of a culture dominated by Hollywood media, images of impossibly beautiful people making everyone else feel bad about themselves.
Our standards of beauty clearly aren’t attainable for the majority of society. That’s an issue on its own. The solution, however, is not the acceptance of an overweight body image, as that’s the acceptance of an unhealthy body, and with that, obesity will remain one of the single biggest killers of the American people.
That’s not something we should feel good about.