Which is more important – facts or feelings?

As I prepare to write this blog post, I’m also trying to prepare myself for the possible backlash and negative reactions that I may receive. After creating a poll on Twitter to gauge opinions before writing this post, I was told that I should “sit this one out” as “slim people talking about fat people never ends well”.

And the thing is, I can understand that… I’d find it hard for someone with no mental health issues to discuss what should be done about mental health… and I certainly don’t agree with men voting on what women are allowed to do with their bodies. So why am I drawn to the recent debate provoked by Cancer Research UK’s latest campaign, “OB_S__Y is a cause of cancer”? What gives me the right to discuss this? Well, I’m training to be a PT and am planning on specialising in Diabetes and Obesity prevention, and I’m a health and lifestyle blogger – so I feel like this isn’t a discussion I should shy away from.

For those of you who are unaware of the campaign, I’ve linked the original tweet and video at the bottom of this post.

Following the release of this campaign, comedian Sofie Hagen took to Twitter to express her disgust and anger towards the damaging attitude and stereotypes she feels this campaign is reinforcing. Sofie’s main arguments against the campaign, and its approach, are coming from a place of concern about the effects it may have on the mental health of those who are obese; the ‘diet culture’ that is being perpetuated and encouraged; and the “fat hate” she believes society expresses.

It’s hard, because I really do see both sides of the coin. Yes – Cancer Research have obviously found quantifiable evidence to be able to make their claims. No – not all obesity (defined by BMI) is preventable, cancer-causing or unhealthy.

Of the 125 people that voted on my Twitter poll, 83% believed that the Cancer Research campaign was not fat-shaming. Unfortunately, I don’t know how many of those people are obese themselves. Speaking to people on Twitter was a helpful way for me to collate my thoughts. Through my PT qualification, I’ve learned a lot about the effects that obesity has on the body – in the same way that I’ve also learned about the effects of being malnourished / severely underweight. I couldn’t understand why this campaign was being viewed as fat-phobic, when a doctor telling someone of Asian decent that they’re more likely to get heart disease isn’t racist.

@OmgLalaLove really helped me to understand: “what can turn it into fat shaming is when doctors use people’s weight as an excuse for everything” and that’s when it clicked for me. I am CONSTANTLY being told by Doctors that every symptom I have is because of my mental health or my chronic illness. Headaches are ignored. Any sickness or stomach ache is ‘anxiety’.

I am no longer a patient to be treated, I am labelled as ill and any additional ailments are now tarnished with that ‘mental illness’ brush… and THIS is what ‘fat’ people are sick of. What if the reason why obesity is being seen as such a big cause of cancer is because we’re ignoring the symptoms and missing early detection opportunities?

In my opinion, yes, it’s important that Cancer Research UK provide us with these facts and obviously their campaigns have to be attention grabbing. But, it’s then up to them (and us) to then provide the support that those who are ‘at risk’ need. Simply telling someone that they’re obese and need to change is NOT HELPFUL. This can lead to mental health problems, especially eating disorders, far more damaging and likely than the cancer they’re trying to prevent. The information is out there now – good! It’s important to be informed. But a shock campaign is only going to produce a shock reaction – whereby obese people will starve themselves or try to lose weight quickly in unhealthy ways. Let’s all focus on being a little kinder – we need to provide better support and advice to those who want to lose weight, and more testing for those who don’t or are unable to. We have the facts. Let’s work together to change them.

 

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Ali Hemsley

Ali is a 24 year old lifestyle blogger. She combines her advocacy and awareness work for chronic illness and mental health with her love for fashion. You can follow Ali on social media @alihemsley

5 Comments

  1. March 5, 2018 / 8:26 pm

    I think this post is brilliant, it’s so honest. I agree that sometimes these campaigns could be a bit kinder and still manage to shock people but you never know how the response is going to be xxx

  2. March 5, 2018 / 10:13 pm

    I really like the fact that you chose to speak about this. I think it’s important to address things rather than be afraid of talking, that’s when things become tabu. Conversation and discussion is really important! This is a really good post and I think you make a lot of interesting points and statements and I agree with a lot of them. I can definitely relate to the mental health situation you address having everything be labelled under the same roof and missing out on important things. I got told for years and years I had a bad stomach because I was anxious and stressed and only a year ago did I finally have tests and found out I was a celiac!!
    I guess cancer research took a chance with their campaign and it is pretty provocative, but it’s also succeeded in getting people talking and it is an important topic to be spoken about. Never do I think people should be fat shamed or made to feel less worthy because of their BMI, however with there being so many negative health impacts from bad health and diet I also don’t believe normalisation of obesity is good either. Just like normalisation of being anorexic is just as bad – although for some reason doesn’t get hated on as much.
    Interesting read Ali, I’m glad you chose to write about it.

  3. March 5, 2018 / 10:36 pm

    This is so well written and I totally agree, rather than just saying someone is obese and needs to change, this is a chance to be kind and helpful xx
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  4. March 6, 2018 / 7:30 am

    This is such an amazing, well-written post! I believe that they are simply making people aware – no different to how they make people aware that smoking or alcohol is bad for you.

  5. March 6, 2018 / 1:12 pm

    This is a great post on the topics of this debate – I completely agree with you, I see can totally see why they’ve created this campaign to raise awareness of the issue but the public can often react badly to these situations and I’m sure it’s made it a lot more difficult for many out there who are being unnecessarily judged because the advertisement has only addressed a small part of the issue!

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