The word we will be addressing today is a versatile one. It is used on playgrounds and in comedy clubs to get an immediate emotional reaction, whether laughter or tears. Dieticians and nutritionists argue its value or worthlessness. It is further broken down into "good" and "bad" versions. Its presence is lauded in certain cuts of meat and denigrated in the human form.
The word I am referring to, of course, is "fat".
So, what the heck IS fat, anyway? I mean, like, scientifically?
Despite what many trainers and late-night infomercials would like you to believe, fat is NOT actually a poison, out to wreck your health and your life. It is actually one of the three "macronutrients" that your body needs to survive (the other two being carbohydrates and protein.) Did you follow that? Needs to survive. Your body is specifically designed to run on a fuel mixture that includes fat.
So, why no love for fat as a concept, then? Mainly because of what fat is designed to do - act as an alternative energy source for our bodies during periods where we can't get enough carbs or protein. When we were wandering from place to place looking for our next meal of carrion and berries or whatever, this was a good thing - the body's fat reserves kept us going until we found our next source of balanced nutrition.
Nowadays, the nearest source of nutrition is the refrigerator. But no one has told the regulator in our brains that we probably don't need to be storing quite as much fat to make it between meals. Add that to our tendency to overeat and under-exercise, and you have our sudden upswing in obesity, heart problems, high blood pressure, and the like.
Not to mention "fat kid" jokes.
The use of the term "fat" as an insult has reached epic proportions these days. Even I tend to use it on these pages in a negative manner, usually referring to myself. But, the fact of the matter is, the body is doing what is was designed to do: store fuel for use later, as an alternative power source. The fact that our society has turned "rail-thin" into the only desirable body standard means that our biological processes are working against our self-image. It is an ugly, ugly situation.
So, what can we do? Start calling things by their proper names, to start with. "Fat" is not a description - it is a nutrient. Obesity, the storage of unhealthy amounts of fat on the human body, is a medical condition, not a source of material for your stand-up routine. Try making fun of people with breast cancer or stroke victims and see how well that does with your target audience. Obesity is the same thing - an illness, a malfunctioning of the body's natural processes.
For my part, I will endeavor to do the same thing - stop using the term "fat" to refer to myself or my condition. Change begins with ourselves, right? For everyone else, do what you can to set the record straight. Encourage those you know who are suffering from obesity to get help. Refuse to engage in banter abut the personal appearance of others. Teach your children that "fat" is not something that others should be shamed for. We should all do what we can, to convert the 3-letter word back to its appropriate usage, and away from the misleading and abusive form that is has taken. Only when we can take control of the concept again can we begin to re-define the issue.
Self-Correcting Behavior Is Hard,