There is a disturbing trend in social health movements to ignore medical realities in favor of mental wellness. That is, to pretend that a medical condition isn’t a threat because to acknowledge it may hurt someones feelings. I’m here to tell you that non-alcoholic steatohepatitis doesn’t care about your feelings; it will kill you all the same.
I’ve written previously about how critical it is to speak honestly about weight issues and how they relate to not only NASH but a slew of other preventable diseases. And how we must not only speak honestly but also fairly and with compassion, for it is a sensitive subject. However, as a recent event highlights, all too frequently the proponents of the body positive or fat acceptance movements argue from an extremist standpoint; that any suggestion that being overweight or obese is an actual problem is abusive targeted harassment.
The group Cancer Research UK released an awareness campaign linking obesity to cancer, and the award-winning Danish comedian Sofie Hagen took exception to it with a flurry of profanity-laced Tweets condemning the group and trying to get the advertising campaign cancelled. While she did briefly discuss how harmful societal stereotypes towards overweight people can be, her tirade also included a number of objectively false statements such as:
“Society viewing fatness as a negative thing is a thing that kills more than the cancer that you MIGHT get due to MAYBE something to do with you POSSIBLY weighing MORE than a CERTAIN weight POSSIBLY MAYBE”
Here she is seriously suggesting that more obese people die from the mental anguish associated with fat-shaming than from the actual medical diseases which result from obesity itself. While I absolutely agree that fat-shaming is awful and social stigmas are unhelpful and do contribute to mental illness and depression, we cannot ignore the facts.
According to the CDC, there are 13 cancers connected to obesity:
The exact impact of obesity on each of these cancers is still up for debate. But there is of course another deadly disease that is directly correlated with obesity in amuch stronger causational manner.
Unlike many other diseases NASH is almost entirely caused by the long-term effects of obesity. If caught early enough, it can also be nearly entirely reversed due to the regenerative nature of the liver. And you don’t need to rely on any special treatments or medicines to do so. You simply have to lose weight and lead a more healthy life.
It’s exactly that prescribed action that enrages so many people like Ms. Hagen. They feel that it assumes that they are intentionally leading an unhealthy life, through laziness or sloth. There are many challenges to managing weight and we should not unfairly stigmatize overweight people. But letting them drown out legitimate factual medical concerns is an even worse outcome. In the countless responses across the internet to this particular outrage, this one from a fellow overweight peer stood out the most to me:
Your denial gets to kill you. It shouldn’t kill — or defame — anyone else.