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Extra weight increases health risk in the long run. Fat shaming hurts now.

art 2 of a six-part USA TODAY series examining America’s obesity epidemic.

Tigress Osborn is fat, and she's OK with that.

What she's not OK with is how she and others with excess weight are treated as if they're lazy, stupid and sick.

"We consider fat a part of human body diversity," said Osborn, chair of the nonprofit National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

She insists on using the word "fat" rather than the more politically correct "person with obesity," which she believes characterizes people with extra pounds as abnormal or unhealthy.

Many of the problems people blame on obesity might instead be the fault of something else, she said.

Take COVID-19. Research found obesity played a role in 30% of severe cases of the disease. But, Osborn suggested, what if the story is really that fat people waited too long to seek medical care because they're so used to being poorly treated by the health care system? Or maybe fat people who exercise or follow a certain diet have a different risk profile, but the message is just "all fat people are at risk."

"It's impossible for us to know whether some of the things that are blamed on fat are caused by weight stigma or other forms of oppression," she said, citing anti-poverty bias and racism.

Every facet of society – including the medical community – has failed fat people, Osborn and others said.

(Photo: Ted Kyle)


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