Let’s say you were carrying a few extra pounds - would you rather be labeled “obese” or “fat”? City officials in Liverpool, England, evidently prefer the latter and are considering banning the word obesity from all official communications.
It’s all because they feel that the word obese is too offensive, especially when it comes to kids. Officials at Liverpool’s town hall would rather use the term “unhealthy weight” because it doesn’t stigmatize overweight children as much. “[It] is more positive and a better way to promote it,” Jeff Dunn of Liverpool Schools Parliament told the UK’s Telegraph. “The term ‘obese’ would turn people off, particularly young people.”
“The idea is that obesity has a negative connotation behind it,” he added.
He’s got that right - obesity does have negative connotations, but that’s just because it kills people. So when it comes to saving a child from a lifetime of poor health that can include serious issues like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and early death, should officials really be wasting valuable resources worrying about semantics?
Tam Fry of the obesity prevention charity the Child Growth Foundation certainly doesn’t think so. “I can see where the children are coming from and the word carries a stigmatization but unfortunately sometimes schoolchildren have to be taught the realities of life,” he told the Daily Mail. “If you have a problem, particularly when it’s as serious as this, it needs addressing.”
Some parents argue that the stigmatization that comes with the word “obesity” is a good thing where children are concerned because it keeps them from accepting excessive weight as normal. But proponents of the idea feel that being stigmatized is unmotivating to young minds and only damages their self-esteem, which could lead to more unhealthy behaviors.
It’s not certain whether the change will go through - the proposal will be considered over the next few months -
but a spokesperson for the Liverpool city council insisted there would only be a subtle difference if it did. “We can’t change government terminology or clinicians’ terminology, but we can look at changing how we communicate weight issues in council reports and in our communications with children,” the spokesman told BBC News. Still, it seems they should spend less time debating the wording of their anti-obesity campaigns and more time actually doing something about the problem.
Having an unhealthy weight doesn’t have to be a life sentence - daily exercise can help youngsters beat their fat genes.
by Martha Edwards