The New Agenda

You can’t go a few days without the word “ob*sity epidemic” hitting the headlines nowadays. In my opinion, you’ve got to ask yourself whether there is some kind of hidden agenda at play. Whether it is a new paper that has been published or one of the many ob*sity organisations releasing a new statement, the mainstream media is hungry for news about fat folk (pun intended).

Over the years, we’ve gotten used to the standard way it has been reported. If it’s a newspaper article, there’s usually a picture of a headless flabby torso or a fat kid eating a burger. If it’s a video, there is the standard footage taken at a shopping mall or the equivalent. Just lots and lots of fat people in casual clothes with bagfuls of shopping wondering around aimlessly.

They say a picture can say a thousand words, and in this case those images tell us one thing. Fat people are lazy, greedy and a burden on society. All they do is eat and shop and sit on their arse all day watching daytime TV. News outlets never show images of fat women in power suits chairing a meeting in a boardroom. Or fat doctors saving lives or fat teachers educating the next generation. In fact one study found that only 11 percent of large people depicted in news reports were wearing professional clothing and nearly 60 percent were headless torsos. 

What does that say about our society? Most reporters are so disgusted by fat folk that they can’t even bare to look at our faces. So they cut our heads out of the picture. They want the world to see us the way they do – as anonymous, faceless blobs of fat. But lately I’ve noticed that the narrative is changing.

Change is coming

Take this article published by the BBC this week. Not only does it contain beautiful photos of a woman in a larger body, but she is actually the main feature of the article. Or at least she appears to be at first glance. Imagine that! For one of the the first times ever, a mainstream media outlet is talking about the o-word in an empathetic and factually correct way.

And you’d think I would be rejoicing about this. But I’m not. Because I’m able to read between the lines and I am confident that this shift in the narrative is simply part of a much bigger plan. A hidden agenda. One that has been orchestrated by a handful of large multi-billion dollar corporations that have been in control of said narrative for the better part of a century. Prepare yourself folks. We’re about to dive in to the deep end.

The new agenda

As is the case with any article, the first few sentences give us an idea of the main agenda. The article by the Beeb starts like this:

Specialist health professionals say it is time for ob*sity to be regarded as an illness caused by genetics, biology and how we live today.

New research adds to growing scientific opinion that “healthy ob*sity” does not exist. The findings show those who are significantly ov*erweight have a 66% higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease, compared with those of a normal weight.

Many people with ob*sity say not only do they have to live with prejudice and stigma, but they struggle to find treatment.

Living with obesity: The people who are hard-wired to store fat (BBC)

So what’s on the agenda today folks? Well, it’s obvious. Somebody, somewhere wants to make it very clear that being fat is an illness and that it is not possible to be fat and healthy. If you’re wondering who that somebody is, we’ll get to that. First lets pick out a few key phrases. Notice the term “scientific opinion”? Well opinions aren’t the same as facts. And the reason we can’t call them scientific facts is because there is a whole heap of evidence to show that you can be healthy at any size. So it’s an opinion, and we’d do well to remember that opinions can be bought.

Who said what now?

The second thing I wanna point out is the term “specialist health professionals” that the authors of the article keep referring to. Exactly which specialists are they referring to? Could it be Shaw Somers, the doctor who features quite heavily in this article? I recently spoke alongside Shaw at a speaking event. He clearly cares very much for his patients.

But let’s not forget for one second that he is a bariatric surgeon. A bariatric surgeon with a thriving private practice. So whether or not he is a good guy is irrelevant here. What we need to remember is that Shaw gets paid a lot of money to “treat ob*sity”. Or fix fat people. Call it what you like, I am not sure we can trust his specialist opinion to not be biased.

I’d also be willing to bet that the BBC didn’t bother to ask any specialists who believe that you can be healthy at any size. Why bother with that kind of professional journalism when it comes to this topic? Everyone knows that being fat is bad for you, so why bother to do your due diligence?

Moving on

To begin with, we are introduced to Sarah. She is described as a “39-year-old mum [with] a Body Mass Index, or BMI, of over 40, which means she is medically classified as having “severe ob*sity” and is overweight enough for her health to be at risk”. Two things you need to pay attention to here. Firstly, what exactly to do they mean when they say she is “overweight enough for her health to be at risk”? I mean, that is a pretty broad statement to make and the jury is still out as to whether there is ANY evidence that this is the case.

Secondly, we aren’t told whether Sarah’s weight has impacted her health. Have you ever noticed that fat folk are always the ones being singled out as being high risk even though there are often groups of people who are much higher risk than they are? Take cardiovascular disease. It is well established that a number of factors including being male, having a history of rheumatoid arthritis and taking viagra cause more of a risk than being fat. Yet, we never talk about how men who can’t get erections are at high risk of having a heart attack. The same goes for professional athletes. They are more likely to develop arthritis of the knee from a previous sports injury than a healthy fat person, and yet we never moan at football players for being a drain on the country’s resources.

Finally, some truths

Anyway, I digress. In spite of it’s rocky start, this article does try to deal with the issues faced by people in larger bodies in a neutral and balanced way. It talks about society’s prejudices, weight stigma in the doctor’s office and the fact that diets fail most of the time. We learn about Sarah’s weight cycling, her massive weight loss which was followed by steady weight gain, her successful triathlon training (because being a successful athlete makes her far more empathetic in the eyes of the public) and her genetic mutations. The pictures of Sarah are flattering, and many readers will be no doubt shocked to hear about the type of stigma she has faced in her lifetime.

Whilst “too many takeaways” continue to be blamed for weight gain, according to Sarah’s friend Jed who lives on the same estate as her, the article also talks about how futile caloric deficits are for the majority of fat folk. Dr Abd Tahrani states that “there are a lot of people who are biologically pre-designed to conserve energy, which is stored as fat”. He describes how the brain floods the body with hunger messages that are essentially impossible to ignore. The articles goes on to say:

So even if the person successfully loses several stone by dieting, their body remembers its baseline weight and strives to return to it.

Studies from GP records in the UK showed that the annual chance of achieving normal weight in people with m*rbid ob*sity is one-in-700 to one-in-1,000.

Long term weight loss is a paradox

If you’ve read any of my more recent blog posts, you are probably already aware of this. If not, check out the FAQ section of this webiste. Suffice it to say, it is essentially impossible for someone like me to obtain a so-called “healthy BMI” and even if I were to achieve it, my body is programmed to gain it back. In fact, we’ve known for the past 50 years that even the smallest percentage of weight loss leads to a significant reduction in our basal metabolic rate. Human beings are not designed to lose weight. Millenia of evolution has made sure of that.

Yes, the average weight of the nation has risen steadily over the years and will continues to do so, but that is due to factors out of the individual’s control. In short, there is nothing you can do to stop yourself from being fat. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your health is at risk. In fact, over the same period of time that the average weight of the population has increased, the average life expectancy has increased too. Why? Because it is perfectly possible to be fat and healthy. But no one wants you to think that.

Why? Well, read on to find out.

The Hidden Agenda

A third of the way into the BBC article, the tone changes. We are told that “ob*sity is an illness”. We are told that a recent study published in the American Journal of Kidney Disease demonstrates that “people living with ob*sity have a 66% higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease than those with normal body weight”.

Naturally, I have taken a long hard look look at that study and would like to spend a few minutes explaining its limitations. You don’t actually have to look very far because it’s written in to the abstract. The authors themselves admit that there are “potential misclassification of metabolic status due to delayed diagnosis and residual confounding due to unmeasured factors”. Now many of of you may be scratching your heads and wondering what on earth that means. So I’m gonna try and explain it as best as I can.

Just what are they testing for?

To start with, the data collected was from GP records which are notoriously inaccurate. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is picked up during a routine blood test. The problem is that GPs only do blood tests for two reasons. One is that you’ve come to see us with symptoms and we order some investigations. The other more common one is a medication or annual health review. We regularly request routine kidney function tests in patients with metabolic conditions (such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol) as well as anyone else we deem high risk of these metabolic conditions (ie. fat folk).

You know who isn’t usually deemed high risk of illness? Thin people.

I was talking to my friend Ragen Chastain about this article on the day it came out, and we agree that this might explain the glaringly obvious issues with the results. You see, in patients with one or two metabolic conditions, the incidence of CKD in the “ob*se” group was lower than the normal weight group. It was only in the group with zero metabolic conditions that the incidence was higher. And why is that? Because, on average, thin people without any metabolic conditions are not getting tested as often as fat folk are. And that will have clearly swayed the results.

Did they account for this in their work? Nope.

It’s all very confounding

The other glaringly obvious issue with this study is all the really important factors that the study failed to adjust for. When you design a study, you need to think of all the potential factors that might bias your results. For example, lets say you were doing a study that looked at the potential link between chronic cough and a lung cancer diagnosis. What factors can you think of that might cause a chronic cough but might also cause lung cancer? Well, smoking is the obvious one right? We call this a confounding factor. If you don’t adjust for smoking, then you are pretty much guaranteed to find way more smokers in the chronic cough group, and that will alter the results. We call this a confounding factor.

So what kind of confounding factors should the authors of this particular study adjust for? Well I can think of a few. Chronic dieting (in this case I would be interested on patients who are on the keto diet as this might impact kidney function). Weight cycling is an obvious one because we know that this does untold damage to the body. What about delayed presentation? We know that weight stigma on the part of health professionals leads to avoidance of the medical profession. Surely they should have taken this in to consideration, right?

Wrong. The only thing they adjusted for was age, sex, ethnicity, self-reported smoking status and social deprivation. Which is pretty much standard for pretty much every epidemiological study that links fatness to another illness. They always fail to take into consideration the really important stuff that we know will make a difference to their numbers. And that begs the question why?

False claims sway the narrative

Why do research papers in ob*sity fail to meet the basic standards that the scientific community expects in other areas of medicine? Is it because the researchers don’t know any better? Maybe. Is it because it is too difficult to adjust for these factors? Quite possibly. And if either of these are the case, then I’m not judging. However, they are clearly too flawed and limited to provide us with any real evidence to help form an opinion. In other words they are pretty useless.

But I’ll tell you one thing. This particularly study most certainly does not support the outrageous claim made by it’s lead author Professor Indranil Dasgupta. He told the BBC that it “adds to a growing body of scientific research which has found that healthy obesity does not exist”. Um, excuse me? It most certainly does not support that false claim. Why would such a knowledgeable professor of medicine lie like that? Was he simply mistaken, or was there a darker hidden reason?

Who is behind it all?

Prior to reading this article by the BBC, I read an incredible essay by Marquisele Mercedes who is doing her PHD at Brown University in fat studies. It is flipping awesome and I thoroughly recommend you read it. It highlights the way in which large corporations, in this case a large pharmaceutical company, control the nation’s agenda when it comes to fat related issues. The company in question is Novo Nordisk, and you might have heard me mention them a time or two.

For those that don’t know, Novo Nordisk manafactures two drugs that have been licensed to treat weight loss in the USA. The first is Liraglutide (Saxenda) and the second, which has just received it’s licence, is Semaglutide (Wegovy). Both of these drugs are GLP1 analgoues, which have been used for many years to treat diabetes (where they are known as Victoza and Ozempic respectively). One of their side effects is appetite suppression and weight loss. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Semaglutide produced a 15% loss in body weight over the first year.

It has been heralded as the new miracle cure of ob*sity.

Of course, we have no idea whether or not the weight loss is sustainable in the long term. Just like with bariatric surgery, long term studies may show weight creeping back over time. More importantly, it is already pretty clear that the moment patients stop Wegovy, they put the weight straight back on. Which means they will be dependent on the drug for life. Also, do we know about the long-term consequences, such as the potential for pancreatic cancer? No folks, we don’t. The study was only for a year and the drug is relatively new.

The ugly truth

So we know that Wegovy is a drug that is licenced for use in otherwise healthy people for the specific purpose of treating fatness and nothing else. There is no evidence that it will improve health outcomes in any way. And before anyone asks, losing weight does not guarantee that your health will improve. In fact there is little to no evidence to support this at all. Not only that, but people will become dependent on it for life and there are potentially serious long term risks that we don’t know enough about.

What does this tell us about Novo Nordisk? Well first of all, they are on the brink of a huge payout. Remember what happened when the manafacturers of Sildenafil figured out that their new blood pressure medication caused men to get erections? Um, hello Viagra! What Viagra did for Pfizer, Wegovy will do for Novo Nordisk. Only it will be a much bigger payout because there are more fat folk out there in the world than there are men with erectile dysfunction.

Second of all, Novo Nordisk don’t really give a damn about how their new drug might harm people down the line.

Wait, what’s this? A drug company that chooses profit over human life? Surely not! It’s not like that has ever happened before. And certainly not to a reputable drug company like Novo. Oh no wait a second. There are currently hundreds of lawsuits being filed across the USA against Novo Nordisk for “failure to warn” allegations. Specifically, they failed to warn doctors and patients that Victoza increased the risk of pancreatic cancer. And whilst the Saxenda lawsuits haven’t really gotten off the ground yet, they will. It is the same drug afterall.

Profit over human life

Novo Nordisk knew about the potential risk of pancreatic cancer from Liraglutide back in 2009. Yet they gained approval from the FDA for it to be used as a weight loss drug in December 2014. They went on to receive approval for it be licenced for weight loss in adolscents aged 12-17 in December 2020. You see, they know full well that the cost of settling those lawsuits won’t put a big enough dent in their profit margin to make much of an impact. And if a few people die as a result? Well that’s not their problem.

You may be asking yourself, what has this got to do with the BBC article? It’s simple. The narrative is changing. The article gives us a glimpse into our future. Once upon a time, fatness was frowned upon. The weight loss industry didn’t need to try very hard to make a profit because everyone wanted to lose weight. Companies like WW controlled the narrative for decades, and convinced the world that all you had to do was eat less and exercise more, ideally by following their specially formulated plan that you could not possibly live without.

But then the drug companies and doctors/surgeons got greedy and wanted a piece of the action. But how do you persuade people to amputate part of their stomach or start taking a very expensive drug that they will need to remain on for life? Simple. You have to convince the world that being fat is a disease that needs curing. Anything less renders the risk not worth taking. I mean, cutting out carbs is one thing. Major surgery is a whole different ball game.

Your opinion has been bought and paid for

So over the last few decades, fatness went from being a “condition” to a “disease” to an “epidemic” to a “global pandemic”. The government has waged a “war on ob*sity”. S**t got serious folks.

All of a sudden, a once weekly injection doesn’t look so bad anymore. Just look at the BBC article and how it reads. It’s no longer our fault that we’re fat. There’s no way we can fix it on our own. No, we need Shaw Somers to come along and amputate parts of our anatomy. Can’t get it on the NHS because there are too many loopholes to go through? Don’t worry. You can pay for it privately. Yes, it will set us back upwards of 10k, but what choice do we have?

Professor Indranil Dasgupta said it himself. It is not possible to be fat and healthy. It doesn’t matter that he lied. People have already been programmed to believe that this is the case, so chances are they will never question it. The media will print it. The public will believe it. And doctors like me won’t bother to look beyond the headlines. So what if Professor Dasgupta is the co-chair of the Association of British Clinical Diaebtologists, who just happen to be sponsored by none other than Novo Nordisk. What has that got to do with anything?

Do you want my advice?

Next time you see an article in the paper about ob*sity, don’t read it. Instead, look for the names of the people and the organisations that the article is quoting. Then google them. Check out who they work for and who sponsors them. If a new study is mentioned, click on the link and look at who funded the study and whether the authors declared any conflicts of interest. Look for companies like WW and Novo Nordisk.

And soon you too will begin to realise that there is one simple reason why fat folk aren’t allowed to live in peace and get on with their own lives. Corporate greed.

Now there’s a surprise!

3 thoughts on “The New Agenda”

  1. Claire Shields

    Thank you for writing this Natasha! How the hell is it not possible to be fat and healthy? I have friends who live in larger bodies and they don’t suffer with any health conditions or ailments. My mother and grandmother have been larger women their whole lives and are the same. So this article is basically saying that if you’re fat you’re automatically sick, even if there’s nothing wrong with your health? The only thing fat people are suffering from is an oppressive and fat-phobic society.

  2. Natasha, my mind is well and truly blown. As always, your articles are so very well written and so so informative. I am incensed! It makes me so very angry that all my life I’ve been made to feel like a worthless individual who is going to die early because I’m fat, lazy and weak. Now my eyes are opening I am beyond angry that all of that was to line the pockets of the greedy pharmaceutical companies and those on their payroll. For my daughters sake, I will not allow her to be exposed to this disgusting b*llsh*t and go through the same. Thank you as always

  3. Conflict of interest in obes*ty research is a monster that needs a lot of investigative journalism itself. People piss off food industries for breaking the integrity of nutritional science, but when the weight loss industry does the same thing, few people find it unacceptable. This double standard is actively harming people.

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