“I didn’t choose to be fat”: Anne-Sophie Joly wants to change our outlook on obesity

“I didn’t choose to be fat”: Anne-Sophie Joly wants to change our outlook on obesity

Despite its increase, obesity is still not recognized as a disease in its own right. Founder of the National Collective of Obese Associations, Anne-Sophie Joly tells us about her fight for better recognition of this pathology and against “fatphobia”.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of obese people has tripled since 1975. Today, one in six French people (17%) is affected by the disease. This development is all the more worrying because, despite its numerous health consequences, obesity is still not considered a disease in its own right. Anne-Sophie Joly, author of the book “I didn’t choose to be fat fights for more recognition and empathy.

A disease in its own right, contrary to popular belief

“Who would make fun of or judge a person who suffers from cancer or high blood pressure? No one!” underlines Anne-Sophie Joly in her book. However, many obese people face real stigma on a daily basis. “The remarks start at school, then continue at work and we even find them in the medical field. They are directly linked to the fact that obesity is not recognized as a disease in its own right” explains Anne-Sophie Joly.

In reality, this disease is caused by many factors and cannot be reduced to a lack of physical activity and too much calorie intake. Among them, genetics plays an important role: if one of his parents, a child has an increased risk of 40% of being the same. The increased risk increases to 80% if both parents are affected. On the other hand, physical and psychological trauma such as bereavement, separation or physical violence are events that can trigger obesity. Exposure to pesticides or consumption of ultra-processed products can also increase the risk of obesity.

Faced with this increase, how can we improve obesity prevention? According to Annge-Sophie Joly, the nutri-score should be made compulsory on all agri-food products and advertising for foods with calories should be eliminated. “vides” (Editor’s note: without interesting nutritional contribution): “The removal of these advertisements should primarily concern television channels where family programs are broadcast”.

The author pleads for prevention campaigns which must “target all age groups and explain more precisely the risks of the disease as well as the advantages of doing this or that activity for example”. But prevention cannot ignore the fight against “fatphobia”.

Fatphobia at school, at work… and at the doctor’s office

The expert emphasizes the too many preconceived ideas that fuel stigmatization on a daily basis: “People know little about obesity so they get stuck with ideas like “to lose weight you just need to go running”. Result: prejudices persist”.

“In the common unconscious, insulting someone who is fat is not shocking. As if fatphobia were not punishable by law,” regrets the founder of the National Collective of Obese Associations. At school, children easily make fun of their peers and bullying becomes commonplace. In the world of work, an obese person is unfortunately perceived as someone who lets themselves go, unreliable, cruelly lacking willpower and self-esteem. “With equal skills, we will prefer the non-obese person”denounces Anne-Sophie in her book.

The medical field is no exception, since “out of 8.5 million obese people in the world, 30% develop fear or disgust when faced with intolerant doctors and leave the health system without being treated”, explains the author. To this it must be added that “the equipment is too often unsuitable for the body shape of overweight people, making their access to care complicated”.

How to change the way we view obesity?

What are the best weapons against fatphobia? The author recommends priority actions:

  • More recognition: “Obesity must be recognized by the State as a disease in its own right and a public health priority”
  • More kindness: DEmpathy lessons must be taught at school from a very young age so that people “understand the disease and no longer stigmatize it”;
  • More diversity: “We need to include more body diversity in advertisements, films and in the fashion industry.” Testimonies from public figures as we can read in “I didn’t choose to be fat” also play their role in reminding people that obesity can affect everyone.

Beyond the fight against discrimination, care must also be improved.

NO to diets, YES to WW!

Launch a major Obesity Plan

For a long time, doctors saw a drastic diet as THE only solution to obesity. However, this method is rarely effective in the long term and can be particularly discouraging if you have a lot of weight to lose.

Taking an example from the fight against cancer, Anne-Sophie Joly wishes “implement the 10-year obesity plan, with the possibility of renewal; create an Obesity Institute to carry out basic research and epidemiology. A necessary investment in the face of this public health priority which would enable a multidisciplinary approach and care to be favored.

For more effective support, it is also essential to improve the training of caregivers. According to the author, “they have very little knowledge of the medical and pathological specificities of this disease, and in general, do not take care of it in its entirety (its history, its current situation, its risk factors, etc.)”.

The recent arrival of new drugs (GLP-1 anamogues) constitutes a real opportunity, offering patients more autonomy. Allowing a weight loss of 5 to 20%, these molecules nevertheless remain under close surveillance and their prescription will be rigorously supervised to avoid any deviation (especially since they are not devoid of undesirable effects).