F. A. T. Fat.
The word “fat” is a three-letter Four Letter Word that begins with “F”, full stop – a three-letter F-Bomb, if you will. In a perfect world, it would only be used in reference to the anatomical tissue more accurately known as adipose tissue and to categorize the nutritional content of foods. Removing the three-letter F-Bomb from our vocabulary opens the gateway to healthier pets.
Using the three-letter F-Bomb to describe a pet immediately labels them, passes judgement, and potentially creates a source of shame for the pet’s owner. The current data indicates that 60% of our cats and dogs are overweight. Couple that with the cultural stigma surrounding obesity and we have a silent epidemic on our hands. Layering on negative messaging is not going to get us very far towards addressing it.
Obesity is a medical condition – a disease – that is caused by multiple factors including nutrition, exercise, and genetics, not to mention that it may occur secondary to other conditions or to treatment with certain medications. While the word “disease” is scary in itself, it also implies that there might be something that can be done; we may be able to treat, manage, prevent, or perhaps even cure that condition. In a convoluted way, the D-word gives hope.
This is most certainly the case for obesity. It’s treatable. It’s preventable. And, while many would agree that it can’t be cured, it can be managed – and effectively, at that. But first, obesity must be recognized, acknowledged, and accepted so the conversation can be had to make it better; referring to obesity as a disease makes addressing the topic that much easier. We would never say that “Fluffy is cancer” so let’s make a concerted effort to avoid saying “Fluffy is fat”. (And, while we’re at it, let’s even try to side-step the “Fluffy is obese” option.) If we make the deliberate choice to say “Minou has obesity” or “Rover is at risk for obesity” we open the door to conversations about treatment and prevention because we remove the stigma – and the barriers – simply with a turn of phrase.
Together, with a simple change in semantics, we can shift our focus to addressing the obesity epidemic and finding the healthier pet within. Can you remove the three-letter F-Bomb from your vocabulary?