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Is it possible to eat chicken nuggets and French fries every day and still be skinny? Apparently, yes. But it might also eventually kill you. This is what 17-year-old British teen Stacy Irvine learned after collapsing at work. Irvine was brought to the hospital and diagnosed with anemia, breathing problems and swollen veins in the tongue -- all likely caused by her diet of “practically nothing” but chicken nuggets and French fries since the age of two. The big news story, however, was not so much that a nugget/fry diet could be detrimental to your health, but that Irvine is thin. Almost every article written about the case has mentioned her being at a “healthy weight” -- as if it were okay that nobody bothered to intervene on her atrocious eating habits because she was skinny.
When it comes to confusing weight with health we have gone a long way down a bad road. BMI, a simple ratio of height and weight, was initially developed as a statistical tool to look at relative sizes among large populations. Now it is incorrectly used to judge health in individuals, and that has lead to the mistaken belief that thin people are automatically healthy and fat people are automatically unhealthy, despite the demonstrable fact that there are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin ones.
When we confuse weight and health we cause problems for everyone. We give fat people the mistaken information that healthy habits don’t make us healthy unless they also make us thin, and we give thin people (like Irvine) the mistaken information that their weight makes them healthy regardless of their habits.
It’s time to have a true discussion about health and the way to do that is to once and for all remove weight from the conversation and focus on education and access to healthy options. The truth is that unhealthy habits can lead to poor health in people of any size. It’s a shame that just because Irvine’s unhealthy diet didn’t make her fat, it took a fainting spell for somebody to notice that it was making her unhealthy.
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