Controversy has been sparked over a Cancer Research UK advert featuring what looks like a cigarette packet, and the words ‘Obesity is a cause of cancer too’. Is this fat-shaming? Many people have rallied against it, with petitions signed by over 11,000 people demanding that we hold Cancer Research UK accountable for their ‘damaging’ and ‘misleading’ campaign.

            However, obesity is a medical disease where, in general, the person’s BMI is over 30. Though there are arguments against the BMI system, such as muscle weighing more than fat, it was developed for the purposes of monitoring health, not shaming anyone.

            Obesity is the second biggest cause of cancer in the UK, and obesity does increase the risk of so many illnesses, medical complications, operational complications, etc. This is scientific fact, and therefore CRUK have every right to let people know that weight can be damaging to your health, just as smoking can, just as alcohol can.

            Understandably, people feel like they are being patronised. A woman on Radio Two spoke about the fact that she is fully aware of her weight, and the associated health risks, but that her diet is her choice, and that she should not be marginalised, or made to feel wrong, for her choices. Of course this is absolutely fair enough – we make choices every day, about what we do and don’t eat or drink, whether we decide to exercise or not, whether we are capable that day of exercise or not, and so on. I would argue that I enjoy food as much as smokers enjoy cigarettes, and if it is my choice to put my health at risk by eating far more than my daily needs, then that is my choice.

            Nevertheless, this does not mean that I should not be made aware of the risks I am taking. Just as we are educated on the health risks of smoking, of drugs, of alcohol, we should be educated on the health risks of over-eating. Because obesity does put you more at risk, health-wise, as does anorexia, and we have every right to have these risks told to us, and explained to us, so that everyone is aware of the ramifications of their decisions.

If you are happy with your weight, and your body, and your health, whilst entirely understanding what risks you may or may not be putting yourself at, then nobody can tell you otherwise. But what medical professionals can and must do, is equip us with the information to make us aware of the impacts of the choices we choose to make.