Too fat for the comments box
This began as a response to a comment (rather an unnecessarily sarcastic and reactionary response, I thought, but
Why aren't you addressing the causes? Buddha-belly was right to point out that these are multivalent, not to mention supremely important in considering whether we can treat obesity as a disease with a moral component. Which is really what NAAFA is about in the first place.
I'm constantly struck by people's inability to be moderate on this issue. Fat activists totally ignore evidence that being fat can be very unhealthy, or that some people really are fat because they eat too much and don't exercise enough; people decrying the obesity epidemic tend to ignore socioeconomic and non-habit-based causes, and downplay evidence that being fat doesn't have to be unhealthy. The underlying problem in both cases is the unwillingness to differentiate on the basis of cause.
There are several problems with NAAFA's approach, as you say. For one thing, if you refuse to accept that many people are obese because of bad eating and exercising habits, you blithely allow them to pass these habits on to their kids, and that's not acceptable behavior for a supposedly activist group. It's one thing to fight for people's self-respect, but quite another to endanger children. In general, NAAFA conveniently ignores the fact that just because obesity isn't necessarily unhealthy doesn't mean it can't be unhealthy. The NAAFA activists are so terrified of making fat into a blame issue that they resist the existence of obesity-related health problems, which as you point out is extremely dangerous.
But while they ignore a great deal of pertinent information, a lot of their assertions are not wrong, and that's not coming through here. You admit that yo-yo dieting is unhealthy; eating disorders haven't been mentioned, but I doubt anyone would classify them as salutary. Fat people are ridiculed, and their health problems ignored or sidelined -- I've had heavy friends go to the doctor with acute infections, and have to wait for treatment until after they'd had a diabetes test. (Anecdotal, I know, but I'm sure I could dig up studies on the phenomenon -- it's widespread.) There are serious consequences, psychological and physiological, to the exaggerated societal attitude towards fat -- and it is exaggerated, beyond what is reasonable for something potentially caused by unhealthy habits. We don't see people making nasty jokes about the employability or attractiveness of folks with emphysema, just because they were probably smokers; it's inappropriate to brook nasty jokes about fat people simply because they might be gluttons.
And I say "might," because obesity is not infrequently caused not by habits but by genetics, slowed metabolism, hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism, antidepressants or other medication, and potentially gut flora imbalances and adenoviruses. For people who are heavy at an early age, these disorders can actually be the result of the very real psychological consequences of anti-fat sentiment -- eating disorders, for instance, can significantly slow metabolism, and childhood and adolescent misery can require the prescription of weight-boosting antidepressants. NAAFA is wrong to ignore the contribution of bad habits to obesity, and its potential health repercussions; we would also be wrong to ignore the possible irrelevance of bad habits to obesity, and its potential health-related causes.
And neither of these positions acknowledges the socioeconomic underpinnings of the obesity epidemic, which are habit-based and health-endangering but not due to greed or indolence. Although fast-food companies -- in the wake of one of those lawsuits you present as so frivolous -- are offering less detrimental options, the fact remains that healthy food is expensive, and time for exercise is a luxury many can't afford. If you work two sedentary jobs and can't afford not to eat at McDonald's, you'll get fat. NAAFA's position will do you no good in that case -- you should be exercising, and you are at a health risk, and it's dangerous to pretend you aren't -- but neither will an unwillingness to treat obesity as anything but a moral failing. In fact, I'm willing to throw my lot in with NAAFA to this degree: we should never treat obesity as a moral failing. Where NAAFA goes wrong is in imagining that this means we shouldn't treat it as a genuine health risk.