>> Sunday, September 13, 2009
*Steps on the soapbox*
One of the side conversations I note during any discussion on health care is the villification of fat people. *Sigh*
Alcoholics, smokers, people with stupid (and/or) dangerous sexual habits, people with poor eating habits (which may not be reflected in appearance), exercise habits (which may not be reflected in appearance), people exposed to unhealthy environments, and people who are dangerously thin (and yes, that is possible) - none of them are called out as the scapegoats for the healthcare crisis.
It's the fat people.
True, obesity is prevalent and prevalent to a degree not seen in the past. And it can be a factor in a number of diseases - but to talk about the amount of money spent on obesity is misleading since much of it is spent - millions, even billions - on people trying not to be fat. But to listen/read the blogs and news now, ONLY fat people get heart disease or diabetes or any other major cause of death or disease.
It might be noted that people lump those who are obese, morbidly obese and being overweight in the same pot, even though the repercussions and issues are not the same. In fact, I'm not sure we have clinical evidence that being overweight alone threatens your health.
You want to know what I think (and you ought to or you shouldn't be reading this), one reason obesity is being singled out as THE factor, the cause of ALL of the growth in healthcare costs, is because people can judge someone by appearance. Just a glance and one can smugly judge, calmly blame all the struggles and pain of healthcare issues on an individual. And, since everyone assumes it's a lifestyle choice, they are comfortable in thinking fat people get what's coming to them or are bringing the rest of the country down.
I don't get that. I'd never take it upon myself to judge a smoker, what kind of person they must be to take up the habit or continue it. How would I know how that happened or why they haven't overcome it? Or a drinker? Or a prostitute? I've never walked in their shoes. How do I know what I might have done if faced with the same choices? As long as they don't endanger others with their behaviors, such as drinking and driving or continuing with unprotected sex even if HIV positive, it's not any of my business what they do to themselves. As for health issues, there are plenty of people who suffer the consequences of life-threatening diseases without doing anything "wrong" and many who do nothing right and yet remain healthy.
Yet, few hesitate to judge a fat person. One glance and one assumes they know the eating habits, exercise habits, reasons they're fat, everything they need to know about someone. Just a little effort and it could all be undone. Is it true in some cases? You bet. Just like some people kick the cigarette easily.
For many others, overcoming obesity can involve years of constant diligence, tiny meals, exercise and sacrifice - even life-altering surgery.
But people would rather judge. Now, most will admit that there are some people fat through circumstance beyond their control - but those same will be quick to admit that that doesn't apply to the vast majority of obese individuals. All well and good, even if undoing it is almost universally challenging.
Can you tell which one's which by looking?
And that, boys and girls, is the problem with prejudice. Prejudice is all about deciding what a person is by their appearance, whether it's having dark skin, wearing a burka, or being fat, instead of who they are. I'm far from convinced that the obsession with weight is a healthier thing than the obesity problem - I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. Most of the fat people I know are quite aware of the problem and have already taken steps, even repeatedly, to try to eradicate it. Telling us we're losers hardly fixes anything. And treating people based on what they are rather than who they are, hating them (as fat people still are even in our otherwise politically correct world) though they hurt no one else, well... that's a step that historically has always lead to bad things.
In the end, in my opinion, judging someone by their appearance alone says a great deal more about what kind of person the one judging is than it says the person being judged. And healthcare's issues are bigger (if you'll forgive the expression) than weight control.
*Steps off soapbox*
I've decided to limit my rants to once a week and Sunday is often a good day for this sort of thing, so I'm making it a new feature. I expect I'll be getting a lot of flack on these topics. That's OK. If you've really considered something, disagreeing is fine. But I think, far too often, people react in a kneejerk way, insensitive to the effect on others.