Obesity and the rights and responsibilities of obese people may just overtake gay and lesbian marriage as this year’s most politically charged, privacy-disrespecting, ignorance-propelled matter of public froth.
It’s a tough call, guessing which debate will win the hate race, I think, but obesity and the fate of obese people may just send us scratching deeper than ever to satisfy our itch for cruelty, that particular cruelty we heap on any group of people who don’t look, act, or think exactly like us, or like whoever’s holding the purse.
We’re so freaking tribal.
And we seem to have decided to form a tribe of overweight people, putting high opaque fences and a bit of razor wire between them and the rest of us. Well, they’re not what we call pretty. Well, they’re just awfully expensive to have around. Well, shoot, if they’d just exercise a little “personal responsibility.” No one made them eat the Big Mac. No one put a gun to their head and told them to Supersize it. No one said, no one did, no one created the environment, the economy, the work hours, the work style, the life that results in more of us being fat than ever before in human history. No one’s responsible, except for the fat person. Or kid.
Look, I stradle this fence. If you think it’s a comfortable position from which to rant, you’d be wrong. Sitting on razor wire isn’t my idea of a good time. I know how, equipped with the wrong metabolism, fatness just happens while you’re working hard, being a good citizen, living responsibly.
I also know that when a fat person “steps up to the plate,” as it were, decides he wants to lose weight, it’s time to change her life, his diet, her environment, there’s very little help. Very little support. Where’s the cheering? Pretty hard to find.
And if she finds support, it may be more expensive than she can afford. Healthy whole food is expensive. Medical professionals who understand nutrition and know how to help people lose weight are hard to find, and their services are dear. Unless our Personally Responsible Man is actually dying, or suffers a disease that will no longer allow him to work, his health insurance, if he has it, is not likely to help cover the cost of his treatment. So rich people may find a way to join the accepted tribe, poor people will not.
Want to go for a walk? You might in your neighborhood, but not all neighborhoods are walkable. Want to take the stairs instead of the elevator? Is the building well-lit, are the stairwells safe? Can public schools afford kitchens to teach kids how to cook whole foods? Or is wielding a paring knife in today’s classrooms a breach of school security? Is anyone teaching the single mom with two jobs and two kids how to prepare three nutritious meals a day for herself and her kids on a minimum-wage income? Does she have time to play with her kids? Are her kids safe to play on their own?
Shunning obese folks may be self-defeating, Sally. That extra five pounds you’re carrying this year can become 100 in 20 years, no problem. And then what tribe will you claim? When the diets stop working, your metabolism goes the way of your estrogen stores, sister? What flag will you hoist?
No, you don’t want to pay the medical bills associated with our national avoirdupois. And no heavy person wants to bear the illness that leads to the cost. A little time and money spent on research, education, preventative programs, safer neighborhoods would be a whole lot cheaper. A real whole lot cheaper.
Are we willing to spend a little to save ourselves? We would do it if it were US. Not THEM. Wouldn’t we?
Let’s take down the fences, friends. Let’s find a healthier, less stressful way to live, together. There are smart folks working on the problem all the time. Have a listen, make a donation, think a kind thought.