Friday, April 2, 2010

Came across this article in the NY times today and I have to say I have some real problems with some of it. The basic point of the article seems to be that we as a society are unfairly treating overweight people as if the fa=ct that they are overweight is their own fault and we should not be doing that. The author says "I’ve sat in meetings with colleagues who wouldn’t dream of disparaging anyone’s color, sex, economic status or general attractiveness, yet feel free to comment witheringly on a person’s weight." Well I am sorry but the only one of these other things that is even close to analogous is the economic status one. To somehow compare someone being overweight to them being Black or Hispanic or female or even ugly is ridiculous.

I don't totally disagree with the writer and I try to give people the benefit of the doubt in most cases but when I see some grossly obese person ordering a burger with a diet coke it doesn't exactly make me think they are not responsible. I also see every day at my work overweight people taking the elevator up the 3 floors to our offices instead of the stairs that I am taking, I had a woman at one office that would not take the stairs up one floor and would sit there and wait for the elevator. We also have a shuttle bus at my work to take you between buildings and the same overweight people consistently take it as opposed to walking the 500 yards to the building they are going to so I am sorry but I don't feel as if they are somehow not responsible for their situation.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing in this article is the assertion by the author that somehow the stress caused by peoples "lack of understanding" is somehow to blame for the health problems associated with being overweight. "Over time, such chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and other medical ills, many of them (surprise!) associated with obesity." Give me a break! I understand that we are not all genetically wired to be really thin but we also are all responsible for our own lives and our own health and more importantly for setting a good example for our kids as far as healthy eating and exercise. If you are comfortable being a few pounds overweight I think that is fine as long as you generally eat healthy and remain active but there is no such thing as a healthy obese person, sorry. All it takes is for you to lose the weight and feel how much less stressed your heart and lungs are walking up and down steps to realize that even a 30 pound difference, what I was carrying around, is huge and can really stress your system.

The problem is people don't want to hear that it is real hard work, like an hour or more a day of pretty high intensity exercise, to really get yourself in shape. Once you get there you can usually maintain with less than this but it is very hard work to lose the weight once you have put it on. This makes perfect sense if you consider the kind of lifestyle we lead today compared with what it would have been through most of our evolution. We evolved to work best with lots of exercise and today we spend most of our time siting on our fat asses eating junk and we wonder why we are getting fatter. Get up and get moving and start eating right. Take control of those portion sizes and skip the junk, that includes diet soda. But whatever you do don't try to say that me not understanding your weight is somehow the reason for the health problems you are having or are going to have because that is just a cop out.


  1. While I agree that there is a certain level of personal responsibility involved in this, you have to realize that it goes way, way, way beyond this. Bring economic status, education, marketing, eating disorders, etc. into it and you've got a can of worms that 1 NYT article simply cannot cover and frankly it's not fair to try to cover this issue with a newspaper article. Also saying someone simply needs to exercise 1 hour a day and eat right in order to overcome this isn't fair.

  2. Eating disorders are something entirely different. Marketing is not an excuse so forget about that one that is more of the blame some one else crap. Economics and education are real issues which is part of why I say we have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to our kids to set the right kinds of examples on this which can at least help with the education piece if not the economic one. I do not believe that just exercising for an hour a day will do it for everyone, or even anyone, but I do believe that doing that in conjunction with eating right will and that is what I said. exercising alone will not help that is the bottom line. As I said you may be preprogrammed to be a little larger than me and that is fine if you are comfortable with it eat well and exercise but there is no way you will ever convince me that I that anyone is genetically set up to be obese or morbidly obese. If you think that saying eat right and exercise an hour a day intensely is unfair we are just going to have to disagree because that is what it takes. Who is that unfair to? I don't have the time I would like to do it but I make the time by getting up earlier or going to be later.

  3. I am an Australian who lives in Japan, and I just spent a week in Hawaii. Fat people everywhere. Fat kids! These poor kids. Every second add on TV is selling burgers or chips or candy, or pills that do this or stop that. Exercise programs that actually say stuff like "You don't have to do anything!" It is shocking what has happened in your country, and what is/will inevitably happen in mine (America is a corporate labratory). I order kid's meals and small drinks, and it's more than I can handle. I saw the P90X infomercial, and it says if you work hard, eat right, you will lose weight and get results. Absolutely. When I see a fat person, not a person carrying a few extra pounds, but a really fat person, I see a reckless fool.

  4. Hi Scott,

    You know, I agree with most of what you say. It is on every single individual to make the changes necessary for a healthy life. And when that obese person sits and complains, it really falls squarely on their shoulders for not doing anything.

    However I see obesity as more of an illness, not a foolishness or reckless endangerment. It is an illness like smoking or drinking or drug abuse. It's food abuse.

    And going on a diet or an exercise program is simply a mask to hide the real issues of why people abuse food. Obese people have many problems, not just related to health that they need to work out. There are layers to every human being and these layers all dictate what we look like on the outside. The experiences of sexual abuse, a death in the family or a traumatic experience in High School are all things that start us off on that negative journey. Some of us are able to work through our junk and get right in the head. Others can't and they turn to other means to deal with their issues. Drugs, Alcohol, Violence, Food ....

    Watching a show like "The Biggest Loser" has REALLY helped me personally because it has showed me that making an outward change is great, but so long as the negative cycles that led to me being obese remain (I'm not obese, I'm just saying, for the purpose of this comment), I will simply re-enact those routines and go back to being what I was.

    Education and Economics are definitely a part of the equation, but I think it comes down to a matter of the human spirit being broken. And when a human being breaks, there's many ways it can hit rock bottom - obesity being one of them.

    The problem is that, unless they see that they need help, they can't BE helped. And so they will keep turning to quick methods to attain health like trendy diets (hello, atkins), medication or other stuff.