Saturday, July 26, 2008

So, I have this question

It's about weight issues, so if you're easily offended and plan to flame me after reading, let me save you the time - if you flame instead of discussing nicely and intelligently, your opinion means nothing to me. Kiss kiss!
Also in the interest of full disclosure, I am obese. Significantly so, according to the NIH - a BMI of 37.1 which comes out on the NIH scale as "WAY FAT". I may be paraphrasing. (And it has nothing to do with my pregnancy, as I have not gained much of anything yet.) And it doesn't seem to affect my self esteem (at this point in my life) one little bit. I rock, and I know it. :-D
So, there's this study on weight discrimination, and there's a little bit of hand-wringing going on for the subject. There's lots of discussion about how we're all getting fatter, how our kids are getting fatter and showing signs of heart disease and weight related ailments before even teenage years. How all our food is junk and our lives revolve around TV and computer. Doctors and scientists point to this alarming trend as signs of the apocalypse. I think we can all agree that this seems to be the case (the increasing weight part, not the apocalypse part). There is where opinion diverges. Some people say that overweight people are just slackers and slobs, they're lazy, they should pay extra for their healthcare and their weight related issues, including wider airplane seats, extra for the bus, (OMG, think of the extra gas you'd save if your ass wasn't so big!) etc. Then there are the people who wring their hangs and say, Oh, it's not their fault, it's soooo hard to lose weight and stay active! We mustn't discriminate just because someone is overweight! Oh my goodness.


Now, I'm not going to try to tell you that our version of "overweight" isn't completely fucked, or that it's easy to lose weight and stay thin. BUT. I know people who have done it, successfully. (I have not, but that's due to my choices, not my genes or the fact that Twinkies magically absorb into my skin because Nature says I should be fat.) However, our collective national weight is INCREASING. 100 years ago, people were, on average, thinner than they are now. Someone is trying to tell me that it's all genetics that make people get fatter over generations? Fatness as natural selection? I don't think so. We are becoming a nation of sitters. Especially people like me. I sit at a desk all day, then I come home and either sit in front of the internet or sit on my ass and knit or spin. I HATE exercise. I HATE to sweat. I LOVE to eat, the fattier the better. Given the choice, all things being equal, I will NEVER choose to exercise, or pick broccoli over ice cream. And this makes me fat. Yes, I had fat parents, and skewed food issues as a kid, but MY CHOICES RIGHT NOW are what makes me fat and keeps me that way. Knitting is more important to me than exercising. Air conditioning in my car is more important to me than walking to work. If the loss of some opportunities comes along with those choices, shouldn't that be a consequence I'm willing to accept?
I mean, if your doctor reeked of smoke, wouldn't you wonder about his priorities, and the kind of gall it would take for him to instruct you on health issues? Smoking is evil and addictive and hard to quit (ask me how many times I've done it) but we view it as a choice not to break the addiction and look down on people who still do it. Or at least pity them while we're fake coughing about the smell. We chide them for willfully damaging themselves and we scold them for making our collective healthcare costs and taxes rise. How is that different from being overweight? It's hard to lose weight and keep it off, just like it's hard to quit smoking and stay quit. It's expensive and damaging to the health, just like smoking. It causes chronic diseases, just like smoking. So if we cut fatties a break and say it isn't their fault, don't we have to do the same with smokers? (Cuz I'm so starting again if we do.) If your nurse is so obese that she requires oxygen, wouldn't you wonder about her ability to care for you?
I'm not suggesting that all weight discrimination is equal. I have a desk job that requires no more of my body than my brain and my fingertips, and the ability to occasionally walk to the printer. I don't even have to walk to a meeting room if I don't feel like it. So discrimination in my field is senseless. (Actually, you could make the argument that my fat ass is well-suited for sitting all day, and that since I am sedentary by habit and by nature, I'm less likely to get fidgety and spend time away from my desk.) What about police officers? Fitness level and weight (to some degree) is an important part of the job. What about flight attendants? If they have to scoot sideways down the aisle because they're too wide to walk straight, is that their responsibility, or should the airline make the plane wider to accommodate? Obviously I haven't mentioned people for whom weight is a disease or injury-related issue, or people who lack the ability to exercise in any traditional manner. I also haven't mentioned people who are discriminated against because the hiring officer doesn't like looking at fat people. I briefly touched on our society's skewed view of weight/overweightness. (For an eye opener, see this slideshow.) I'm not saying that people who are fat should be ashamed of themselves, or that they are inherently worth less than people who are thin. Or that fat people aren't sexy, or smart, or funny or all of the above. I do suggest that, in absence of medical reasons for overweightness, fat people can (and do) get thin by choosing to do so and consistently upholding that priority over the desire for cheesecake or the wish to sit and veg in front of the computer/tv/knitting pattern/whatever for a night or ten. And that if I don't choose to do so, I can expect there to be some consequences of my choice. Am I wrong?