proof we're all still insane about fat
August 14, 2003 09:58 AM

One thing the fat movement has going both for and against it is this: when you look at people's responses to the idea of fat, particularly the new "obesity epidemic", you can't help but realise it. These people hate us.

Is that hate is a result of misinformation or just plain meanness? Hard to say. But it's clear there's a problem out there for the fat movement to solve. A more obvious problem than those that face, say, feminists or queer activists. It makes for a depressing and exciting challenge.

Case in point - the (selected by Time staff) reader responses to the Time question of the week: How can America end its obesity epidemic?

Now, one can expect two things from these responses given the survey method. One. The implication of the problem - how can we end it, not is it a problem. Two. Given the implication of the question, the likelihood that the Time staff are selecting responses to publish based on their own bias that obesity is, in fact, an epidemic of health. Compare that to the more balanced (widely varying, but balanced) published responses to the gay marriage question from last week. The question no doubt prompts a different sort of discussion when it doesn't also leverage its own judgement.

Duh. Any half-decent survey developer knows that.

But enough of surveying methods. Let's pick on some of the respondents, shall we? Nothing is more fun than casting aspersions at your unwitting detractors when they can't respond.

Suzanne, for instance, is just plain creepy. Is she being ironic?

The way to reduce obesity is this: Mandatory running period for the last hour of every school day... The government wants tough soldiers, and the media craves superstar athletes and hot bodies, correct? Reform physical education class. Start training them early. [italics mine]

That's right, Suzanne. Train up them good little soldiers for the gub'ment. I am well and thoroughly creeped by that concept.

Then there's Gregory's otherwise semi-reasoned post that misses the whole Clinton-era governmental war on tobacco:

Simple: [Society] can't. Individuals can certainly change their lives... Think of the smoking epidemic. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that smoking negatively affects your health. And what has been done, on a national scale? Nothing.

Apparently nothing is a synonym for "tax the hell out of it, and while you're at it, pursue civil action from all sides". What's his idea of "something", I wonder?

Wait. This is my favorite. It's a brilliant mix of libertarianism and bleeding heart socialism (with a solid economic point thrown in).

The poor and the uneducated are the predisposed targets and ultimate victims of greedy corporations who exploit their weak predicament in the name of capitalism. Government should regulate the activities of these corporate predators in order to harmonize nutritional choice irrespective of economic status. Only then will the responsibility rest with the individual.

Our pal Yervant (above quote) must have had his Adbusters magazine open for that one. Corporate predators! Victimization by greedy corporations deliberately targeting the poor! It's hard to take that seriously, yet he has a good point - poor people are vastly more impacted by the societal shifts that result in less healthy lifestyles.

And there's Pat, whose take on the way the world works is beautifully simple. What if we all did get exactly what we deserved? But what do we deserve, anyhow?

The way to reduce obesity is to stop blaming our genes and seeing ourselves as the victims. The way to health is through eating good food, getting off your ass and doing some exercise. Simple. We all end up with what we deserve regarding our weight.

Unfortunately, when it comes to weight and size, I think Pat's viewpoint represents that of too many others. It's not your genes, it's your unwillingness to starve yourself to fit someone else's idea of health! That, my friends, is bunk. Nothing is as simple as that.

That seems to be a trend - the answer everyone gives is simple - if we'd just do this one thing, no one would be fat, ever.

And yet. Every "one thing" we try seems to just make people fatter and fatter. Maybe the answer is that there is no answer.

Maybe. The answer is that there is no problem. Or rather, only a problem that we've created through paranoia that there was a problem.

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