Obese people are sinners. That’s the message that’s being spread far and wide these days, by the medical profession, the government and by those who believe that losing weight is simply a matter of having the willpower that comes with being a person of good character. If you’re fat, then you’re obviously a person with no will power. You’re a failure at life. You’re a glutton and you’re lazy. Everyone KNOWS it’s very simple and easy to lose weight…just eat less and move more! It’s THAT EASY!!! Too bad if you have to work for a living and you’ve gained a lot of weight, because your current boss or potential future bosses are now being indoctrinated against you in an escalating “war against fat people” that is masquerading as some kind of war against the “obesity epidemic”. And it’s a real winner, because fat people are the last stereotype where it’s socially acceptable for people to gang up and become abusive. Even better, the people who would indulge in the war against fat people have the support of doctors and governments who keep repeating the lies that underpin their mythology – you CHOSE to become fat, and you are CHOOSING to remain fat, because the answers are EASY.
It’s remarkable to me that the hatred being gathered against those who have gained a lot of weight includes increasingly common public calls for the obese to be killed by restriction of access to health care. There is a growing segment of the population who really believe that if you’ve gained lots of weight, you deserve to die. If you’re fat and you have a heart attack you shouldn’t get emergency help. If you’re thin and you have a heart attack, even though you may have eaten the identical diet, then you SHOULD get emergency help. You see, being thin, in and of itself, is a worthy characteristic it seems. Thin people are more worthy of being given lifesaving health services. The flip side of the war against fat people, is the powerful subtext that being thin makes one a virtuous person. No matter that you may be a thin person who eats trans fat filled burgers and fries and pizzas five days a week, smokes like a chimney and regularly uses dangerous drugs, your thinness alone denotes you as being “better”. And so, along with the burden of the extra weight we overweight people must carry, we must also bear the burden of constantly having to “prove ourselves” in a world gone crazy. In a world where the thin may sit at a table in the mall chomping down on a Big Mac and be deemed to be in good control of their lives and their selves, but don’t you dare do that if you’re fat.
There is, in an average society, a diverse mix of different kinds of people who have different kinds of metabolisms. The men I’ve known throughout my life invariably lose large amounts of weight if they stop eating dessert for a month or if they swap beer for white wine. They would tell me that losing weight is EASY. All I need to do is give up desserts and drink wine and my weight will fall off. They think. Never mind that I’ve been living that way for years and my weight still increased. There are those who seem to be able to function just fine on a diet of vegetables and grains and who lost weight in doing so. They would tell me that losing weight is EASY. All I need to do is give up meat and eat vegetables and grains and my weight will fall off. They think. Never mind that if I don’t eat meat for a week I completely lose the ability to concentrate and I develop the shakes until I get some red meat into me. There are others who have a wonderful, steady body weight and are “walking proof” of what having a good, healthy, varied diet can do for you. They would tell me to eat a healthy diet, with grains and good fats and lots of vegetables and fruits and some meat and lead an active lifestyle and cook at home and eschew processed foods and my weight will be like theirs. They think. Never mind that I’ve eschewed processed foods for years in favour of a predominantly home-cooked diet overwhelmingly featuring grains, vegetables, fruits, some meat but not too much, and I’ve always been an active person…the kind of person who gets up in the morning and decides to paint the house and then spends every available moment for the next month climbing up and down ladders painting an entire house, only to get fatter. The young people I know can change their diet just a little, add in a bit of exercise and reduce their calories slightly and the weight will drop off. I know that works for them, because it worked for me when I was very young as well. They would tell me to reduce my calories a bit and do some exercise and my weight will fall away. They think. They don’t seem to understand that while I was gaining all this weight that this widely reported weight-loss methodology might have actually OCCURRED to me, and that I might have tried it and it didn’t WORK for me anymore. The joy of being obese is that we are forced to listen to all those who were never fat because of good metabolic luck, or who can easily lose weight because of youth or more metabolic luck, and who assume that because it’s easy for them it’s easy for everybody. And so, because it’s just SO DAMNED EASY TO LOSE WEIGHT we fatties must be the worst kind of people. We must be absolute idiots who cannot do this ONE SIMPLE THING! Either that, or we’re purposely choosing to be fat and to be some kind of a drain on society.
Since the 1960s in our modern youth culture it’s been tough enough getting older. Once you’re over 35 it’s begins to get difficult finding work, because your great age means you’re probably becoming mentally challenged. If you’re good looking then you’re probably smarter than people who aren’t good looking, but by default you cannot be good looking if you’re a hundred pounds overweight. So if you’re overweight you’re probably not very smart. If you’re overweight AND over 35 (over forty if you’re a man) then you probably need to be institutionalized because your mental capacity is deemed to be such that you probably have trouble combing your own hair. Now to add injury to insult, it’s not only our mental capacity that’s being challenged, it’s our worth as human beings. Because fat people are people of bad character who CHOOSE to be fat and who, again by default, are apparently a terrible drain on “the system” as a result. We’ll ignore the inconvenient fact that being a bit overweight is actually a marker for a longer, healthier life than being a bit underweight…the truth has no place in the “War against Fat People”. Apparently, like Hitler or “al Qaeda”, fat people MUST BE STOPPED.
If you’re an ancient person like me, almost 50, then you may recall the great witch-hunt of the latter 20th century…the “War against Smokers”. Smokers were demonized and their sins against their own bodies were happily leveraged into sins against society when the dangers of second-hand smoke were identified. Non-smokers and the truly virtuous loved to hate smokers and still do. But smokers have been ostracized now. They stand hunched over and shivering in the snow outside of warm office buildings sinfully puffing their cancer sticks and casting furtive, guilty glances at the “good” people, the non-smokers as they come and go. But the fat people are still inside, safe and warm. For now.
The War against Fat People is the witch-hunt of the early 21st century. However, unlike the War against Smokers, in which the smokers, while still “bad” were at least considered to be victims of the much more evil empire of the cigarette companies and their powerful mind-control advertising techniques and even more powerfully addictive nicotine, there is no symbol like the “evil cigarette company” to take the pressure off the obese. The obese are not given the opportunity to blame anything or anyone but themselves. They are told that not being obese is a simple matter of taking personal responsibility and that once they too decide to become responsible for themselves, they will automatically join the ranks of the thin and self-responsible “good” people. And yet, only a generation ago we did not have this obesity epidemic. Had we fatties been living only a generation ago we might have been thin and good. How did we turn so bad in just a single generation? What has happened in that time?
Well, here’s a few things that have happened over the course of the last forty years or so:
• The introduction and propagandizing of the carbohydrate-based food pyramid which is almost perfectly represented by the average thick-crust pizza
• The over-usage of antibiotics that hasn’t just created “superbugs”, it’s killed off our intestinal flora allowing many of us to suffer from overgrowth of the fungus candida albicans in our systems. Candida albicans overgrowth makes us crave SUGAR, and it’s overgrowth is also widely associated with increases in mercury in our diets
• The exponential increase of processed foods in our diets with a high likelihood in the past decade of containing high fructose corn syrup, which, as it turns out, is the food that our candida albicans is looking for to help it flourish. HFCS also helps us to develop insulin resistance, which means our bodies turn into efficient fat-storing machines
• The move of corporations en masse into the funding of research, matched simultaneously by the backing out of government funds for research. This turned research into a profit-based pursuit instead of a pursuit designed to better the lives of the people. And we all know there’s lots of profit in a sickly, drug-addled population, but not much in a fit, healthy population
• The introduction of “low fat” as being a healthy way of eating, combined with the specific demonization of saturated fats as being dangerous to the human heart, in spite of there being no research base to support the contention. Indeed, the heart-healthy low fat-high carb lifestyle has been marketed to us while heart disease has escalated horrifically. With the dangerous low fat advice supported by unthinking and uncritical governments, processed foods manufacturers soon took to selling us “low fat” frankenfoods in which the fats had been replaced with sugar, helping to create an epidemic of insulin resistance and “metabolic syndrome”. The low fat fad also led to the irresponsible assumption that polyunsaturated vegetable oils would be a good replacement for saturated animal fats. Liquid vegetable oils needed to be hydrogenated to become solids for much of this replacement, and so the widespread introduction of the deadly “trans fat” took place, accompanied by ridiculous claims that margarine was good for you while butter wasn’t. Look for new evidence in the near future that trans fats and the consumption of their sibling, polyunsaturated vegetable oil have been a powerful factor in the epidemic of insulin resistance, diabetes and of course, obesity itself
• The loss of real earning power of the individual as ongoing governments have decided to privatize profits and socialize losses (a process started in earnest with the introduction of trickle-down economics in the 1980s), meaning that the wealthy carry almost no burden in society while the poorest amongst us carry an increasing burden and yet have fewer means to enable them to do so. This is a twin edged sword, pushing the middle class to a point at which they only “appear” to be well-off because they have been handed debt instead of prosperity for their efforts, and they are in fact frequently working-poor, often unable to gather either the money or the energy to live and eat better, and with high levels of stress in their lives fatiguing their adrenal glands, a direct cause of weight gain, especially belly fat. The loss of true self-determination that once upon a time characterised the most aspirational features of the developed world must be one of the most stressful events in the recent modern history of those nations
• The removal of iodine from the average diet. Iodine is an essential element for human life. Without iodine in our diets our thyroids cease to function efficiently, and the networks of hormones in our bodies are compromised. In the early 20th century, modern humans could rely on getting iodine that was routinely added to our salt, and to foods like bread. Iodine has now been removed and has been replaced by dangerous substances like aluminum and halogens like bromines, and even our drinking water has been medicated with the halogen chlorine added to it, and in many cases, another dangerous halogen, fluoride, which is now in our toothpaste as well. Every cell in the human body normally has an iodine content and that iodine allows the cell to function normally, but halogens push the iodine out and REPLACE IT, causing blockages causing our cells to cease functioning at optimal levels. Our metabolisms become severely compromised as a result, and our thyroids soon become crippled, resulting in severe hormonal disturbances that are now at epidemic levels in the population. Is this hormonal imbalance contributing to obesity? Without doubt it’s a major player.
• The creeping poverty being experienced at national levels, along with the subsidizing of crops like corn has meant it is easier and cheaper to buy a dangerous Big Mac than it is to make a healthy meal at home. And the working poor, struggling with two or more jobs, lack of transport and infrastructure and often without access to anything more than a few mouldy and expensive veges in a box on the floor of a local inner-city convenience store are so exhausted and starved for nourishment that they’ll do whatever is cheapest and easiest to make the pain go away, even if just for a little while
In a world gone insane, in which our very food and political institutions are working against us becoming healthy and fit, it seems fitting that warring against the obese is the perfect way to focus attention away from our broken systems. And if by some miracle the obese lose weight, then the system will still get the credit. If they don’t lose weight, then it’s obviously the fault of the obese themselves. It’s a win-win situation for those who profit by giving the orthodox advice that has a less than 5% success rate. Yet, in the corporate-medical world, low success rates are the name of the game…bums on seats laddie, bums on seats. No major disease has been cured since polio more than half a century ago because there’s no profit in a cure. Instead, pharmaceutical companies are busy creating new diseases by repositioning the symptoms of old diseases as “syndromes” and diseases in their own right with lifelong medication for all being the objective. The profit lies with the chronically ill, and the obese are exactly that. Chronically ill. We have witnessed the monetization of disease and obesity is a big winner in the profitability stakes. Expect obesity only to be classified as a physical and not psychological disease when a lifelong “treatment” in the form of an expensive drug is brought to market.
In this War against Fat People we are now denied access to clear solutions because we are presented with so much competing advice and information that the obese person often has no idea where to turn. Many obese people have tried their doctor, where they were given the useless advice to eat a bit less and do some exercise, and so they turn to late night TV, exercise machines, diet programs in a never-ending merry-go-round of failure to lose weight. In spite of the characterisation of the obese as “lazy” and “unwilling to try”, they do seem to keep a lucrative, multi-billion dollar industry going. And almost nowhere in this avalanche of advice is the simple information that obesity is a state of starvation in which the body entombs the individual with fat while starving the body of essential nutrients and energy. An obese person can literally die from damage caused by starvation and still be obese, just as an anorexic person dies from the damage wrought by starvation. That we cannot see past our societal stereotyping of the fat person as being “overfed” means we are just not ready for this truth, although the author Gary Taubes, in his thesis “Good Calories, Bad Calories” cites obese Zucker rats in laboratories dying of starvation while still carrying five times as much body fat as their non-obese siblings. In a metabolism where the stored fat is simply unavailable to the body to keep itself alive, starvation takes place regardless of how much or how little food is consumed. Disingenuous claims that there are “no fat people in concentration camps” miss the point that we really haven’t seen modern people with the diseases caused by modern food additives fall victim to such atrocities. Those who have in the past been such victims have been people unlikely to have been suffering from metabolic syndromes caused by high fructose, trans fat and chemical consumption over many years.
Until we recognise obesity as a physical illness instead of a “behavioural problem” we will not be able to divorce the moralising from the treatment. Who moralises against the cancer patient for the “sin” having cancer? Who moralises against the alzheimer’s patient for the “sin” of having alzheimer’s disease? As a society we don’t, because we believe illness requires compassion, help and treatment…unless you’re fat, in which case you require penance, suffering, humility and with hard work, redemption. It’s almost religious. Strike that. It IS religious this notion that as long as we think sickness or injury or incapacity is somehow self-inflicted then we can discriminate against the sufferer and withhold emotional, and maybe soon, financial and medical support. Yet the fact that many obese people are obese for precisely the reason that they tried to follow the so-called “expert advice” is conveniently ignored. In today’s world it’s all too easy to get fat by following the carb-based food pyramid and eating sugary foods marketed as “low fat”.
Obesity may be a disease of the individual, but it is in reality a major symptom of a diseased society. Poor and non-existent science, a new and emerging form of orthodox medical “religion” in which the conventional wisdom may no longer be questioned, pure political ineptitude and corruptness, the monetization of disease, the destruction of the food supply…all are contributors and the obese are just the most visible victims. Nobody knows the exact cause of obesity, because, in fact, the growing obesity rate is probably a result of the perfect storm of factors that have occurred in our societies in the past half century, only some of which I may have mentioned here. Yet there are some simple truths to consider. Today’s fat people are no more inclined towards laziness and gluttony than their parents were. As a rule, fat people don’t choose to become fat in a society in which fat people are derided, abused and abhorred. The answers to obesity are not easy. They are not simple. Nor does one glib answer resolve all weight problems. And it is outright, plain and simple, IMMORAL to discriminate against people…even fat people.
It is immoral to treat the obese in our society as if they are of bad character and as if they are dullards suffering from poor judgment and low intelligence. A multi-billion dollar industry is thriving based on nothing more than the desperation of obese people who are being failed time and time again by their doctors, governments and research institutions. People who spend so much money on long shot solutions cannot be characterised as “lazy”. They are trying to help themselves, taking personal responsibility it seems, and doing so with full knowledge of the contempt in which society holds them for the sin of having the disease of obesity…the new leprosy. Millions of obese people subsist on diets with calorie levels so low they were classified only last century as starvation diets during research on the issue of starvation. Today those starvation calorie levels are considered the upper limits allowed to the new sub-class who must, for the sake of social acceptability, not be seen to consume as many calories as the thin. As an obese person I refuse to accept my lot as a second class citizen. I refuse to starve myself, and I refuse to allow this reprehensible new form of discrimination to take hold of society without rebuttal. I do not need to humble myself in the presence of the thin. I do not need penance and I do not need suffering, and I do not need redemption. I need HEALING. And because society has failed to offer anything but obstacles, I’ll do it myself thank you very much.
© Mardy Roux 2010