Tobacco Control were not wrong in saying that their narrative could be applied to any health or social problem.
We have seen it with alcohol and, similarly, with obesity. People often smoke — or eat in excess — for the same reasons, many of them revolving around an inner anxiety (e.g. long-term family or work issue, death of a loved one). Of course, these activities also bring a good degree of temporary respite. I know of one man who stopped smoking the year his three children reached majority age and left home to pursue their own lives. He told me, ‘I just don’t need to smoke anymore.’
The Spectator (UK) has an article about obesity with regard to the local general practitioner’s surgery (office). Unfortunately, I have read all my allotted free-of-charge articles from the magazine for the rest of the month. If you’ve read ‘Obesity is not a disease. Pretending otherwise will stoke an epidemic and crush the NHS’, please feel free to comment below.
I read through the comments, and the Tobacco Control strategy stands out loud and clear:
- If you’re fat, you brought it on yourself. (No empathy.)
- If you’re fat, pay for your own illness. (British taxpayers automatically pay into the NHS, so this is hard to justify.)
- If you’re fat, you deserve to be bullied and ridiculed. (Just like smokers, then.)
Reader kalamere pointed to more pressing health issues — among them:
Why don’t doctors tell people to stop promiscuous risky sexual behavior?
I can’t remember when I last saw an advert or campaign against sexually-transmitted diseases.
As for the ‘pay for it yourself’ attitude so rampant today and in the comments on this Spectator article, reader Biochem Femme said (emphases mine):
… Ok, I agree with you that people take the NHS for granted and that the system is flawed, but where do you draw the line? For instance, what do you consider ‘dangerous sports’? Things like skydiving, wind surfing, soloing, climbing..? Because those sports generate a HELL of a lot fewer injuries than football, rugby, tennis etc (think of all the sprained ankles, dodgy knees, torn ligaments, broken bones, tennis elbow then the resulting x-rays, physio and so on). How about people injured in car accidents? Well you shouldn’t have been driving, of course! How about people who pick up STIs? Would you just leave them to fester because it’s their fault they had sex? What about someone who develops a melanoma because they were sunbathing for too long? Would you let them develop cancer because of their irresponsible attitude toward UV radiation? If you stop treating things for which people are ‘liable’ then you’ll have cut out the majority of all medical cases.
I would definitely like to see a greater level of respect for the NHS by the citizens of the UK, but simply saying ‘it’s your fault, you pay for it’ is a very unrealistic attitude.
One doctor complained about ‘NON-COMPLIANT’ (sic) patients. An interesting expression. Colonel Mustard replied:
Your real name isn’t Josef Mengele by any chance? Doctors used to tend and advise not judge and condemn. Like many other public “servants” they appear to have succumbed to the delusion that their role is to control people.
Going back to my remark above about underlying anxiety, jkendi offers a similar observation:
… Doctors don’t ask their patients if they are self-medicating with food because if they say yes, the doctor doesn’t really have any tools to handle that. Worse, the current science in mental health is woefully behind other medical areas so if they refer the patient to a psychologist, not much will happen there either. It’s a damn shame. I can’t in good conscience berate fat people any more than others who medicate in other ways to escape depression. To do that is simply kicking people when they’re already down. Kids, yes, that is more complicated because not only do they see examples of poor nutrition and watch stupid commercials about French fries, there’s TV and video games that kill their natural inclination to play. But at the same time they probably have inherited tendencies from their parents that play into it. The obesity epidemic is a product of many things, not one thing, and certainly not weakness and sloth. I have friends who have stayed on diets, starving so long that it’s hard for me to comprehend how they do it. I couldn’t live on 900 calories a day for months–I don’t have that kind of willpower. But sadly, after all that work and deprivation they often gain the weight back because the real problems have not been solved. I would just say get a heart and press for solutions.
One of the commenters on the Spectator thread has worked really hard to lose weight and wrote that, when he does, no one notices. He is still subject to ridicule. And more abuse followed from those responding to him online. Poor man.
As for the causes, a few stood out. One of them being the increased consumption of refined sugar. But a more important one is the increased amount of carbohydrates we consume at the expense of meat protein and animal fat.
Think of the increase in the popularity of carbohydrates over the past four decades. We eat much more pasta and bread. Chips — French fries — are often de rigueur when dining out. In some cultures — and I worked with an obese man who exemplified this — a second heaping helping of rice with sauce is part of the daily dinner ritual. Pastries and doughnuts are everywhere and consumed regularly, instead of occasionally.
Meat protein and animal fat are seen as bad for a reason which goes back to the 1950s — a root cause posited by one doctor which is every much a Big Lie as is the ‘danger’ from second-hand smoke.
Excess carbs will get converted into fat and stored by adipose cells (it’s actually quite an efficient process). If you were to carefully examine all the things you eat, count calories etc, you’ll probably be surprised to find that it’s actually the carbs that’re in excess rather than fat.
A diet high in carbohydrates is perfect for an athlete who burns off more calories than he takes in. However, for the rest of us, a regime higher in protein might well be more suitable.
Eating as one’s grandparents did will lead to a leaner body, at least one wherein weight is more easily controlled. However, this relies on home-cooked meals from scratch using real rather than synthetic products. Sautéeing in butter or shallow-frying in lard will produce a much more satisfying feeling in the stomach than if margarine or vegetable fat is used. Because of this, we become happy with average rather than large helpings with no urge to snack in between meals — another no-no only 50 years ago.
Whatever — let’s remember to treat the obese kindly. In most cases, they, too, pay taxes and insurance premiums. Many are also doing their best to lose weight.