Between skinnier and skinnier celebrities and fatter and fatter everyone else, I expect our culture to explode in a fiery rain of fad diets and rib bones any day now. Today’s news is a classic example of the perfect fat-storm engulfing the nation. Essentially, everyone hates fat people, even as more and more people become obese.
Though obesity is a health issue, the dialogue is a finger-shaking moral one. If you are fat, you are slovenly and bad. Let me tell you how disgusting you are, and then you will want to lose weight! In this article, the researchers seem to think that there is insufficient social pressure to lose weight. I highly doubt telling someone how repulsive they are makes them want to overhaul their lifestyle.
There are plently of massive social sanctions against obesity – in fact, I got the above article from Shifting Baselines, who saw fit to illustrate their point by contrasting a John Singer Sargent (I think) painting with an actual photo of a real woman, held up to be scorned. Clearly, there is plenty of social sanction against obesity when it is ok to post an obese person’s photo to your Serious Science Blog for public mockery. [EDIT: In response to my comment, Shifting Baselines changed the photo to a more anonymous one.]
Finally, remember my post a while back on how BMI does not really correlate with what we think of as fat? NPR reports that your friendly corporate overlords are ready to use your health (and that of your children) to reward or punish you.
Companies are cracking down on the health of their employees. IBM recently said that starting next year it will pay employees $150 if they sign up their kids for a program to fight childhood obesity.
Clarian Health recently revised controversial plans to penalize workers for smoking, having high blood pressure, or body mass index over a certain limit.
The moves are part of a trend among a growing number of employers to monitor their workers’ health. After all, it costs more to insure smokers and overweight people.
Now, in my happy-land everyone is healthy and active, and a certain degree of obesity is usually incompatible with that. But this moralizing has got to stop. It’s making everybody insane. I mean, is this how people really eat? Obsessing about food all the time, doing every fad diet, and eating all the highly processed but “low-cal” food under the sun?
I think that half our problems would be solved if people ate only real food. If you don’t know what an ingredient is – sulfur dioxide, anyone? – don’t eat it. I’m fully aware of the class implications here – preparing food takes time, fresh ingredients cost money, etc. – but don’t you think that subsidizing healthy food is cheaper than subsidizing diabetes? Or worse, docking people’s pay?