Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Fat-Shaming" - A Very Dumb Idea

I read a news story this morning that almost sent me into orbit.

Here is an excerpt from the Today Show article:

"Daniel Callahan, a senior research scholar and president emeritus of The Hastings Center, put out a new paper this week calling for a renewed emphasis on social pressure against heavy people -- what some may call fat-shaming -- including public posters that would pose questions like this:
“If you are overweight or obese, are you pleased with the way that you look?”

This is a stupid idea that won't work, for a few reasons:

- News flash...heavy people already know they're heavy.  This is one of the biggest myths of the overweight - that we don't know it.  We need someone to tell us.  We need the condescending thin person to make us aware of just how big we are.  No, we don't.  From the outside, it may appear like we are oblivious to the fact, but trust me, on the inside...we know. 

- Social pressure will not cause a heavy person to lose weight.  Sorry, it just won't work.  Aside from the fact that it is cruel and inhumane, it won't work because there is already plenty of social pressure. More won't help.  All social pressure ever did to me was make me eat more to cope with it.  It will have the opposite effect.  I was always very aware of the people who stared at me in the grocery store, the little kids that would run when they saw me, the people who didn't talk to me because I didn't fit their image of what a person should look like.  The pressure to lose weight is enormous. I always knew I weighed over 500 pounds and I hated it.  I just couldn't (and sometimes still can't) stop eating.

- Heavy people aren't going to lose weight because of social stigma anyway. Not once in the 2 years and 7 month journey have I thought about losing a single ounce because of what somebody else thought about me.  I simply don't care.  The only reason I am losing weight is for my health.  I don't care about anything else.

-Weight discrimination is very real and this would only make it worse. The last acceptable group of people to discriminate against in this country is the overweight.  I know it because I have lived it and I will never forget it. The way our society treats those who are heavy is already shameful we really need to make it worse?  Unbelievable.

So what is the solution? It's easy for me to sit here and shoot down somebody's idea without offering my own. The problem is very complex and won't be solved overnight. It starts with the kids.  Some ideas:

-We must immediately get rid of all the junk food from all schools at all levels.  Vending machines, junk food in the cafeteria, soda machines...all of it. The school lunches, if the government is to pay for them with taxpayer money, must be healthy.  No more pizza and fries.  I'm not saying we have to feed kids tofu and bean sprouts, but we can do much better. 

-Government subsidies of corn must end immediately.  Whether people realize this or not, the US Government makes corn so artificially cheap that it makes junk food very inexpensive to produce. 

-Back to the kids.  Schools need to have physical education twice a day.  And not the way they did it when I was a kid. The idiocy of having most of the kids run around the track and climb the rope while the heavy kids sit on the bleachers in shame must not be allowed.  Make the kids walk. Almost everyone can walk.  That is all you need. 

-Education.  We need a sense of urgency around the garbage that people are feeding their kids. If you want to stigmatize something, do it to the restaurant chains and the food and beverage industry.  We should not be telling our kids soda and candy are OK in moderation.  The message should be the truth:  it's poison garbage that will destroy your health and if you eat enough of it, it will kill you someday.  We have to make eating healthy cool. Education, education, education.  The older generation is probably lost, but we can make a difference to kids coming up. 

-Hold parents accountable.  I'm not suggesting we take extremely overweight kids away from their parents, but it's worth having a discussion. Facts are facts: kids eat only what they're given.  If you let a dog eat itself to death, that would be considered animal cruelty.  It's no different with children. Parents must be taught to not reward their children with food.  

-Shut down the weight loss industry.  These con artists and thieves thrive on a $60 billion dollar business built on rip-offs and lies.  All they do is steal people's money and rob them of their hope.  None of it works long-term.  None of it.  The only thing that works long-term is eating properly and moving your body.  Every one of these companies should be shut down, their executives marched out of their offices in handcuffs and their victims refunded their money.  

So that's a start.  Shaming the overweight will accomplish absolutely nothing.  We are a side effect of the American way of life and what its become, not the cause of it.