Jun 30

I’m a reasonably smart guy, so I know that when I read something on the news that makes me angry, it doesn’t really do me any good to let it rile me too much. News stories are inevitably written from an angle – sometimes to inform, sometimes to provoke, sometimes to mix the two – and you should always consider the angle a story is coming from when you read it. I know this – like I said, I’m a reasonably smart guy. Not “my god, the man’s a genius!” smart, but I get by ok.

Then there are times when I read something and just think, “the hell with it.”

It all started off innocently enough (and how many stories could we all start with that sentence?). There I was, reading the BBC News site and I come across this story – “Fat stars ‘make obesity normal’” I sit, I read it, and instead of shaking my head and filing it away, I let it get me angry.

Right off the top I’ll admit, I’m pretty damned overweight. Not through any huge intake of food, I hasten to add: I’m not shovelling down three chocolate cakes a night, I don’t fry everything, I very rarely eat any kind of meat and I am familiar with the business end of a salad. Given that my wife is vegetarian I have no problem cutting out meat and adopting a pretty mediterranean diet (if they ever come up with some research that says tomatoes are bad for us, I’m royally screwed). My problem is that my job involves me sitting at a desk for long periods of time and my main interests when I am at home involve me sitting for long periods of time. I did once try to go powerwalking while reading a book but after the ninth lamp-post I decided that the sore nose wasn’t worth it.

So the Professor that has provided the basis for the article believes that overweight stars on TV are making obesity normal. Putting aside for the moment that people shouldn’t be so damned stupid to look at someone on TV and use that as a benchmark to live their life, and putting aside for another moment the fact that there are worse things someone can do in this world than be overweight, I’d like to ask the Professor in the article, what is the next step? Do we ban overweight celebrities from the public eye? Do we have someone standing stage left with a scale and a BMI calculator, ready to pull anyone off that crosses over the red line? Why not go the whole hog and just disenfranchise the whole damned lot of them – take their votes away. After all, if you can’t be trusted to look after your own body, why should you be trusted with the body politic?

I don’t think that obesity is a good idea, or a sensible choice, but I don’t think that creating a culture of judgement and sneering obsession with a notional ideal average is a good idea either. Whatever happened to accepting people as they are? I know that as an overweight person, I am rolling a dice with my health in later years. That is the main reason why I watch what I eat and plan to up my exercise to start to get the weight off, but that is my choice to do that and I am not going to judge someone else for the choices they make. Whatever happened to compassion, to understanding, to not making people feel like they are abnormal just because they stand out from the crowd? What happened, when all is said and done, to basic humanity? Have we left that behind in this brave new world? Is it just a case of throwing in with a crowd and hoping to hell that you find some other group to kick the crap out of before it happens to you?

Then I read one of the related stories on the BBC site, that had this gem:

“The professor of emergency medicine at Dalhousie University in Canada will tell delegates that “obesity bias” was common among medics, including those specialising in obesity.

Other studies have shown that some doctors and health professionals have clearly associated the stereotypes of “lazy”, “stupid” and “worthless” with obese people.

Dr Croskerry said it was important that medical staff put their feelings on the issue aside.”


I mean, seriously?

Health professionals have to be told to put aside their personal judgements about people that come to them for help? A doctor – someone entrusted with the sacred duty of saving life – has to be reminded not to look at a patient, a fellow human being coming to him/her for help, possibly terrified, and think “worthless”? Well, thank the spirit in the sky for Dr Croskerry reminding them of that!

Like I said, I’m a reasonably smart guy. I’d also like to think that I am a reasonably compassionate guy. Bottom line, I believe in a basic level of human decency that we are all entitled to. What I don’t like is the increasing sense, from stories like these, that we are changing as a society into something resembling the school playground of my youth – a place where it is imperative that you fit into the average, and savagely bring down anyone who dares to be even slightly different, slightly diverging from the norm. That doesn’t make us better people, or a better society. It makes us all nasty little swines. Cheap punks just looking for the next person to swing a punch at. That’s not the kind of world I think we deserve to live in, whatever size we happen to be.

Leave a Reply