Why do we hate fat people so much?
I see this discussion come up from time to time in the dark corners of the internet I frequent. It’s seen as somewhat acceptable to ridicule the obese in a way that society wouldn’t permit for other minorities. You can’t control who your ancestors were, what your sexual orientation is, or what gender you were born with, but you do have power over what food you put into your bodies and how much of it you eat. Therefore, obesity is a choice, and ridicule is more acceptable to society if your ‘condition’ is something you have control over. The other side of the debate takes exception to this, claiming that fat haters are lacking in empathy and have no idea what it’s like to live with a ‘food addiction,’ and occasionally even go so far as to state that obesity is a disability that warrants special treatment by society and subsidized care from the taxpayers.
Personal experience puts me on the first side of the debate.
I realize that the first position is a bit too simple, and that it isn’t always as simple as ‘calories in, calories out’ for an incredibly small fraction of obese people. Most of the rest of us have bodies that obey the laws of thermodynamics. Countries like America and Scotland don’t have a larger proportion of obese people relative to the rest of the world because their populations have a genetic predisposition toward these medical conditions, after all. Most of us get fat over here because of what we put in our bodies.
I acknowledge that a tiny minority of obese people do have real problems that prevent them from maintaining a healthy body weight. The vast majority of obese people do not fall into this category. They are overweight because they consistently make decisions regarding what they eat and how they spend their time that result in their becoming fat.
No, let me reassure you that I don’t hate fat people.
I do, however, hate a certain mindset that I believe often leads to getting and staying fat.
I always try to maintain the attitude that the difficulties I face in my life are my own. They might not have been my fault to begin with (though they usually are), but they’re my problem now. Nobody can solve them but me. I believe this is a virtuous attitude, yet I acknowledge how difficult it is to hold to. I don’t think anyone enjoys owning up to and confronting their own failures. I don’t always succeed in this myself, but I do always expect myself to try. I’m less concerned with what’s fair or unfair about my situation and more concerned with what I can do to change things for the better.
I find that many fat people fail to do this. They will claim or imply that their physical condition is entirely outside of their own control. Maybe they even believe this is the truth. They think that this is their destiny, and that there’s no use trying to fight it. They will tell you that they’ve tried diet and exercise and that none of it worked, straight-faced as they give you this spiel with a bucket of fried chicken sitting in their laps. They honestly believe that they are fat by accident, or because of some unlucky trick of genetics. They take comfort from this, because if it is true then it means that they have not failed themselves. If it’s not their fault, then they don’t have to change their lifestyle.
Even this doesn’t bother me so much. It’s when it’s combined with whining to the tune of ‘oh, I wish I weren’t so fat!’ that I start to rage out.
I have a few friends and relatives that do this. It always bothers me, but I never say anything, because I’m interested in remaining friends and/or avoiding a frosty stare at the next family event. Instead, I will try to avoid the subject or get off of it quickly, because such a discussion always goes the same way.
It will be a back-and-forth where I make suggestions about how they might get involved and lose some of the weight, and they counter with arguments as to why eating healthy or fitting in some exercise is impossible for their life circumstances. I will reply with an alternative, which they will then shoot down with another excuse. Presumably, they expect to convince me that they’re correct, that by the end of the discussion I will say ‘Oh man, I guess you’re right. You have no choice but to eat large quantities of processed crap or fast food, and because of your family, your job, and other circumstances, it’s impractical for you to do any sort of getting up and moving around. It’s totally unfair and it isn’t your fault at all. Here, have some pity. No, I insist.’
In these discussions, they are not looking for advice on how to lose weight. They are looking for sympathy. Now, being somewhat of a soulless douchebag myself (I have a disease called ‘being from New Jersey’ that makes this medically inevitable), I can’t summon much of that stuff for the obese. So I try to avoid this sort of banter as much as I can.
The thing is, I can sort of understand their thinking. The real solution to their problems is lifestyle change, which is not at all easy to swing. Diet and regular exercise are both hard. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry designed to sell us miracle weight loss pills, diet shakes, and the like. Some people even believe that invasive surgery is the less difficult option compared to eating less and moving more. Fat people who complain about their condition do genuinely want to be thin. They just don’t want it enough to do the hard work and make it happen.
Unfortunately for them, there is no Magic Wand cure for obesity. Unless you spend several hours per day trekking across the Arctic, you cannot eat five thousand calories worth of food every day and expect to lose weight. You have to burn the energy you put into your body if you want to keep yourself from putting weight on. It’s fine if you don’t want to spend hours in the gym – I certainly don’t. Diet is the most important part of weight loss, anyway, and that part isn’t really negotiable. You can still lose weight without a gym membership if you eat sensibly.
If you don’t want to do that, then you need to accept being fat. Face up to the fact that if you don’t make a change yourself, then it simply isn’t going to happen. Stop whining about it, own your choices, and enjoy your food.