You’re Fat?… It’s your Fault

As reported in the Daily Telegraph, British politician David Cameron has declared war on the “culture of moral neutrality” by “calling on the obese, the idle and even the poor to accept some responsibility for their plight.” (see video here)

Going further, Cameron says that “Britain risks creating a society where nobody is prepared to tell the truth about what is good and bad, right and wrong… Society has become far too sensitive to people’s feelings with no one prepared to say what needs to be said…. Instead, we prefer moral neutrality, a refusal to make judgments about what is good and bad behavior, right and wrong behavior. Bad. Good. Right. Wrong.”

About obesity in particular, Cameron said “We talk about people being at risk of obesity instead of people who eat too much and take too little exercise. We talk about people being at risk of poverty or social exclusion. It’s as if these things – obesity, alcohol abuse, drug addiction – are purely external events like a plague or bad weather.”

He goes on to speak about personal responsibility – “We have seen a decades-long erosion of responsibility, of social virtue, of self-discipline, respect for others, <and> of deferring gratification instead of instant gratification.”

Wow, strong words indeed.

I can only imagine the nasty emails in his Inbox this morning.

If the comments from this blog post are any indication, then the honorable Mr. Cameron will definitely need a shovel to clean up all of the @$%#& and &$%#@* and ^#$$@& when he is finished with today’s emails.

So, Is He Right or Wrong?

100% politically incorrect and 100% right.

Barring any genetic abnormality, such as a congenital leptin deficiency, we ARE responsible for our weight gain. We get fat if we ingest more calories than we expend.

End of story, right?

Wrong.

Obesity is not the same as alcohol or drug abuse. I don’t need to drink or smoke, but I do need to eat. I just don’t need to eat bacon and Bagel-fuls. or processed foods. or high fructose corn syrup. or Big Macs. or Beefaroni. or Slurpees. or Frosted Flakes. or triple latte mocha sugar bomb coffee desserts. or…

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15 thoughts on “You’re Fat?… It’s your Fault

  1. Chris

    I agree that personal responsibility plays a major role (if not THE major role) in a person’s health status and body weight, but societal issues can’t be ignored – such as the price and availability of high-fat foods compared to healthier options. Our long-term solution has to address both personal and environmental factors.

  2. DR

    Chris,

    Excellent comment. Your point of view is reasoned and well thought out.

    No ‘caring’ society should allow the health of it’s members to suffer if there is an effective and available solution.

    Many governments have mandated policies such as the pasteurization of milk products, iodine in salt, folic acid in bread, vitamin D in milk, fluoride in the municipal water supply.

    Governments decide the age at which you are allowed to purchase alcohol. Or mandate which drugs are legal and which are illegal. Or tell you where you can and cannot smoke tobacco.

    Or which agricultural products will receive massive government subsidies and which won’t.

    Or which foods are banned – i.e trans fats.

    At what point does this stop being an issue about health and nutrition and start becoming political or even philosophical?

    Mr. Cameron lays the responsibility at the feet of the individual.

    At one level, I agree with him. No one forces someone else to overeat, under-exercise, do drugs or drink to excess.

    But what kind of society would let the obese, drug addicted and/or alcoholics suffer if they could offer them a hand?

    Suddenly this issue becomes much more complicated.

    If we are going to help prevent obesity from becoming an even bigger problem, what do we do?

    Do we ban certain food products?

    Do we tax food products differently based on some gov’t approved nutrition quotient?

    How do we decide what is healthy and what is not?

    At times, we have been told that low fat eating is the way to go to prevent obesity – then it was high fat & low carb – cut calories very low, wait don’t do that, and so on…

    So what do we do?

  3. Jay

    Good post, and even better questions raised in your comment.
    Is it our responsibility to know what is good for us and too only buy those things? Most people “know” what is good for us, but most don’t translate that knowledge into action.
    I agree that prices for healthy foods are high, but there are ways to work around it. Prices at farmers’ markets are now comparable to those in grocery stores, so why not support the local farmers?
    Or take a look at your budget. What items can you move around? Would you rather buy designer clothes that cost way too much, or healthy food that will help you live a better life (and help you fit into your clothes in the first place).
    This is a very complicated issue because it’s a combination of personal responsibility and social responsibility from the government. Should we give freedom to people to choose to eat what we know is unhealthy? People do love their freedom, but should they be free to be obese?
    No one actually dies from obesity, but instead they die from the complications that arise from obesity, such as heart disease. Well, no one also dies from smoking itself, but rather from the consequences of smoking. The government doesn’t stop people from smoking; they decide for themselves to continue smoking despite the knowledge of the dangers that come from smoking. Should the same hold for obesity? Or is obesity a totally different monster?

  4. lonetruth

    If I were president I’d ban all processed sugars, and tell the fast food industry to blankity-blank.

    Then I’d set up a “fat tax”. Anyone over 15% body fat (or 20% for women) would have to pay $75 for every % unit that they are “over”. If they can’t afford it, they’d be mandated to go workout 5 times a week, at a FREE fitness center (it’d be just like community service) until they drop all that blankity-blank unnecessary fat.

    Finally, for those “hard losers”, I’d ship them off, FOR FREE, to some of the most impoverished and famine-stricking parts of the world like Sudan or Burma. I’d bring them back once they get thinner (probably take like 90 days, tops).

    Seriously though, intentionally-obese people blankity-blank.

  5. DR

    lonetruth,

    As I like to hear all sorts of opinions, I really wanted to include your comment as written, however, I have reserved the right to modify some of the more colorful language.

    My virgin ears were burning.

    If you feel that my modification has spoiled the point you were trying to make, let me know.

    I am curious to see the response to your “Survivor” theory of weight loss.

  6. Alicia O.

    Thanks for commenting on my post http://riseuprochester.org/2008/07/09/the-new-pariahs-obese-in-the-usa/–this was a really interesting post to read. I think personal responsibility is a huge part of many social problems and not many people like to hear that, however, we all know that every issue has multiple sides.

    We can’t entirely blame people for their weight when the majority of inexpensive food out there has high fructose corn syrup. If the FDA allows this stuff to be in food, why should people believe it’s bad? Most people don’t have the information to buy healthy foods (i.e. whole wheat/whole grain bread). Also, I think part of this whole anti-fat people thing is just a general disgust for the obese being disguised as concern–people just view those who are fat as lazy, when that is often anything but true. My sister works out several times a week and eats better than most people I know and has always struggled with her weight.

    I absolutely disagree with “fat tax.” If it is people’s personal responsibility to lose weight, why should the gov’t interfere? We don’t need government regulating all aspects of our lives. Wanting to live a healthy life without being taxed should be enough incentive to eat right and stay fit. Is the government also going to give us paid time off for time spent at the gym? How far can you take that argument on government incentives and penalties, really?

    I think it has been the gov’t’s job to approve certain foods to be out there, but often they do more harm than good…it seems to me that is the only way they can get involved…this is a tough one, for sure.

    What does Cameron want–an acknowledgment from a representative of the world obese that it’s no one else’s fault?

  7. DR

    Or Prader-Willi syndrome or an inability to produce leptin or a tumor of the hypothalamus or some other as yet undiscovered genetic abnormality.

    But these cases are a very small minority of the entire obese population.

    And even in the case of hypothyroidism, a diagnosis does not guarantee obesity. Supplementary Thyroxine, along with a healthy diet and exercise can help avoid obesity.

  8. Samantha

    There are lots of factors that affect obesity, like poor food choices due to ignorance, advertising, the media who constantly tell us one week that one food is good, then a month later it causes cancer, the million diets from the weight loss industry that promise us that their diet is the one that will work. Lack of patience and the lure of a quick fix fools us into buying into the latest informercial product when common sense should tell us that the results promised are lies. Thats why they always put “results not typical” as a disclaimer. People are sick and tired of dieting and also…tired. Many people don’t get enough sleep and try to compensate with food for extra energy. Emotional eating also doesn’t help, neither do the habits we have from our childhood. Ultimately, yes it is up to everyone to be responsible for what they put into their bodies, but we cannot ignore the fact that there is an awful lot of misinformation going on. We are passing on bad habits to the next generation so its time for us adults to step up and realise that health is pretty much everything. Without it, we cannot achieve our dreams and goals of being truly happy.

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