June 5, 2015

The Social Suffering of the Obese

This book takes the reader through history
to examine how society perceived fatness
and obesity.  Turns out body shaming began
in the age of enlightenment (how ironic).
Georges Vigarello wrote, in his book "The Metamorphoses of Fat; A History of Obesity", that more than ever before, our identity comes from the body.  If we are thin, fit, young, wrinkle free, tanned (artificially of course), and beautiful we will strongly identify with this socially sanctioned aesthetic.  Unfortunately, the genetically endowed tend to struggle more with age than most of us (thank God for karma...he he) and place less focus and value on instrinsic beauty. If what Vegarello suggests is true, and I very much agree that it is, how does our culture's hatred, fear, and disgust around fat and obesity effect obese people?

There is a higher rate of depression and suicidal ideation, attempt, and completion among those who are obese.  I know they suffer from judgement by the people that should be helping them; those they trust. Doctors, nurses, dietitians, personal trainers/kinesiologists, and health promotion educators, alike, tend to (not all of them mind you) shake their heads in disbelief that one would "let themselves get like that" or "have no self control" or "can't seem to push away from the table".  I know because of this, many people who are obese put off going to their doctors even when they have concerns about their health.  Unfortunately, that doesn't end well for the person in need.

One of the most heartbreaking blogs I have read (https://fathealth.wordpress.com/about/) offers a site for those to post their experiences of fat-shame, judgement, and maltreatment in the medical system.  It offers a little insight into the social suffering of the obese person.  Having worked with a few women over 250lbs, I was privy to their lived experiences as they described their usual day of ridicule and torment by strangers passing by.  One person, "Carole", described an incident in a grocery store where a stranger walked up to her and removed the ice cream carton from her basket remarking that she wouldn't lose any weight by eating that. Another client talked about the remarks, looks, and name calling that she has to deal with on a daily basis.  Even today, I cant' stop from crying when I talk about her story. 
The obvious assumption here is overweight people eat
cupcakes and have no self control. In addition, they
feel ashamed or they wouldn't be hiding it behind them.
Totally unfounded and totally judgemental.
Living as an obese person in a society that doesn't respect, appreciate, or care about you will only lead to mental illness, emotional eating, isolation, and a sedentary lifestyle.  How could it not? You would have to have enough self confidence to fill a football field to not be negatively influenced by these messages of hate. So why do we (the global we) continue to berate, judge, laugh, and order obese people to just "eat less and exercise more"? If you (the global you) took two minutes to research the determinants (or factors) that influence obesity, you would realize the messages need to change. 

It doesn't stop at women either. Men and boys
are struggling more and more with eating
disorders and body image issues because of
pressures from our media to look like this.
In my humble opinion, it won't be until we support, empathize, respect, and value our citizens "of size" that we will be able to begin to make a positive difference.  Whether that difference is related to weight loss or related to health gains...it really doesn't matter.  If there is one message that is repeated over and over in this blog it is obesity, fat, overweight, whatever you call it, does not cause disease and an early death.  So who cares if our nation becomes thinner? If people are mentally fit and healthy the effects would positively influences most, if not all, our social systems.  Why the hell can't we see past our judgemental little noses?

....maybe we are just looking for a scape goat or a punching bag to make ourselves feel better.

Nuff said....
You go J.K.Rowling!

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