Obesity: Disease or just piggery?

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    Aug 29, 2007 9:05 AM GMT
    I think the acceptance of obesity as a disease is laughable. It gives a nice glossy lack of cause and effect to what amounts to poor self-control. The World Health Organisation doesn't agree. Thoughts, gentlemen?
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    Aug 29, 2007 2:12 PM GMT
    Apres Colm, le deluge....

    I think an extremely small number of people have a legitimate genetic/physiological problem with obesity which is exacerbated by environmental conditions.

    I think the vast majority though end up as they are, first due to a lack of education and second because of inertia and/or lack of willpower.
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    Aug 29, 2007 2:23 PM GMT
    And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:


    fattest-states-2007-big.gif


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    Aug 29, 2007 2:34 PM GMT

    Ohh, Bullshit.

    None of that crap explains the explosion of obesity over the last 40 years and especially the growth among the lower economic classes.

    Yes, Some people have a genuine physical problem; but the vest majority of the problem is with our modern culture and environment.

    People generally do not spend 10-12+ hours a day at hard physical labor like their ancestors. Their lives are filled with conveniences - take the car rather than walk a mile - take the elevator rather than walk up three flights - eat high carb, processed, fast food instead of more nutritious balanced meals - etc.

    Most roads in major cities are built without bicycle lanes - and people may commute to work for an hour from an outlying suburb.

    The poorest among us get the worst nutrition because we subsidise a farm bill that rewards 100 year old farm technology and giant agribusiness: thus producing cheap starches and carbs while people can't afford lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables.

    Our entire medical and health insurance communitty is geared to being reactive rather than proactive; and so many people can't afford the care that they let health problems fester beyond the point of no return.

    Lets not kid ourselves...

    It takes a great deal of training, willpower, and money to be healthy in todays society; and we are failing the majority of people out there.

    Rob
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    Aug 29, 2007 2:37 PM GMT

    Yes - look at your chart and realise that the states with the best record are the wealthiest or those with the best social safety nets, while those states with the worst record are the poorest and those with little social services and health care.

    Rob
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    Aug 29, 2007 2:37 PM GMT
    I know that for at least some people obesity is truly out of their hands. One of my best friends is overweight despite eating more healthily than just about anyone I know and exercising like a fiend. She has competed in a triathlon, ran two 5Ks this summer and is currently training for a half marathon. It REALLY upsets her when people confront her about her weight, as you can imagine - everyone assumes that she is overweight due to poor lifestyle choices, and she basically feels like people are judging her all day long wherever she goes. Living in Boulder doesn't help - this is arguably one of the fittest cities in the country and very few people here look like her. I think that she is a good example of why you shouldn't make snap judgments about people based on appearance or apply broad generalizations about segments of the populations to individuals - it's a good rule of thumb for most things in life, actually.
  • DiverScience

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    Aug 29, 2007 2:47 PM GMT
    I think that there are multiple causes of obesity. I think that one of the single greatest causes is our own medical system.

    Our current medical system refuses to take extra factors into consideration and instead prescribes across the board weight goals that may not be even close to achievable, and in some cases not even healthy for some individuals.

    As a result you have people who any rational person would label "thin" and/or "healthy" being told by doctors they are "obese." Get told that for enough years when you're fighting as hard as you can to lose weight and doing everything you think is right, and you'll give up.

    I also think some of the increase in the adult generations we're seeing in obesity is caused by a generation who had some of the worst diet advice ever. Even from doctors. And so some of the people who were trying the hardest ended up most effectively training their metabolisms not to lose weight.

    Now none of this is to say that obesity isn't a problem. It is. But I think we approach it wrong. I think there's far too much blaming of people and insulting them, calling them lazy and weak willed.

    Now part of this is because I've watched it in my friends and family. I'm thin. My brother's thin. And my father's pretty thin. But my mother has been fighting obesity tooth and nail for over 30 years. The various diets she's been on (many prescribed by doctors) have trained her metabolism to the point that *maintenance* calories are now 1200. I've talked to her and seen how, despite still working at it, has essentially completely lost hope. I've seen photos of her when she was first "obese." She was very thin. But our family has broad shoulders and extra dense bones (really), and so, for a woman, she was obese by the medical standards, and the diets only made it worse and worse as time went on.

    So um... yeah, those are my (very verbose) thoughts. Some of them at least. I'll leave my commentary on our society's "magic bullet" mentality for another post.
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    Aug 29, 2007 2:58 PM GMT
    I wouldn't call it piggery... just laziness.

    BUT it's all over really.

    I get into a similar argument about the media and the TV show "So You Think You Can Dance"

    Everyone is always saying "It will spark and interest in dance! People will be excited and kids will sign up for classes, and people will go see ballets".

    NO they won't! The vast majority of our culture would much rather sit on their buts at home, stuffing thier faces with sugars, and fats, and processed foods and be entertained with mind numbing minute and a half long "routines" (a four letter word to real dancers) for an hour, then to shell out $60-$150 for a ballet ticket where they actually have to get dressed, leave the house, and attend the event!

    Laziness! Not many people want to take the time to read about nutrition and exercise and find what actually works for them. They want the So You Think instant gratification and results, instead of the hard work of doing it for themselves.

    PS: I was fat as a kid and teen, so i'm speaking from my own perspective of making a change in my life. I've also seen a few of the wrestlers that were amazing looking in HS... Now... they have been trapped by the lazy Obese society... and lets just say not many would want to see them in a singlet now!
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    Aug 29, 2007 3:03 PM GMT
    It's a popular path choice. It's easy. Like alcoholism, drug addiction, cigarettes, etc. It takes little effort to participate in these activities and the rewards, for many, are worth it and become increasingly worth it as the addiction builds.

    Psychological maladies can be just as problematic as physical maladies.
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    Aug 29, 2007 3:08 PM GMT
    But not really. I would draw a slight line in the sand on that one. It's not like cancer or macular degeneration, in that the people have control over the onset and progression of the "disease," and it's not like a real psychological illness such as bipolar disorder, in that the person is not chemically misprogrammed to be a piggy, they just choose to be. I also think it's a lazy generalisation to say that poor people don't have the resources to be healthy. It's not a secret that eating too much makes you fat. It's been on Oprah and everything.
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    Aug 29, 2007 3:18 PM GMT
    There is simply no way to know all the factors that go into making a person obese, all of the events they're exposed to as kids. Anorexia is no different from obesity in this regard and it is seemingly as uncontrollable. I've known a few girls with real anorexia and it is terrifying to see a girl that think in 3d and know that she still considers herself fat. I've seen overweight friends gorge themselves with a whole bag of cookies or half gallon of ice cream and do it completely unaware that they've done it only to be surprised when it's all gone. I've seen some of those same people break down in tears and try try try try try to change. Myself, I quit smoking dozens of times, it was so easy, I figured why just quit once. I don't know why I couldn't stay off them. Hopefully this time out, cigs are out of my life for good. It's easy to sympathize with people with any character flaw once you've enumerated a few of the many within ourselves.
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    Aug 29, 2007 3:24 PM GMT
    Not plumps though
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    Aug 29, 2007 3:35 PM GMT
    Thank you McGay for bringing up the more sensitive, emotional issues that often contribute to obesity. I think weight prejudice is one of the strongest there is today - the whole notion that overweight people are simply lazy and piggish is pretty unsympathetic. Overeating is a compulsive behavior like anything else - shopping, TV watching, internet surfing, sex, cybersex, working. It just so happens that this particular compulsive behavior can lead to huge weight gains. But that fact does not diminish that a lot of obese people are attempting to eat away past trauma. I've known obese people that have come to realize their compulsive eating stemmed from molestation endured as a child - it became a form of destorying their bodies which were a form of shame for them. It always saddnes me a bit to see the knee-jerk contempt directed at overweight people from the larger world.
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    Aug 29, 2007 3:37 PM GMT

    You know Colm

    Your comments come off as arrogant and un sympathetic, not to mention culturally biased.

    In many societies, even today, being overweight is actually sought after - as it was in our own society up until the first half of the last century. In some societies it shows status and priveledge.

    This is a far more complex issue than your facile remarks would indicate.

    Why do you dislike/look down upon overweight people so much?

    I have to tell you that I have several friends who could be considered overweight/obese and they are wonderful people, and great friends, who lead vibrant intersting lives.

    A persons life should no more be judged solely by their physical fitness than it should be by your race or sexual orientation.

    We all have flaws.

    Rob
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    Aug 29, 2007 3:37 PM GMT
    In fairness, I think that was probably a bit too flippant. I must add that I have benn morbidly obese through comfort eating myself, and I just lost the weight, so I know where obese people are coming from, I just don't think it's a disease. If you know that you can't control yourself around a gallon of ice cream, why buy ice cream?
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    Aug 29, 2007 3:40 PM GMT
    Rob, I never said I dislike fat people. I won't say some of my best friends are fat, because they aren't, but I don't think fat people are inferior as people. I think that being fat is something that you can control though, and comfort eating, like any addiction, is something that you choose.
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    Aug 29, 2007 3:40 PM GMT
    I think we're saying (or at least I should have said in greater detail as you did) the same thing.

    That was the point of my graphic (which seems to have disappeared - here's the link http://calorielab.com/news/2007/08/06/fattest-states-2007/?gclid=CO_ClOHKmI4CFRx1UAodwRUeVA).

    The world we have constructed requires a tremendous amount of conscious effort to resist and avoid the "easy way" out of things and if you're not that well educated, it's going to be even harder.



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    Aug 29, 2007 4:06 PM GMT
    OK, everyone--go through all the above posts and where you see "obese" or "obesity", replace it with the word "gay." Ready? I'll wait. Hmm, hmm, do-de-do, la la--OK, done yet?

    SEE? You are doing to fat people what the world does to gay people. How is your ignorance and fatophobia somehow morally superior to the average queerbasher?

    Fat is just as genetic and inborn as homosexuality. You can be thinner, but you can't be thin. Bariatric surgery is the equivalent of shock treatments to change your orientation. Diets are reparative therapy.

    Learn to deal with diversity--not everyone has to have the same kind of body--not everyone has to have the same sexual orientation. Find a place on your rainbow for fat people--we'll take up at least 3 stripes.

    Hairspray, the movie, is the fat person's Brokeback Mountain. Go see it. Learn that we live, we love, we dance--just like you.

    Let's hear it for the fat Realjocks like David Wells, Roger Clemens, Angel Cabrera, and me!
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    Aug 29, 2007 4:09 PM GMT
    Then there are those who would hide behind the sympathies of others and use it as justification for being fat.
  • DiverScience

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    Aug 29, 2007 4:15 PM GMT
    Colm, some people *are* misprogrammed.

    Some are misprogrammed so their bodies don't signal them properly when they've had enough.

    And many are "misprogrammed" by being *better* programmed. Their metabolisms are more efficient and so can run farther on fewer calories. So they don't have to "pig out" to gain weight. From a biological, evolutionary perspective, this is advantageous. From a social perspective and given our current biological environment, it's a disadvantage.

    I have several friends that work out more regularly than I, eat half what I do, and still don't lose weight. Overall they're more fit than I am, even.
  • zakariahzol

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    Aug 29, 2007 4:19 PM GMT
    I use to be skinny, fat and than back to slightly overweight. I really believe it piggery. 2 of my sibling was obes. Me and my older brother lose the weight but my younger brother remain obes. I work out , change my diet, do my best to improve my health. My older brother got into financial difficulties thus eating less and work more physical job and loss the fat. My younger brother dont do much about it.

    True also my families carry overweight gene (my cousin are mostly fatties) but with a proper dieting program, working out, exercise we all can lose that fat. My choice is "just piggery"
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    Aug 29, 2007 4:19 PM GMT
    I think people are misunderstanding me. Take your hypothetical. Now, if the world health organisation had labelled homosexuality a disease, how happy would you be? It's not an acceptable or valid lifestyle choice, remember, it's a disease.

    Fat people shouldn't be pitied or lauded, just as they shouldn't be ostracised, if the sole basis is that they're fat. If someone chooses to be fat, they are aware of the health risks, just as a smoker is. Smokers are demonised all the time, but fat people? Oh no, they're tragic. Boo hoo.
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    Aug 29, 2007 4:22 PM GMT
    No one chooses to be fat anymore than anyone chooses to be gay. Your fatophobia is just as offensive as any homophobia.
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    Aug 29, 2007 4:29 PM GMT
    I see the consequences of obesity at work. A woman I work with must weight something between 250-300 pounds. She has a real hard time to walk and she's having problems with her knees.

    All she talks is food, all the time. She eats a lot of meat, but few vegetables and fruits. And between meals, she eats chips, chocolate and sweet soft drinks.

    But she said to me that her knee problems were genetic, it runs in the family she says. Bullshit, I've seen pics of her family and they are all overweight.

    I think that the cause of this problem is education and psychological.

    Obesity is not a disease, to me, it's more an addiction...you depend on something to make you feel good and give you the illusion that the pain is gone. I think it's the same psychological process for gambling, alcoholism, drugs, sex, work, etc...

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    Aug 29, 2007 4:32 PM GMT
    Reading over this topic again, I also want to be clear that my issues with fat prejudice wasn't directed at anyone on this board but more about the world in general. And, yes, it is true that we should have compassion for everyone but excuses for no one. We all have our issues - and it's up to all of us to make of our lives what we want. My point was simply that overating often doesn't get the same kind of understanding or sympathy that many other addictions do; but I agree wholeheartedly that, aside from the few people that genuinely cannot lose weight because of genetics (which seems to be rarer than not), it's ultimately up to an overweight person to change their lives - same as an alcoholic or drug addict.