mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Are fat people greedy?

Via an OT thread comes this article about the head of the British Medical Association, who thinks that fat people are "greedy" and don't need pills to lose weight, but rather need to take responsibility for their actions.

When I hear people talk about why some people are fat, it seems to divide into two camps. On one side are the "fat-rights" advocates, who say (between mouthfuls of fudge) that fat people can't help being fat - that they are fat because of bad genes, because of medical conditions that make them eat too much, that people are discriminating against them for things that they can't do anything. On the other side are people, usually people who have never been overweight, who see losing weight as just a matter of putting down the fork, and maybe taking the stairs every now and then. To them, a minimal amount of effort will make the tubbiest lardass skinny.

My thought is that reality lies somewhere between these two extremes. I'm not a doctor, or scientist, so everything I say has no scientific basis. That being said, I am a recovering fatass. I've posted this a few times, but this is a picture of me taken in December of 2004. On the other hand, this is a picture of me taken in May of 2007. As you can tell, I've lost a few pounds.

I'm not going to claim that I now live a perfectly healthy lifestyle. I still eat foods I shouldn't, or too much of foods that are OK in small doses. I work out regularly, but I do skip days or shorten my workout, and I probably should start lifting instead of just doing cardio. I could stand to lose more weight - I'm on the line between normal and overweight according to the BMI scale.

The thing about losing weight is that it is possible, but it takes a significant amount of work. I went from eating what I wanted when I wanted, to having to watch everything, to not being able to eat foods that everyone around me was eating. Prior to a couple years ago, I had never exercised. I'd never set foot in a gym. I started off walking laps around the reservoir near work, and eventually joined the gym at the college I work at, and slowly increasing the time and intensity of my workouts.

I had a few factors that helped out. I had plenty of free time to work out. I was (and still am) single, so I could set my own workout schedule and my own diet, and not have to worry about it's impact on a spouse or family. I could afford to buy decently healthy food. I could afford a gym membership, and work for a college with a really good fitness center that employees can join. I also had something motivating me - I had taken one of those "how long will you live" tests online and it said that I was going to die at age 56. I didn't want to die at age 56, so every time I wanted to eat something I shouldn't, or skip the gym, I told myself that it would kill me.

So I'm not going to take a holier-than-thou attitude that if I can do it, anyone can do it. It certainly is possible to lose weight, but it's not easy - I was fat for pretty much my entire life. I also live in fear that I will continue to backslide into my bad habits, that I'll start eating even more and exercising less and once again have to special-order my pants.

So in response to the original article, I think the doctor is wrong to use the word "greedy" to describe the overweight. I think fat people are fat partly because of bad decisions - because they eat more than they should of certain foods, because they don't exercise. But I also think that genetics are factor. Some people have high metabolism - they can eat a ton, work out infrequently, and are still skinny. Meanwhile, other people, like myself, can eat reasonably well, work out, and still have the belly of the pillsbury doughboy (he-he!). I also think that some people are wired to "feel full" with different amounts of food.

As far as the appropriateness of pills and surgery, I'm not sure. I'm not a doctor. I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But I'm guessing there is quite a bit of disagreement even among doctors. I certainly think that people can lose weight without pills or stomach stapling. But if those things work for people, and can make them lose weight and live longer/happier/more productive lives, it seems stupid not to make them available to people. My understanding is that those things only work if the person taking/using them makes lifestyle changes anyway - that they will help the weight-loss process, but that the person using them still needs to stop eating an entire can of frosting for breakfast.


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