Everybody should be respected. You can’t truly know the struggles people face without living their life. So, shaming people for not being fit isn’t right. Being unfit could result from a complex mixture of anxiety, lack of education, addiction, depression, or any number other of factors that result in a lifestyle where health is not a priority. Judging and shaming don’t help our struggling loved ones.
In this context, it makes sense that people who are fat rail against those who have mercilessly shamed them. It hurts, it really hurts for society to bear down on you with the judgment that you are weak, lazy, or undisciplined just because you don’t fit their particular model of fitness. Every day, we uncover new science that suggests previous ideas of health are wrong, so why should the average member of society judge somebody based on their visual appearance?
This remains true until there is some effort to push something known to be clearly unhealthy as ‘fit’ or ‘beautiful’. My intent is not to be mean, but there are few things clearer than the idea that being morbidly obese is bad for your health.
Perhaps, in response to this shame, the idea that you could be ‘healthy at any weight’ took hold. Certainly, thin people can be unfit and people who have a high BMI can be fit, but a high level of fat, or the state of being obese is not healthy. Some people may find it attractive, but being fat reduces lifespan and increases the chances of disease.
The easy way forward is to have the attitude that this is a natural state of being, add the word ‘pride’ to it, and hope for the best. However, the only people sickened by obesity are not fully-informed adults. Today, children are becoming fatter, and it affects poor children at an even higher rate. Rather than accepting this fate for future generations, let's look at some reasons why we’re getting bigger.
Our food supply changed radically because of industrial farming. This was a necessary improvement that likely saved millions of lives. The ability to grow more food on less land, and in a wider range of conditions helped reinforce our food supply. Also, newer storage methods and preservatives further extended and secured our ability to eat a wide variety of foods. The companies that perfected these methods expanded on the ideas. Now about seventy percent of the standard American diet is composed of processed food.
These innovators arguably helped in the war effort, helped feed the poor, and altered the way Americans eat. Now it’s time to take a look at the process and see if we can improve for future generations. Just like consumers need to reflect on how they make their food choices, our food manufacturers need to think about how to improve the food they offer.
The main inputs into our food supply are corn, wheat, and soy. The subsidies on these crops cause overproduction and make them cheap inputs into our diet. As Americans move further away from eating whole foods and eat more subsidized foods, corporate profits increase-along with American waistlines. These subsidies are large: they amounted to 46 billion dollars in 2019.
Aside from the damage to our health, we should consider the damage to the environment. To grow at these levels, we currently till the soil and use unnatural fertilizers. This destroys soil biodiversity and releases carbon dioxide. Due to our bellicose relationship with Russia, our dependence on petro-fertilizers is currently in the news. We use petroleum to replenish nitrogen in the soil, but it runs off into our rivers, kills fish, and results in huge algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. Then, we use petroleum to fuel the machines to work the farm and transport it. This is not sustainable nor does it secure our food supply.
Another harm these subsidies cause to our food security is the reduction of crop rotation and diversity and over-investments in a few large crops. One could see how many different crops and proper crop rotation, with nitrogen-supplying cover crops would increase food security, increase nutritional values, and sequester carbon.
Currently, these overproduced inputs are sent to the corporations who experiment with the palatability to increase our urges to consume, professionally market to us, and lobby to influence the development of official health recommendations. We have poor quality foods in our cafeterias and offer ‘choice’ to children in vending machines. Do we really wonder why obesity is an epidemic?
The food and farm industries are not the only ones feeding at the trough of these bad practices. Pharmaceutical companies are also profiting from the ill health dealt to the obese. It’s no secret that type-2 diabetes is a disease spurred by insulin spikes due to repetitive eating of high glycemic index foods. The standard treatment for type-2 diabetes is insulin, which has made news because of perceived price gouging from its producers. And this is only one of the diseases attributed to obesity. We all know why big pharma is not lobbying for healthier foods.
Just knowing this should give the consumer some defense while shopping. If there was a larger demand for whole foods-not just for luxury consumers, but for everyone, production would start to shift. Learning to garden would also increase knowledge of our food supply. Demanding that schools serve whole foods would be another positive step. Writing your representative to request that farm bills include no-till methods and spread the subsidies to other crops is another idea for change.
I do believe a negative self-image is not helpful. If you’re obese, it’s important to know that you are more important than your body image. People who judge you because you are obese should be ignored. But the negative impacts of an unhealthy lifestyle should not be ignored. They are levied on you by your government, media, and corporate producers. They are profiting heavily from this pain and, at the very least, should be punished with the loss of another customer.