Political Correctness is a wonderful thing. We can embrace progressive causes and feel really good about ourselves without having to think too carefully about the implications.
I speak as a European, as someone who’s attitudes would be characterized by 90% of US citizens as god-hating baby-eating communist-loving gun-fearing gay-kissing wrongness incarnate.
I’m someone who thinks it’s abhorrent to discriminate on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, or race (whatever that happens to mean to most people at any point in time). I know that it is insane for 1% of the population to control 50% of the wealth and I can’t understand how anyone would think that providing health services to all citizens could possibly be a bad idea. And I think governments have no business at all being involved in any way in anyone’s consensual sexual activities.
In short, I’m a European liberal in the classic J.S. Mill sense.
But, alas, I’m also someone who every once in a while bumps into real-world data and tries to incorporate that into my weltanschauung. Because, you know, reality is rather important, eventually. For all of us. If you’re not convinced, think about climate change as a great example.
Anyhow, for the last few years it’s been transiently fashionable to burble on about how we should never, ever, say or do anything that could be construed as “body shaming.”
What this seems to mean is that we’re supposed to think the obesity epidemic that’s overwhelming the developed world and far too much of the developing world too is perfectly OK because, hey, fat is just a body choice. Fat people deserve as much love and respect as the very few people nowadays who make more adequate lifestyle choices, and anyone who suggests otherwise is a body-shamer, which is apparently pretty much the same as being a paid-up member of the Nazi Party.
Except of course this is all arrant nonsense. Being fat isn’t a fashion choice, no matter how many glossy magazines pretend otherwise in order to sell a few more copies to overweight readers. Being fat is primarily a health issue.
Political Correctness has misled everyone by claiming it’s a problem of perception. If only we weren’t so regressive we’d see that fat is a valid choice and we should love the person inside rather than focus on their excess lipids.
Yet this is no different from saying we shouldn’t focus on the number of drinks someone’s had before lurching off to their car and attempting to drive home because alcohol shaming is wrong and we should love the person inside, not the quantity of drink they’ve consumed.
Let’s take a look at what happens when we’re overweight, because being overweight has real and very harmful consequences.
First of all, as we all know, our probability of developing Type II diabetes goes through the roof. Diabetes is a terrible disease, yet millions of us worldwide choose to develop it because we’d rather eat too much (and too much of the wrong things) than to modify our dietary choices. But what kind of people are we if we’d rather cram down another cheeseburger and soda even if it means ultimately losing a leg to gangrene, or worse?
Secondly, being overweight significantly harms our cardiovascular system. Not only does this mean we’ll puff and wheeze going up even a short flight of stairs but our arteries are becoming clogged and our heart is being put under far too much stress. This all results in high blood pressure, which can cause all manner of illnesses including aneurysm, ocular degeneration, and our perennial favorite the myocardial infarction.
Thirdly, being overweight means we’ll suffer from joint injuries. A lot. Think damage to ligaments and tendons, bone fractures, and a whole laundry-list of daily aches and pains resulting from the excess weight our frame is having to carry around.
Fourthly, we’ll have less energy, we’ll tend to be depressed more often because of hormonal imbalances resulting from excess lipid storage, and we’re also likely to suffer from food cravings that will burn up far more of our monthly budget than they should, meaning we’ll have much less to spend on things that could otherwise enrich our lives.
Fifthly, just in case we need to continue, our risk of various kinds of cancer also increases very significantly. And frankly bowel cancer or breast cancer, to name just two options, aren’t really things that can be turned into funny memes on social media to boost the number of followers we have.
So being overweight is definitely not a fashion issue or a body consciousness issue (at least, not in the way our Politically Correct friends would claim) nor a “valid lifestyle choice.” We should not “embrace the fat person within each of us” nor imagine that there is no connection whatsoever between what someone is on the outside and what they are on the inside.
We become fat when we make poor lifestyle choices, and making poor lifestyle choices is a pretty significant indicator about the kind of person we are inside.
There’s also the fact that all these diseases resulting from obesity are fabulously expensive. It’s been estimated that today half of all healthcare spending is a result of people eating too much, and too much of the wrong things. What this means is that Aunt Mary has to pay more for, or wait longer for, her hip replacement operation because the system is clogged with people who’ve clogged their own arteries by choice. Or to put it another way, those few people making more adequate lifestyle choices end up paying for everyone who can’t be bothered to do so. I’m not sure that’s a very moral or responsible way for us to behave.
The truth is, being overweight is a massive health risk. Yes, we see the occasional study claiming we can be overweight but still healthy. That’s the result of statistical variation in any population. It’s why Uncle Fred smoked 120 cigarettes and drank 8 bottles of whiskey per day but still lived to be 147 years old. But it’s also irrelevant. On average, across the population as a whole, Uncle Fred’s lifestyle would result in most people dying in their 30s. It’s the same with weight. Sure, a tiny number of people can be obese yet not suffer from the ailments listed above. But the rest of us will, in fact, succumb to one or more of those entirely avoidable diseases. Do we really want to bet our lives on the hope we may just possibly be a statistical fluke?
So we have to stop pretending that obesity is a “valid lifestyle choice.” That’s like saying alcoholism is a valid lifestyle choice. We have to stop being so obsessed with safe spaces and never offending anyone and embracing Political Correctness regardless of real-world consequences.
Because if we really care about people, we should be trying to help them. Would we really tell someone we love, who’s an alcoholic, they should just go ahead and down that liter of vodka because it’s a valid lifestyle choice and all that matters is that we love the person they “really” are inside?
It’s time for us to face up to reality and begin to accept the fact that obesity is quite literally killing millions.
Or we can go the way of the National Rifle Association and mindlessly chant, “Fat doesn’t kill people, people kill people” in order to keep on feeling warm and fuzzy and Politically Correct.
It’s our choice.