I usually don’t comment on Gawker (or even Jezebel), as I don’t like getting drawn into fights. Instead, one of my favorite past times is watching OTHER people getting drawn into fights. There are some epic threads that make for good reading.
But yesterday, on a post about a man who opened up a plus-size hair salon (really), someone begged the annoying question: why is it ok to harass smokers about their health, but not fat people.
I had to comment, God help my soul. This was my response:
Smoking and obesity are NOT COMPARABLE. You don’t need nicotine to live. We have to eat. (obesity and food addiction, at least insomuch as treatment is concerned, are also not comparable with alcoholism and drug addiction, IMO, even if there are some commonalities when it comes to brain chemistry…)
People may lambast smokers, primarily because, I don’t know, their smoking can have a profound adverse health effect on bystanders. (I speak as someone who grew up with a smoking parent, too) You can’t “catch” obesity, and standing next to an obese person can’t give YOU cancer. Moreover, it’s generally accepted that a huge part of the problem with smoking is insidious advertising and marketing from the smoking industry… which is now heavily restricted. Yet people refuse to take the same stance when it comes to food advertising (and truth in “food” advertising — a lot of processed junk is NOT food). Food, and junk food, is ALSO highly addictive, but we don’t talk about that (we really need to start talking about that!). We talk about willpower and choices. It’s a MYTH that by SHEER WILLPOWER obese people can overcome food, fitness, health, nutrition and behavior problems. Willpower and choices are a part of it. But not all. (and, honestly, the few people I know who succeeded on the sheer willpower diet are now thin but hate themselves, and hate fat people — so much internalized self-hate!)
Also, being a smoker is not an “obvious” physical characteristic, so you won’t see a smoker discriminated against or publicly humiliated and tormented as you would an obese person. Not saying smokers don’t take a lot of flack — they do! And a lot of it is unwarranted, because others health-policing strangers is douchey (fat or smoking! Or both!). There’s just SO MUCH unspoken (and spoken) fat stigma already. That’s why it’s really not necessary to make it “OK” to health police fat people.
I got one OMG BUTTHURT response from someone who, naturally, DID employ SHEER WILLPOWER to lose weight and they OMG DON’T HATE THEMSELVES. Quote:
I got thin on sheer willpower, and I don’t hate myself. I don’t hate fat people, either, but I do hate it when a fat person claims he or she can’t get thin no matter what they do. Especially if they say it as they’re scarfing down a Big Mac, which I have actually seen somebody do.
We all pay for obesity-related health problems (whether a person has insurance or not), so it really is everybody’s business.
Thanks for illustrating my point there, sparky! The one where I said that formerly fat people are the hardest on still-fat people (aka: fat hate, fat shaming). Because, in my experience (which I noted! I said PERSONALLY!), those who succeeded & live on an *extremely* restrictive “willpower” diet are patently miserable and super duper into body snarking and body/food policing. Everything in moderation, my friends.
And, for the record, the SHEER WILLPOWER diet of which I speak is the imaginary one that Not Fat People tell us about: “Oh, don’t you know that all you have to do is eat less and exercise more? Put down the Big Mac!” Oh, jeeze, I didn’t know it was that simple! I just have to subsist off lettuce and lentils for the rest of my life and everything will be PERFECT! As I said *in my comment* (people don’t read), willpower and choices are part of making a lifestyle change. But the idea that all you need is SHEER WILLPOWER to overcome obesity is silly.
But the comment that TAKES THE CAKE is this one:
Actually there have been studies showing that you can essentially catch obesity by normalization. Good friends and family members being the highest risk.
That’s right, folks. This guy thinks you can CATCH obesity. Like a communicable disease! Bear in mind that what he *means* is studies that show that if your friends and family are obese, you are statistically more likely to be obese yourself. DUH. But FFS, we just can’t win. People think you can catch obesity. The Internet fails at life.
Maybe I’m a coward, but I didn’t respond to any of the responses to me, as I found them silly, reductive and knew that to “argue” would be pointless. Once someone has succeeded on the SHEER WILLPOWER diet, there’s no telling them that it’s just not that easy for other people, and that to suggest so is patronizing. Don’t get me started on “catching” obesity guy.
And, frankly, my comment was in response to someone who compared health policing smokers with health policing obese people. I made my point, and the original commenter agreed with me. (the point: we shouldn’t police anyone… but smoking and obesity are certainly two very different things) I’m proud of my comment, and because I’m a narcissist, I’m posting it. :)