Thursday, January 08, 2004

Chewing the Fat

Lean, mean thinking machine Andrew Norton of Catallaxy Files and the Australian Libertarian Society seems to have developed a morbid obsession with fat recently. Principally it seems to be other people's fat: lesbian fat, lefty-columnist fat and most recently whiny fat people fat. In this last post, Andrew links to this Medical Journal of Australia article which identifies a number of causes of the increase in the number of whiny fat people in the Australian population. The article also canvasses and quickly evaluates possible approaches to the problem, commenting:

Even when "individual" treatment programs are effective (and they require continuing follow-up and involvement), the costs of making such programs widespread are likely to be prohibitive. Such programs are also unlikely to be accessed so readily by disadvantaged groups — increasing the already apparent socioeconomic differences. Public education should also be wary of overpromoting the virtue of thin bodies and inadvertently contributing to the development of eating disorders — the emphasis needs to be on healthy bodies. We must also guard against the victim-blaming approach, which can lead to obese people being labelled, if not bullied or demonised, and parents being criticised for their fat children to the point that issues of cruelty and child abuse are raised. A gain in physical health could easily be offset by deterioration in mental and social health. [my emphasis]

On that last sentence Andrew has this to say:

In individual cases, a tactful and kindly approach may well be the right one. But the language of 'victims' is likely to be counter-productive, encouraging people to think that their weight is the result of forces beyond their control, rather than their own actions. How many fat people have you heard saying 'it's my metabolism', as they tuck into another over-sized meal? Why justify such excuses? Fat people are mainly to blame for their own weight, and to the extent that they are not it is usually their parent's fault.

It's pretty obvious that Andrew is no endomorph. My guess is that he's a mesomorph; ectomorphs (like me) generally learn from experience that we can eat like pigs without turning into whiny fat people, much to the envy of our whiny fat friends. Comfortable in this knowledge we can turn an indulgent ear to their complaints about their metabolisms and respond with a sympathetic remark such as "Yes, I'm glad I don't have a lousy metabolism like yours. It must be hell being a whiny fat person."

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