Got your attention, didn’t I? Before anyone gets all tied up in knots ready to behead me for my apparent rudeness and lack of sympathy, I don’t agree with what the title says. This was just my attempt at click-bait because I feel that this subject needs to be addressed from another point of view.
The website Upworthy recently posted a link to an article that talks about a study that was done at the University of Pennsylvania funded, in most part, by the National Institute on Aging. This study looked at the idea of “fining” fat people if they didn’t exercise. Wow. Apparently the study was trying to look for ways to motivate people to become healthier and thinner. But here’s the thing: weight isn’t the best indicator of health. There are many overweight individuals who are otherwise healthy and many thin people who are horribly ill. The idea that we can tell someone’s health by just looking at them is ludicrous and yet that is what most people will do, including many doctors.
While this subject isn’t specific to those of us with type 2 diabetes, it is certainly closely related. We all know of the stigma that is attached to our disease and it is continually perpetuated in the media and medical communities. The fact that this study was even done is very telling. You want to fine fat people for failing to exercise? Really?
Now let’s look at this from another perspective. Lack of added exercise is a HUGE problem in our society (and that pun was not intended. Lack of exercise is a problem for everyone, not just the overweight). Our hectic lives, jobs that require us to sit for hours a day, cities that are designed for cars and not people, the Internet and exhaustion have all made it easier to just not exercise. But we should exercise, in fact I’ll go further and say that we must exercise! Really! I’ve posted on my personal blog before about how exercise has benefitted me. I also know how difficult it is to keep it up when life gets in the way. I’m not here to say that it’s easy but it is worth doing.
Here’s what gets under my skin about this study and what it implies. Quit pointing at fat people and saying that they’re a problem! (I should have used caps.) People who are overweight are vilified as being lazy and saying that we should fine them for not exercising is indicating that they’re stupid and need to be tricked into walking like some toddler who won’t pick up their toys. YES, overweight people should exercise. YES, it will benefit their lives. NO, they’re not the only ones who should be moving. I’m not implying that overweight people should be coddled and patted on the head while telling them that it’s not their fault. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Exercise is hard. Exercise is even harder when you’re heavy. Should we condemn people who are struggling with this? I don’t think so. Another very important thing to consider is that there are many medical reasons that people are overweight; insulin resistance has been shown to encourage fat storage, thyroid issues, medications can cause weight gain and the realization that processed carbs are addicting is rarely discussed in the mainstream.
So, what should we as a nation do to fix this issue? How about figuring out a way to re-teach our society about the importance of eating real food as opposed to processed junk? How about subsidizing vegetable farmers (other than the corn growers) in order to decrease the cost of vegetables? Community cooking classes and vegetable gardens sound awesome. Why can’t communities put some bucks into making it easier to walk instead of drive? What about having employers put programs in place that encourage their employees to exercise while at work, you know like a room with a few treadmills like you see at hotels or a mandatory 20 minute stretch or walk break with extra kudos for taking the stairs? People don’t need to be bullied or shamed in order to improve their lives, that doesn’t work! People need to be shown what a healthy life looks like and be given the opportunities and information to make it possible for them to achieve that health. Yes, overweight people should be exercising and so should everyone else. The reward will be healthier individuals who are happier with their lives. That is worth much more than a few pennies in their pocket and it can be done without shaming. Quit pointing at the overweight as the problem and begin solving the real problems facing all of us: lack of real opportunities to improve everyone’s health. Let’s find ways to encourage each other instead of blaming and shaming. I can get behind that.