Self-responsibility is Not Exclusive to Obesity

Opening my Web browser today, I instantly saw three different news stories talking about obesity. Story #1 talked about “obesity and autism,” story #2 talked about “obesity and foot disorders” and story #3 talked about “obesity and diabetes.” Three different obesity-related stories on one Web site, in just one day, and yet, we still don’t get it.

Some would say that working in the field of obesity for seven years now would maybe make me “hypersensitive” to media stories on obesity. I would, respectfully, disagree. See, this is what I don’t understand. Every single day there is a news story about obesity, childhood obesity, effects of obesity, obesity-related diseases, cost of obesity and the list goes on and on, yet we still, as a society, do not “get” that obesity is a serious issue. Why? Why don’t we understand this? Is it our personal biases toward obesity?

I often use a quote when working with the media stating that, “Obesity is not something that will impact the U.S. in five or 10 years. Obesity is here. It is impacting us now and will continue to do so until it receives the respect it deserves.” I stand behind this quote 100%. This disease receives no respect. Read any story on obesity, and then read the comments at the bottom. You’re bound to see something like, “You fat people do it to yourselves.” “Just put down the fork.” “Ugh, I don’t know how you could get that big.” Really – come on be serious.

There is no denying that obesity and self-responsibility go hand-in-hand. But, my question is – what doesn’t have self-responsibility combined with it and why do we feel it is okay to attach self-responsibility with a steel chain to obesity, but not anything else?

Example, and this is one of my favorites, “Well, he ate poorly and did this to himself, so he shouldn’t get his treatment covered. He paid for the food. He can pay for the treatment.” Okay, what if I said, “Well, he smoked cigarettes for years and he paid for the cigarettes, so he really shouldn’t have lung cancer treatment covered by his insurance. He should pay out-of-pocket.”

Now, I’ve said this publicly and I’ve taken much heat for it – even received death threats for it. By no means am I saying that someone affected by cancer shouldn’t have access to care, but what I am saying is that before we, as a society, place blame and feel the need to pull the “self-responsibility” card, we must first look at all the things in life that have self/personal responsibility tied to them. And, if you take a good look, I think you’ll find that just about everything has “self-responsibility” tied to it somehow, someway.

Think about it…


3 Comments for this Post
  • Pam Davis
    April 19, 2012 at 12:50 am

    AMEN! Excellent post James, excellent.

  • Christal
    April 19, 2012 at 6:54 am

    I think that people in general see food as a luxury. I see food as a necessitly. Just like some people see pain killers as a luxury. Someone else may see pain killers as a necessity. People have to open thier minds. Food, drugs, alcohol, gambling or whatever, can be so important that you can’t see past it. Obesity isn’t something that happens overnight, it comes slowly and gradually; and suddenly you can’t do things you used to and you aren’t the person you used to be. However, unlike a lot of other things a person can’t just stop eating and so the psychological warfare is so intense that so many just give up. With out having access to treatment and surgery for this astronomical problem, a lot of people will die and so many others will just say ‘Why didn’t she just put down her fork?’.

  • Danielle ishappinessspoonfed
    May 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Each individual has a struggle that is so much more complex than just “personal responsibility.” We need to look at obesity as not healthy emotionally and possibly mentally. There are so many issues that people have with food. It isn’t so simple as the industrial weight loss complex would have you believe. I think these oversimplifications are out of a desperation to get a response. Saying its simple, they hope that people will attack it with that in mind, but I think a more empathetic approach is education, and counseling.

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