Friday, August 10, 2012

Everyone picks on the fat kid

I've my fortnightly column on the ABC today, 'Everyone picks on the fat kid'.

I'm looking into the politics of obesity: why obesity is a problem, and why no-one deserves to be mocked or shamed for this.  A sample:
Many are predisposed at birth to develop obesity, and many suffer physically, psychologically and socially because of their size. Prejudices against obese Australians do nothing to remedy this situation. In fact, they may worsen it.  
Having said this, it is important to be clear about obesity itself. In particular, I can see no reasons to recommend or celebrate it.  
First, obesity is not, as a rule, healthy. Obesity is one of the critical markers for a shorter, more uncomfortable, more restricted life. The obese are more likely to suffer from hypertension and diabetes, for example, alongside other physiological and psychological problems.  
Of course skinny people can develop heart or hormonal diseases too - many obese Australians are sick (or will be), but not all sick Australians are obese. And in some cases, having lower body weight can be detrimental to health - in certain forms of surgery, for example.  
But medically speaking, obesity is not something to be recommended, any more than one might recommend lung disease. Indeed, obesity has, according to recent reports, overtaken smoking to become the "leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia".  
Leaving aside the economic costs of an obese population - which, over a lifetime, might be less than those of citizens in a healthy weight range - these are good reasons to avoid obesity.
(Photo: Isaac Brown/StockyBodies)

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