Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Politics of Obesity

At the risk of offending everybody in the world, I have to say that for me the highlight of the lauded speech by Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night was that she hugged a fat woman on the way to the podium.

I had just been thinking about the film clip showing her doing push-ups with the stars, and doing all kinds of other aerobic stuff with any kid in her vicinity, and just feeling left out.  Michelle may be speaking for a lot of people, but I don't really think she speaks for the obese.

The problem is not just a matter of calories and exercise.  It is so much more complex, and yes, it is political.  And those who are not in jaw-dropping awe of "everything Michelle" have, from time to time, spoken to the real problem.

In so many ways, so many of us do not have a choice.  We get up too early, spend too many hours in a car, sit at a desk or do other non-aerobic activities, for not-enough-money to buy quality food and with not-enough-time to cook it if we did.

Don't get me wrong, I have studied this problem much of my life.  I can cook quick and pretty cheap and keep the calories low, I can even exercise, but not for the duration.  Because if you have lived much or your life struggling and juggling, it may come down to the fact that food gives you respite and pleasure.

It chills me to hear the judgments that are made about the obese.  I have friends who very likely eat as poorly as I do, but far less, and believe that I should have to pay a higher insurance premium because of my weight.  Well, we all fell into that trap when we allowed insurance companies to charge more for smokers, didn't we?  And do you think your doctor is just asking out of concern when she questions how much you drink during your check-ups?

This is truly the judgment society, brought to you by the insurance industry, who would love to collect lots of money and have documented reasons to not pay up.

How about stress?  Job stress vs. unemployment stress.  Worries about the future:  yours, your kids', your parents'.  How about how much is gas going to go up tomorrow -- that's a game the oil industry likes to play.

So we admire and reward athletes that stress their bodies to the max, and celebrities that do whatever is necessary to keep their weight down.  Is that really more healthy than my obesity?

I'll be honest; over the years I was single-parenting and spending twelve to sixteen hours a day living out of the car, earning slightly more than minimum wage, I put on weight.  Lots of weight.  Junk food lunches and dinners.  Exercise?  No, thanks, just pour me another coffee, and a drink when I finally get home.

The best thing about that horrible life style is that I stopped watching my weight.  I bought bigger clothes, and I just went with it.  It wasn't till my doctor got through to me about my skyrocketing blood pressure that I determined to diet.

And it's hard, you people that have never had to do it.  It's not just a matter of having the White House chef cook up some tasty broccoli.  Because at this point in my life, I still want the pleasure of good food, and pleasure for me is broccoli with a cream sauce.  And I have had a lifetime of trying to be better with portions.  Can't do it.

But one thing is for sure.  Other fat people out there would love to have a lifestyle where they can afford healthy food, have the time to cook it, can sleep when they are tired and wake up when they are rested.  Don't have to worry about whether they can afford health emergencies or home repairs.  Don't have to worry about their kids finding good jobs or their parents paying for their prescription meds.

And as a child, if you grow up in a home where the thing you look forward to at the end of the day is your mom's home-cooked pasta, or that sweet-and-fattening junk food, chances are pretty good that's what you'll be when you grow up.

If you can't speak to the causes of the problem, then at least let us enjoy it.

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