Stop Blaming the Overweight for Everything

Mike & Molly

**This is Part 2 of a 2-part Point/Counterpoint discussion. Click here for Part 1.

If there's anything positive to come out of Maura Kelly's disgusting dig at the "fatties" on Mike & Molly in Marie Claire last week, it was a national dialogue about how Americans treat the overweight.

But while the rest of the blogosphere has handily responded to the cruelty within her rant, the reason Kelly felt she could go out guns blazing at the overweight remains a problem for the fat acceptance movement.

Fat, people reason, is something the overweight can do something about. And if they aren't fixing it, well gosh darnit, they must be lazy.


Just look at Kelly's lame attempt at being "sympathetic," shoved at the end of her original piece:

I'm happy to give you some nutrition and fitness suggestions if you need them -- but long story short, eat more fresh and unprocessed foods, read labels and avoid foods with any kind of processed sweetener in them whether it's cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, increase the amount of fiber you're getting, get some kind of exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week, and do everything you can to stand up more -- even while using your computer -- and walk more. I admit that there's plenty that makes slimming down tough, but YOU CAN DO IT! Trust me. It will take some time, but you'll also feel so good, physically and emotionally. A nutritionist or personal trainer will help -- and if you can't afford one, visit your local YMCA for some advice.

Oh, go to the YMCA! Walk! Excise the high fructose corn syrup. And the pounds will simply melt away! Why didn't I think of that? Oh wait ... did it, tried it, and yup, still fat.

If only it were so easy, Ms. Kelly.

What she -- and thousands of other skinny minis like her -- have glossed over are the myriad reasons 68 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese. They're reasons that thousands of other Americans have pushed for a focus on fat acceptance instead of fat shaming, a focus on the realities of the overweight rather than condemnation.

Until we change our society to make losing weight possible, society must adapt. So what makes Americans fat?

Our Jobs.

Welcome to an America where the 40-hour work week is just a baseline, and saying no to extra hours is tantamount to saying, "I don't want to work here." We're scared even to use our vacation days -- and the mounting stress is packing on the pounds. On the flip side, Americans have little extra time for going to the YMCA or taking a walk because they're working. Hard.

While they're there, the computerization of the American marketplace means they're likely to be sedentary. Even a mechanic who once dropped to the ground and slipped under a car to assess the damage now stands idle while a computer diagnoses the problem.

When they're home, there's no time for anything else. It's too dark to go walking. Too late to hit the gym (if they can afford it).

Our Economy.

Gone are the days when one parent stayed home while the other went to work. Which means also gone is the time for one stay-at-home parent to have a healthy meal on the table at 6 p.m. Now there are two parents rushing home to help the kids with homework and get them off to bed, meaning there's an awful lot of chicken nuggets thrown on a pan and baked in the oven while Mom does bath and Dad does math with Junior.

The weekends are devoted not to spending time as a family, playing a game of catch in the backyard, or walking the neighborhood, but rushing around town doing the myriad errands you couldn't do during the week. That includes grocery shopping -- in bulk -- and skipping the freshest foods in favor of items that will last the week.

That's if you have jobs. With unemployment hovering at 9.6 percent, factor in the cost of "good, healthy food" over the starchy, nutrition-deficient foods that fit into a budget. Sure, you can take your food stamps to the farmers' market these days, but what's a fresh $4 tomato when you can buy four bags of ready-to-eat noodles with the same $4?

Our Medicines.

Technology has given us the wonders of life-lengthening drugs. But for every two steps forward, there's another step back. Which for people with depression, diabetes, and schizophrenia can mean the medicine that's saving their lives is also making them pack on the pounds.

Our Genes.

The Dove ads have won consistent praise for showing "real" women of varying body types. But it's an idea that's less novel than it is simply observant. Put two newborns on the same diet for their first year, offer them the same opportunities, and one is going to hit the year mark several pounds heavier than the other.

People are not made the same, and no amount of starving is going to make the wide hips that require a wider chair go away on a big-boned girl. On the other side of the coin, eating fast food day in and day out will not make certain teeny tiny women balloon.

Our Families.

It's not just the propensity for thunder thighs you got from dear old Dad. He's now taken up residence in your guest room, and he's taking up your time. The sandwich generation is alive, but they're not doing so hot these days.

According to a federal study of work-life balance, "In 2008, approximately 43.5 million Americans served as unpaid caregivers to a family member over the age of 50. Nearly one-fifth of employed people were caregivers who provided care to a person over age 50."  Which adds stress -- already indicated above as a risk factor for weight gain -- and again sucks time away from the pursuit of exercise.

Until we can fix these five problems, Americans don't need to hear someone else telling us it's easy to lose weight. We need a way to make do with what we've got.


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