Life Fat people still fat, vex nation
posted by October 30 at 12:29 PMon
From yesterday’s NYTimes comes an article on how fat people may be ruining the world (global warming, health care costs, simple aesthetics, etc.) but probably aren’t to blame for it (“Genes play a significant role”). The Obese are labeled as gas hogs and scapegoats (mostly the latter), but the article shies away from drawing any conclusion other than being obese is worse than being armless and fat people eat more when they’re unhappy. They what will help these folks get healthy? Regulations like militant fat taxes? Help like healthier KFC? Soda bans? Derision?
Fat people are more reviled than ever, researchers find, even as more people become fat. When smokers and heavy drinkers turned pariah, rates of smoking and drinking went down. Won’t fat people, in time, follow suit?
Research suggests that the stigma of being fat leads to more eating, not less. And if reducing the stigma suggests a solution, that’s not working either.
“One hypothesis about getting rid of stigma is having more contact with the stigmatized group,” Dr. Brownell says. But with obesity, the stigma seems to be growing along with the national girth.
He cites a famous study in the 1960’s in which children were shown drawings of children with and without disabilities, as well as a drawing of a fat child. Who, they were asked, would you want for your friend? The fat child was picked last.
Now, three researchers have repeated the study, this time with college students. Once again, almost no one, not even fat people, liked the fat person. “Obesity was highly stigmatized,” wrote the researchers, Janet D. Latner of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, Albert J. Stunkard of the University of Pennsylvania and C. Terence Wilson of Rutgers University, in the July 2005 issue of Obesity Research.
One problem with blaming people for being fat, obesity researchers say, is that getting thin is not like quitting smoking. People struggle to stop smoking, but many, in the end, succeed. Obesity is different. It’s not that the obese don’t care. Instead, as science has shown over and over, they have limited personal control over their weight. Genes play a significant role, the science says.