Obesity, the new normal?

Posted 03.06.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | My recent brief get-away included stops elsewhere in Canada as well as further south, and I was surprised by several small cultural changes that may foretell bigger things, which is a pun. The bigger things are bigger people, and the trend they point to is a growing acceptance of obesity as if it were normal.

First: Restaurants. Both small places and one expensive spot all served gargantuan portions. On almost every occasion, the serving on one plate would have been enough for both my wife and I at home. I noticed virtually everyone around us sent food back on their plates. What is the purpose? To justify the bill? To encourage obesity? The waiters were not interested; serving-sizes weren't their decision or concern.

U.S. restaurants are known for their super-sized meals, but this happened in Toronto and further south, as well. Isn't this wasteful and harmful? Does it happen in any Aylmer, QC restaurants? Why would we patronize restaurants that over-size its dishes?

Second: The use of not big people, but overweight people on television -- newscasters, reporters, announcers, actors in ads. Obviously there are big people everywhere, but I am sure this media representation statistically misrepresents the number of big people. It may not misrepresent the number of obese people.

There is a difference. I come from a family that includes big and obese people -- I'm the shrimp of my siblings. The explanations and excuses began in childhood about why some people are big and others not.

This is not a moral or ethical question. It's a health issue. It is not about telling someone how to live as much as being aware that obese people cost everyone, not just themselves, since we all pay their eventual health bills. The list of ailments which apparently grow from obesity is long and chilling. The current flood of diabetes, for example, is repeatedly said to be in large part due to obesity. Ditto for heart problems.

Perhaps in the USA, where health costs are in large part a private matter, anyone could be free to grow as large as they wish, for whatever reason. But is it fair to everyone, here, where we all share the burden of exploding health care costs?

The public pressure which has removed smoking from movies and television has not focused on obesity. It should. For our general benefit, yes, but in particular for the eventual benefit of the victims themselves. We can't protect everyone from everything dangerous, and shouldn't even try, but in this case the results are so devastating, painful, life-destroying, family saddening, and costly, that there should not be any media acceptance of unhealthy lifestyles and choices. This is not heavy-handed, not prejudice, not punishment; in the end, it is part of our kindness and concern for each other.

Copyright © 2012 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/03.12