The answer is that of course we should help anyone with their health issues. If their weight is causing a problem with their health and wellbeing, then as society we should help. But this question, which is often asked in more derogatory ways, needs to be broken down.
To begin with, it gives the implication that people who are overweight may not deserve help. That being self-inflicted, that it should be down to them to sort out. We shouldn’t be burdening our national health service with people who just can’t control their eating habits.
But that’s the thing, it’s not entirely an individual’s fault as to why they are overweight. There are so many environmental influences on our eating habits, and inheritable traits that make certain bodies hold onto weight. These are out of people’s direct control, and so it would be immoral to put all of the blame on them.
Many news sources have recently reported on comments made by a former BBC news presenter, who wrote in the Radio Times that fat people are “weak, not ill”, and that they should be left to die for the sake of saving the NHS money. Unfortunately, this grim sentiment is not uncommon.
This argument that fat people are a detriment to society, are weak-willed and over-indulgent, is not a new one. But the fact that we still haven’t moved on from this, even when the research out there points away from this argument, is shocking.
We know that obesity is not just a sudden case of people overeating and being lazy. The obesity epidemic is a concoction of changes in socioeconomic pressures, an increase in the availability and marketing of fast foods, and an education system that has failed many adults in teaching them basic nutrition and food prep.
Many people who are overweight are managing mental health problems too, which we know effect 1 in 4 people. Access to healthy foods is limited by an economy that has made poor people poorer, who simply cannot afford to eat well.
Instead of blaming individuals for why they are the way that they are, maybe let’s take a closer look at the conditions that have created the issue in the first place. Let’s move away from seeing obesity as a problem in itself, but a symptom of what our current social, economic, and political climate has perpetuated.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!