So one of the big gripes I get about fat folks is that we’re just so darn lazy. All we do is lay around on the couch and eat cheeseburgers and this is why we’re fat (despite the fact that plenty of thin or “average” people manage to do this very thing without magically turning into narwhals overnight — it’s probably witchcraft). I hear people complain about how their tax dollars are going to supporting my unhealthy lifestyle and that’s why my health is their business, demonstrating not only that they’re fat-hating bigots but that they have absolutely no clue how it is their tax dollars actually work.
As Americans we get laughed at a lot by foreign nations, especially when it comes to issues like health care and how we magically think a national healthcare system that’s worked for every economically equivalent nation that’s used it won’t work for us because we’re special. And as much as I hate to add fuel to the fire, there is apparently one major downside to a system where the government and individual tax dollars are directly contributing to health care.
Obese and other unhealthy people could be monitored to check whether they are taking exercise and have their benefits cut if they fail to do so under proposals published on Thursday by a Conservative-run council and a local government thinktank.
Excellent! Were this to pass, if you fit into the “obese” section of the super accurate and always reliable BMI chart you may be denied your health benefits unless you agree to jump through some government hoops first. How fucking dehumanizing is that? If you’re 5’5 and over 180lbs, you don’t get healthcare unless your government-issued smart card scans and shows that you’ve done your homework and brushed your teeth. Despite the fact that you’re actually paying into this healthcare pool out of your tax dollars too (FAT PEOPLE MAKE MONEY ITS TRUE!!!), you can’t use it because we don’t like how big your belly is.
Or because obesity is a strain on their health system, they say. Let’s really break this down.
One, obesity isn’t a strain on the healthcare system. The war on obesity certainly is. Oh, sure, you’ll see plenty of articles about how terrifying obesity is and the impact it’s having on our healthcare system– it’s worse than smoking, the NHS must take action to stop the spread of this vicious plague on humanity, etc etc. I could literally sit here and link these all day because when you google obesity and healthcare about a zillion of articles just like this pop up. And they all have one thing in common: all of them talk about obesity like a disease. Not a single one says why we should be combating obesity, they just list it out there like it’s cancer. Well of course you understand that being fat is bad, no further explanation needed! Never mind that there’s actually no correlation between being fat and unhealthy (and in fact being fat can help reduce your risk of things like heart disease and diabetes — is your mind blown yet?), we all know that the words overweight and obese equate with “needs to be fixed.”
We don’t think twice about it, or about the procedures in place to “correct” our fatness. Weight loss surgery is often touted as the savior of our fat bellies. Weight loss surgery, which involves mutilating our internal organs often irreversibly. Weight loss surgery which causes one in fifty deaths within a month of the procedure. Most weight loss surgery sites will tell you that death is a risk, but helpfully add on YOU’LL DIE ANYWAY IF YOU DON”T HAVE IT SO WHY NOT!! These sites don’t describe what about obesity is a cost-raiser or specifically dangerous because nothing about obesity is. Some conditions that can occur at the same time as obesity do, but obesity doesn’t kill people. Just because some fat people have high cholesterol doesn’t mean fat causes high cholesterol. That’s lazy science. It’s the same logic people use to say video games and television cause violence because people who have done violence watch them. Not a single one of these articles breaks down how it is obesity is causing our health care risks to rise because they can’t. And the more and more research we actually do into obesity the more we’re confirming that very fact, a fact that would be devastating to the weight loss industry if it got out. Mysteriously these reports aren’t making it to major news reports sponsored by Jenny Craig.
Obesity isn’t a health risk. High blood pressure is a health risk. Clogged arteries are a health risk. A family history of heart disease is a health risk. Health risks are health risks. This concept shouldn’t be hard to grasp, but we’ve been smashed over the head with how obesity is right up there with drug use as one of the worst things you can do to your body (because obesity is totally something you do to your body) that it really, really is. We automatically equivocate fat bodies with poor health when we have absolutely no evidence to back it up.
And two, a good chunk of the people supported by NHS are lower income (man, everything “strains” the NHS, doesn’t it? If only there weren’t so many sick people). People who don’t have access to private healthcare and rely on government programs to get them by when they’re ill use systems like NHS to get them by, and in case you haven’t heard eating healthy is really really expensive. The fact is it’s cheaper to buy bulk potatoes and pasta than it is fresh fruits and vegetables. When you’re poor you look to stock up on things that won’t go bad to eliminate waste, so you end up with a lot of carbohydrates and canned products chalk full of sodium and preservatives which can lead to all kinds of health troubles if it becomes a lifstyle; a necessity for an unfortunate number of people.
So let’s look at this scenario. You’ve been laid off, but you’re looking for work. You’re in a fortunate position to collect unemployment and have access to healthcare (many people in this position don’t), but you also happen to be fat. Now you go to the doctor for your annual checkup, and suddenly you’re told you’re at risk of losing your health benefits. Something you didn’t even know they could do– they’re your health benefits, aren’t they? But there’s an easy remedy, your doctor says. He’ll prescribe you some exercise at a local gym and tell you to cut down on the carbohydrates and bulk up on lean meats and vegetables. On unemployment in the UK you make about $90 a week. You probably have a cell phone so you can get calls back about jobs, and you have to pay for transportation to get around town. So assuming you don’t have any other expenses at all, that leaves you with about $260 to spend each month. $65 a week, and living on $65 a week is a lot harder than it sounds. Try to add up what you’ve spent this week in groceries, toiletries, gas money, car payments, pet food, and all those little sundry items we have to pay money for to make our lives go on smoothly. It all adds up pretty fast. And eating cheap is one of the major cost-cutters of those on a tight budget. I can’t change how much gas or my bus fare costs, but I can eat butter noodles for a couple of weeks and survive.
Maybe if the NHS wants to cut costs it should focus on making better food options available to those with lower incomes. Maybe it should focus on the actual issues contributing to health instead of assuming obesity is a catch-all for everything that’s wrong with our bodies. And maybe we should stop pretending that fat people aren’t real people and are instead headless, faceless bodies that need to be corralled and treated like animals, as the jovial “carrot and stick” analogy offered in the original article indicates. We must have a thin person sitting on our shoulders, dangling a carrot in front of our noses to herd us into the direction of proper health– the stick end being the threat to cut our access to any health services.
But of course the carrot isn’t going to tempt us from our heathenistic cake-eating ways; everyone knows us fat folks don’t eat vegetables. Maybe if it was bacon.