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Mississippi Law: “no fat people allowed”

Obesity Problem in America

If some Mississippi legislators had their way, they’d put forth a law that would ban obese people from being served at restaurants.

State Rep. John Read, a Republican who is one of the bill’s three authors, says he wasn’t trying to offend anybody and never even expected the plan to become law.

“I was trying to shed a little light on the No. 1 problem in Mississippi.”

This may sound humorous as you read along, but this isn’t a spoof.  Obesity is a real problem with consequences for Americans and we’ve been unable to solve this growing epidemic without the use of drugs or surgery to solve the issue.  Of course, exercise and dieting is ideal, but helping to fight obesity isn’t like having the flu or acquiring a chronic disease that can be cured drinking a Slimfast(tm) every morning.

The question that should be asked is whether the Republican Representative crossed the line by proposing such legislation.  If you take him at his word that this was not a serious proposal, but intended to shed light on a serious problem in Mississipi, then maybe he has done his state a great service.  Obesity is much like other sensitive subjects, e.g. Affirmative Action.  No one wants to talk about it because it is a pretty prickly subject and people get hurt in the process no matter which way you roll on the issue.

Steve Holland, the Democratic chairman of the House Public Health and Human Services Committee, said in a statement he will “pocket veto” the bill. “It’s dead on arrival at my desk.”  Although he appreciates the “efforts of my fellow House members to help curb the obesity problem in Mississippi, this is totally the wrong approach.”

How can you not laugh at the public press that the issue is receiving?  First, you have a candidate with the gall to put forth such an ‘idea’, then you have a Democrat coming out to fight the ‘good fight’ and defending the rights of the obese.   Way to stick up for the little… errr, big guy? Again,this is a serious problem so why are we walking on eggshells to get to the heart of the problem?  Eventually, it may be policy makers that help America shed the weight.

About one-third of Americans are obese (30 or more pounds over a healthy weight), and 66% are overweight or obese. Even so, obesity experts are outraged by the bill.  “It would be hard to concoct something more ridiculous,” says Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

I’m no Yale expert and I haven’t spent my life studying the problems with obesity like Mr. Brownell, but maybe it is good to call a spade a spade?  Instead of dealing with emotions that inevitably arise out of the hate and frustration, self-esteem problems and depression, maybe we should focus on the problem itself and find ways to encourage the masses to help combat the problem?  Maybe this noise will help push obese people to stay away from the super-size or learn more about all the foods and drinks that are most dangerous to our health.

Fat American

I don’t want to be insensitive about the issue, but it’s just not a simple problem to solve.  Showing love and support isn’t everyone’s forte, so it’s a futile effort to try and control what politicians, celebrities and ‘experts’ say.  The problems that stem from humiliation, shame and guilt are not trivial and it does offend and hurt some people:

“This brings bias against obese individuals to a new and appalling level, and at a time when significant progress is being made in the effort to stop blaming obesity on the people who have it and to address the social and political conditions that drive it.

Again, I cannot agree with the expert, it seems he’s too involved and has a hard time being objective.  In my view, it never really is about blaming obese people, most people don’t think of it in those terms unless you push the issue.  How often do you think “maybe he should stop eating, doesn’t he have self-control?”  Most Americans don’t go about their lives thinking, “darn, she sure is fat, why doesn’t she just exercise or go on a diet?!”

If anything, the question most Americans are asking is “Am I fat and what can I do to keep myself looking good.”  Sadly, the same areas of society that encourage obesity indirectly (e.g. super models, strip clubs, television and Hollywood) are also the ones that discourage people from eating that extra french fry.   It’s easy to blame these vices on the problem of teenage anorexia, but in my view, both anorexia and morbidly  obese people are also suffering from severe mental disease or stress and require the help of a mental health expert in addition to a physical fitness expert.

“Are these legislators fighting to get rid of soft drinks in schools? Are they working to stop the relentless marketing of unhealthy foods to children? Are they doing anything about the fact that poor people do not have access to healthy foods?”

This is the best argument made against legislators who would dare bring up obesity under such crass legislative proposals.

Restaurants and Corporations Encourage America’s Obesity Problem

Consumers are provided incentive to purchase fatty foods because they cost a lot less than the ‘premium’ low-calorie foods.  Fast food restaurants are serving up individual meals that have as much as 50 to 75% of a typical calorie intake for the day and maybe doubling or tripling the fat intake.  Consumers do have a responsibility to moderate their intake, but with obesity you have a special self-perpetuating cycle of guilt.  People eat to deal with stress, they eat to socialize with co-workers, eat to handle depression and settle impulsive behaviors that would best be handled by psychiatric help.

While this is a problem that involves many factors, people have to be careful not to entirely shed the blame of obesity on society.  Society is part of the problem, there is no doubt about that.  We have to remain cognizant of the fact that shedding personal responsibility might be one of the biggest reasons that combating obesity has become so difficult to solve.  It won’t be long before pharmaceutical companies or scientists design a solution that won’t increase the risk of heart failure or death.  Until that happens, it is the duty of all Americans to help fend off this problem and it starts with YOU.

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