A few thoughts:

I’m not normally one to write about this sort of thing; but I felt compelled to discuss the topic on this occasion.

I don’t usually get political here. Unless its about people being unthinking and nasty to people in online comments. Oh snap… that’s exactly what this article is about…

So; This came up in my Facebook feed courtesy of Ricky Gervais:

(23 stone is about 320lbs, and about 146kg for my non-British readers)

The comments underneath were interesting. They could be split into two categories. Benefits and Fat. I’ll deal with fat first. Some people went for sentiments along the lines of “Making fun of fat people is like making fun of rape victims” and “Stop the fat shaming” while most others were a torrent of vile and offensive hateful remarks about how lazy and terrible fat people are and how they are just pigs and disgusting.

This sort of thing is not helpful at all. Both these sorts of things are really unhelpful actually. Being hateful to fat people accomplishes nothing and just adds an unnecessary level of unpleasantness to life. A little more understanding and a little less hostility is recommended. There are countless social, psychological, physiological and pharmacological reasons why someone may be overweight. Many antidepressants make you gain weight for example. Without further context, it may be totally unfair to assume that someone is fat because they are lazy, maybe being thin is drastically more difficult for them than it is for you.

(Granted, in this instance junkfood is highlighted by the person themselves. There may well be no lack of education, opportunities and availablity-of-healthy food and there may be no steroids or antidepessants to contribute to the weight gain, but this instance isn’t really what I’m getting at, its the way people feel compelled to angrily snap out at every fat-related story with unnecessary vitriol).

At the same time, there is a clear distinction between being overweight and being a rape victim. There just is. Stop, think about it, and then just accept that it is a poor comparison, and potentially massively offensive to anyone who has been through something like that.

So, it seems like a good idea to stop being so quick to judge and be a little more sympathetic towards fat people.

There’s also this dangerous movement called the Fat Acceptance movement though. It sounds like a good idea. You know, civil rights for fat people in the same way as disabled people, pregnant people, gay people and people from ethnic minorities. Sounds reasonable in theory. Until you read the way some of those guys think and the obvious denial and unreasonability of some of their proposals and beliefs.

For example, I’ve read people of this inclination say that its impossible to loose weight. I used to weight roughly 18 stone, and I got down to roughly 12 stone. (About 250lbs to 170lbs or 114kg to 77kg). I am not an athlete or leading an unrealistically disciplined or inaccessible life-style. I’ve also heard them say you can loose weight, but you’ll put it straight back on. I’ve kept it off for over three years now.

You can loose weight and live healthy, even if you were never ever tolerant to the taste and texture of vegetables and hated exercise all your life. Its way easier than you think. Its pretty simple: Eat more healthy things, eat less unhealthy things, exercise more, get enough sleep and drink enough clean water. No matter how ineffectively or in how small an amount you implement that, you will be healthier. The better you do it, the healthier you will become.

No need for detoxes, or complicated points systems or expensive equipment and books, gym-memberships or weightloss shakes and pills and fad diets. Just Eat more healthy things, eat less unhealthy things, exercise more, get enough sleep and drink enough clean water. You can find out in one minute on google if there’s a high amount of calories in any particular food. Also, walking, jogging on the spot and push-ups are free. You can do them anywhere.

[Also: You can get about a weeks worth of lean, smartprice frozen chicken for the same price as about two big macs, so Fast Food isn’t always cheaper than healthy food. Walk to Asda, that’s some exercise, buy smart price chicken and smartprice pasta and smartprice veg. That’s the healthy food for a low price. Walk back carrying the bags, that’s some more exercise.]

Then there’s the whole “Well, I may as well not bother, because I could be hit by a bus tomorrow” argument. Thing is, you probably won’t be hit by a bus tomorrow, and you’ll have a better life between now and when you do get hit by a bus. The self-esteem and self-image benefits alone make it worth doing, and until that bus comes you feel better about yourself. Isn’t that better than not feeling better about yourself just because of the phantom death-bus?

So. I guess I’m saying loosing weight and being healthy, or at least as healthy as you can (something is better than nothing) is a good idea. I’m not one of those Fat Acceptance people who think no-one should loose weight.

What I do think though, is that people should stop being such jerks towards fat people. I think they should loose weight too (Encouraged & Empowered to do so, not shamed and bullied into it). Make it easy for them to loose weight, be supportive, informative and keep their self esteem high. No; Don’t go too far and say its OK to be super heavy when all worthwhile medical and scientific evidence indicates otherwise, but don’t be horrible to them before they’re ready or able to change. Generally treat them as well as you should treat another human being, and stop making them feel like crap for being fat, instead make them feel awesome for starting to loose weight, make them feel even better for continuing to loose weight and awesome again for maintaining a healthy weight.

Sigh. But that’s only half the story, isn’t it?

Then there’s the whole benefits thing. Benefits are the UK’s welfare system. People pay taxes, and the Government allocates a tiny percentage of those taxes to people who need money to supplement what they make from their job, or who have no job. Benefits are considered a dirty word over here, by some people, spoken of with the same tone that a TV jock may speak of nerds with. You see, there are a lot of easily-riled-up and foolish people who get obsessed with this idea of “scroungers” and “parasites” to think logically about the situation. People can’t wait to say how their blood is boiling because their wages are going to lazy people who refuse to work. The thing is, that isn’t happening. Benefits overwhelmingly go to people who deserve and need them, helping elderly and disabled people. Newspapers like to rile people up and make them think that they all go to thieves stealing your paycheck right out of your pocket – because for some reason that helps sell newspapers.
People can’t WAIT to rant about spongers, they’ll buy a newspaper just to complain about the spongers who are exaggerated about within the biased and unprofessional story in that paper.

Even though in reality, maybe some tiny, miniscule, insignificant number of people actually fulfilled these unrealistic boogeyman sponge criteria; If all the “parasites” had jobs, then in certain microcosms, people who wanted jobs would lose jobs to them, and jobs would be done to a poorer standard anyway. How is that better? If you got rid of the benefits system altogether, then all the elderly people who actually paid into the system for most of their lives would lose out. They’ve paid more than you, so its only fair they get it. Why screw over all the deserving elderly people because a tiny percentage of “parasites” annoy you?

Anyway, giving people money to spend keeps the economy going. Money is moving. If you just leave all the people who don’t want jobs to starve to death in the street, and all the rich people continue on hoarding money that’s not being spent, then money isn’t being spent and certain jobs will become unnecessary and people who want to work won’t be able to. How is that better? – And that’s not even thinking about the pressure on police and hospitals that would occur as a result of starving “parasites.”

Basically, people should stop getting so riled up about fat people and people should stop getting so riled up about benefits.

The papers are only hyping up benefit scroungers. They’re not a big deal. They are absolutely insignificant in comparison to the corporate tax dodging by businessmen who do have jobs anyway. That’s another topic for another day though.

Then you come to the combination of the two. The argument of the caption in that above image itself. Benefits caused the obesity. No, they didn’t. I know that. You know that. Even if they did indirectly, the other circumstances which caused it are much more significant and worth considering. And anyway, if you took away the benefits would that have solved the obesity problem? Well, maybe she wouldn’t have had money for food. What then though? Starve to death or become a prostitute or drug dealer to pay the bills? Enough desperation may have caused HIV or a stab wound indirectly and that’s hardly better. Anyway, yeah. Enough hypotheticals. Lets just go with the not-unreasonable position that benefits did not cause obesity… I get that people want to jump out and say, “You are in denial about your own role in your obesity, stop blaming other sources so much and accept your own responsibility.” So SAY THAT. Don’t say “F*ck you, you fat hog. Get off your fat ass and get a job.”

There’s just no need to be so mean and unpleasant. If you disagree with the whole link between benefits and obesity, can’t you disagree in a helpful way? Its much better to teach someone that loosing weight is easier than they think, than it is to make them feel bad.

Also, its such an easy thing to say “Get a job.” There mightn’t be any jobs to be had within a reasonable distance that they are qualified or suitable for. Even if there is a job to be had, she mightn’t be able to pass a job interview… Employers might see someone with the type of personality that is willing to blame obesity on welfare as someone they don’t want to work with. We don’t know. The point is, often its more complicated than just “Get a job.” Why not provide some helpful job-getting tips instead of saying “F*ck you, you lazy sponge.”

Most of all though, shame on the newspaper for creating this intentionally divisive and ultimately pointless thing in the first place. They deliberately chose something that would make people say “F*ck fatties” and “F*ck sponges” and that just prolongs and feeds this cycle of unpleasantness towards other people.

Here’s an idea. Its simple. Its idealistic. Its probably unrealistic. But here goes: Stop being mean to other people. Stop barking out quick thoughtless “f*ck you” statements to everyone you disagree with. Treat people with respect and understanding and if you have something helpful to educate people about, do feel free to do so in a respectful and considered way. (Also, if you can, lead a healthier lifestyle. Its not easy, but its easier than you may think).

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