The Skeptical Methodologist

Software, Rants and Management

Why are unhealthy people so stupid?

That ought to have been the alternative title to this article. The LA Times asks the following question: Why do unhealthy people not adopt more healthy lifestyles? Implied in the question is the whispered do they just not know or care that they’re unhealthy?

Thus, our crusaders real agenda has arrived. We’ll regurgitate truisms and scary facts about how you need to change your sinful ways, oh gluttons, because we believe you simply haven’t understood us yet. You are, after all, well, kinda stupid.

Why don’t fatties lose weight? Especially after a heart attack? Surely they know the health risks they undertake by… oh wait, maybe they don’t. Maybe we should tell them. Maybe the next time I’m at the grocery store and some single mom is buying ice cream for her kids’ birthday party, I’ll make sure she knows that ice cream is unhealthy, and that she’s going to kill herself. After all, it’s obvious she’d only buy ice cream because she were ignorant.

Enough of that. While I’ll commit a mortal sin here and argue against this article using anecdotal evidence, I guarantee if someone were to look for the statistics to back this up, they’d find it. Why don’t fatties diet? What an absurd question. Everyone I know who is overweight or believes themselves to be is either dieting right now or has in the recent past. From fad diets like the Zone and Ornish, to weight loss clinics, to Jennie Craig, to paleo-nonsense and organic foods. Overweight people are trying their damndest. This doesn’t jive with the collected sermons that fatties are both lazy and stupid, and that’s why they’re in the straits they are. It allows otherwise nice people to look down with disgust upon you, and justifies one of the few remaining bigotries left. You see, obesity isn’t a health condition, it’s a moral condition.

That underlying theme permeates all we hear, and we make implicit little jumps from it whenever we try and analyze this issue. For instance, did you know that people who’ve had a heart attack fail to lose weight afterwards? Let’s de-obesitize this. People who’ve suffered from a condition fail to follow up on a treatment that helps with that condition. “Hrm,” we all say, “the treatment must be pretty harsh for people to risk their lives like that.” A reasonable conclusion. Adding obesity back in, we suddenly change our minds: “Aha! It’s the obese! It’s not a harsh treatment, it’s the fact that as we know, fatties are lazy and stupid, that’s why they don’t stick to their treatment.” Our conclusions should be based on the data, not the type of people we’re concluding about.

Why don’t obese people lose weight after a heart attack? The hell if I know. I can tell you that most of them probably attempted to lose weight before the heart attack, and the majority probably tried after the heart attack. But do we measure effort? No, we instead measure results – no weight lost – and then blame effort. We turn a blind eye again and again to how hard many people are trying to fit into the cookie cutter figures we expect in society, so that we can blame them again and again for their lack of discipline and moderation.

Convenient for us, but bigotry is sadly too familiar to us to not recognize it. Why, indeed, could we be so stupid to fall for this again.


June 13, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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