Earlier this week I railed against obese people who take up handicap parking spots. It started a pretty rambunctious exchange in the comments section, which I think is a good thing.
Many criticized me for being everything from bigoted against fat folks to insensitive to those with disabilities. It was pointed out that many people have injuries or conditions that are not visible, which cause them great pain or immobility which leads to overweight because of their inability to exercise. All these points were well stated and I both appreciated them and took them to heart.
Here’s another cartoon about the expanding growth of Americans and a chance to address some of the same topics. While it is true that there are people who, through no fault of their own, have health issues that lead to inactivity the overwhelming majority of overweight Americans become so because they eat too much of the wrong foods. We can argue that this is the fault of McDonalds commercials, but I don’t buy that any more than blaming cigarette companies for lung cancer. These days, if you don’t know what part of your lifestyle is killing you, cigarettes and Big Macs may not be your biggest problem. (Speaking of smoking vs. meat-eating, food-related heart disease kills far more people each year than smoking-related illness. And that doesn’t count the myriad cancers suspected to arise from meat and dairy consumption. No single Internet link that I know of shows this comparison, but I’m sure there are some.) In short, the media has led us to believe that tobacco is the most lethal legal substance in our culture. The truth is that animal products are.
So eating too much of the wrong foods will kill you. This adds to our national health costs and also contributes to the amount of energy we consume. It takes more gas to haul around a carload of chunky Americans than thin ones. The more you eat, the more packaging you throw away, and on and on.
There is also no denying that this is an almost uniquely American problem. People from other countries come here and are shocked by the ubiquitous landscape of huge people. Families with no history of obesity move to the U.S. and their children grow up huge. Other nations import more American food products and their average weight and health costs rises like Old Glory on July 4th. (Nice metaphor, yes?)
According to a recent U.N. report, animal agriculture is one of the top two contributors to global warming, alongside energy production. Cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, all transport combined is a distant competitor. So when if you eat food that causes you to be overweight, you are contributing to many more problems than just your own health. And none of that mentions the suffering and unnecessary death of billions of innocent beings who, in our shortsightedness, aren’t enough like us to warrant legal rights.
I’m not bigoted against fat folks, I have many friends and family members who are everything from chunky to obese, and I love them for who they are. But it is impossible for me to turn a blind eye toward an epidemic of self indulgence that causes so much damage on so many levels. Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. and I, for one, would like to see that addressed publicly on a daily basis and curtailed, the way cigarette smoking was when I was a kid.