Monday, April 11, 2016
Is Anyone Paying Attention?
What do we learn from the behavioral dimensions? Perspective helps us sort out the important from the trivial. Critical thinking leads to logical conclusions. Responsibility causes people to shun scapegoating and face problems head-on. Economic understanding yields the fact that money is not static and costs are eventually covered somewhere. Discipline helps us stick to a course of action, rather than avoiding problems or looking for an easy way out.
Recently a Bloomberg headline blared: The World is Getting Fatter and No One Knows How to Stop It. According to the article: “Economic forces are conspiring to cause the great global weight gain.” Forces that contribute to the problem include rising incomes, increasing global trade, changing food supplies and declining physical activity. The site shows some impressive graphs emphasizing a steady increase in the number of people overweight or obese in a world that was once as concerned about malnutrition. This is a serious problem, directly related to behavior and only indirectly to the factors listed above. This report shows little grasp of or interest in the discipline and responsibility factors.
Soon after that the World Health Organization released a new study reporting “diabetes cases have quadrupled over the last 40 years, mostly in poorer nations. Today, 8.5 percent of all adults worldwide suffer from the chronic disease, and 3.7 million deaths are linked every year.” They do see the behavioral side of the problem linking it to “more and more unhealthy eating and a reduction in physical activity, which contributes both to overweight, which in turn is a big cause of type 2 diabetes.” This too is important news.
Finally, CBS (and certainly other sources) weighed in (pun intended) with the news that comedian Amy Schumer is miffed at being included in a Glamour Magazine issue celebrating “plus size” women, telling how they can be inspirations. This is not important at all, except as an example of a whole bunch of people missing the point.
With the worldwide increase in obesity and deaths related to diabetes, why in the world would anyone celebrate plus-size people? They are trivializing a serious problem. They are not only excusing irresponsible behavior; they are celebrating it. In this sense, the magazine and Ms. Schumer have much in common, as she jokes about her size and the pressure from similar magazines to try all the diet tricks to amuse her fans, while they make light of, even celebrate, a serious health issue only to sell more magazines
The comments on CBS This Morning after they aired the segment were just inane. Gayle King says the average size of an American women is 14, like that’s some kind of excuse and our health is being graded on a curve – everyone is getting fatter, so it’s OK! Then she compares categorizing women as plus size to accusing someone of being 50 years old when they are really 40. This misses the whole point. You can’t do anything about your age, but in most cases, it’s behavior that leads directly to being overweight.
Of course, some will argue that their weight is their own business. But when it begins to cause problems, they expect someone else to pay the doctor bill. That someone else turns out to be the rest of us through taxes and the prices we pay for our own health insurance as well as what we pay for goods from companies whose costs include an employee health insurance benefit.
So we have run the gamut with people not able to separate the substantive from the trivial, blaming outside factors, ignoring the societal costs of their decisions, and trying to glamorize and excuse rather than face a growing problem. I’m only sorry the focus in society is so exclusively on women when men need at least just as much incentive to change.
Finally, some will urge us to be more tolerant, more compassionate. How about being honest with ourselves and others about the real problems instead of excusing, celebrating and blaming it on external factors, like not enough sidewalks?