It’s been a super busy couple of weeks for me. Between work, working out, studying and house hunting, I’ve had little time for blogging. But there have been a few news items in the past week that have caught my attention, and one in particular has compelled me to desperately find the time to bang out a quick post.
Kevin Smith, the semi-famous actor/director/screenwriter (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, etc.) was recently removed from a Southwest Airlines flight essentially for being too fat to fly. It’s been an ongoing debate in recent years, what to do with overweight flyers as Americans’ waistlines and assess get collectively fatter with each passing year. Being removed from the plane or relocated to another seat or charged more to fly for being overweight or obese isn’t really a new thing. Southwest, in fact, has had a policy of some sort in place for 25 years or so. And if this hadn’t happened to a moderately well-known person, it wouldn’t even be news at all.
Smith has taken to Twitter and Youtube to outwardly protest his treatment. And this isn’t news either. What IS newsworthy—and just a touch shocking—is the ally Smith has in his fight: The National Association for the Advance of Fat Acceptance (NAAFA). Yup, until last night, I didn’t even know there was such a group. And now they’re on a deathmarch in defense of sedentary lifestyles, poor eating habits, and general ill health.
NAAFA (www.naafaonline.com/dev2/), if you’re unfamiliar, is a non-profit organization who’s “goal is to help build a society in which people of every size are accepted with dignity and equality in all aspects of life.” While civil equality was, is, and always will be an admirable goal, NAAFA misses its mark by a mile.
In the wake of the Smith incident, the organization has been quite vocal about how this situation underscores the mass prejudice being perpetuated upon the bigger members of our society; how fat people are discriminated against in the workplace and now, evidently, in commerce. No doubt, there is prejudice of all kinds going on at all times. So discrimination against fat people shouldn’t really come as a shock. Ordinarily, this would be a pretty bland non-issue. But what has lit a fire under me and ignited just a touch of rage in this instance comes from an interview conducted with NAAFA spokesperson last night by ABC’s Nightline.
It’s not surprising that the organization is firmly behind Smith in this case, and is rallying to his defense. What I found most appalling was that in the interview, the spokesperson told Nightline’s John Donvan “you can’t make fat people thin. It’s impossible.” She went on to cite how many dieters fail at their diets and put the weight back on. This is a clearly defeatist attitude, symbolic of people who’ve tried the latest, hottest fad diets or fad workouts, failed, and have simply given up. It’s the mentality that if you try once or twice and fail, then there are no alternative solutions. “Woe is me, nothing can work. This is who I am and who I’m meant to be.”
Nevermind that there is an entire industry—one which I’m planning to join shortly—devoted to doing just what the spokesperson says cannot be done, why continue trying to better your life or the lives of those around you, when you can simply give up and create a foundation or non-profit organization to spare your feelings of shame or failure?
There are certainly medical exceptions where no matter what the person does, no change can or will occur. But studies have shown that as much as 75% of the American population doesn’t participate in at least 30 minutes of exercise even 4 days a week. Worse, given how many supposed diet “gurus” are out there to add to the confusion, I’d bet that 90% of the population also has no idea how to eat well. There shouldn’t be any plausible explanation or excuse for ignorance or pure laziness. Failing to take care of yourself doesn’t deserve a foundation, nor does it deserve sympathy, special civil status, and it certainly should not cast you as a victim.
The organization claims that discrimination against overweight American’s causes mental and physiological illness. In part, they’re correct. Only, they fail to recognize that these conditions aren’t the result of harsh words, degrading looks, or extensive (and to NAAFA, conspiratory) advertising. Rather, the mental and physiological negative effects they talk about are brought on by the behaviors of individuals they represent. Sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition, lack of knowledge about health and fitness are all commonly known and understood causes of obesity and weight gain. Instead of identifying these factors and providing a useful educational resource, NAAFA focuses on the victim mentality; that being fat and unhappy is the result of others’ words, actions, and opinions. In essence, the organization is tacitly endorsing laziness and, ostensibly, illness as they focus on providing overweight individuals with convenient excuses rather than resources to become healthier AND still love themselves.
A quick review of the NAAFA website supports my claim. Throughout the site, a reader will encounter words like “victim,” “acceptance,” “bullying” and “discrimination.” One will also encounter calls to become involved in lobbying lawmakers to add obesity to the list of groups protected by anti-discrimination laws and also to lobby healthcare organizations to rewrite the rules of healthcare policies to suit obesity. However, there is not a single mention about the importance of proper nutrition or exercise.
NAAFA is doing a great disservice to the people it purports to represent. Instead of empowering people to take control of their lives and learn to accept who they are while striving to improve their health, the organization is arming America’s obese with a convenient excuse to exact sympathy. By enabling the victim mentality, NAAFA is disarming its constituency of the tools that very well could get them un-fat: knowledge and encouragement.
Discrimination is real. But true discrimination and prejudice is most often forced upon those with no control over the situation. Race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are all sources of real discrimination and none of the 3 can effectively be changed. Obesity, on the other hand, can be changed and is largely under the control of the individual.
Except in extreme circumstances of illness such as hypothyroidism—which is easily treated with medications—the determining factor between fatness and fitness is choice. You can choose to make a change or you can choose to be fat. You can choose to exercise or choose to stay on the couch. Choose to educate yourself or remain ignorant of nutrition and how what you eat directly affects your health. NAAFA is taking away that choice from America’s obese and substituting it with a bunch of self-loathing drivel derived from their leadership’s own problems with self-image and discipline.
If NAAFA wants to be taken seriously as an advocacy group, then it’d best make more of an effort to act like an advocacy group. The greater part of advocacy is education and for its lack of educational resources and efforts, NAAFA gets a big fat F.Explore posts in the same categories: Diets, fat loss, Food, General Discussion, General Health, Goals, Lifestyle comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.