Obesity and Choice

- POSTED ON: Oct 06, 2012

In the video located at the bottom of this article, USTV anchor, Jennifer Livingston, delivers a well-thought out response to an attack on her physical appearance by an e-mail bully, who declared that Jennifer was a bad model for viewers because of her obesity, and that “Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain“.

The statement that obesity is a "choice", implies that the opposite is also true. It is a widely held notion that  anyone can simply "choose" not to be fat, despite the fact, that the vast majority of people who "choose"  to lose  weight, actually end up putting it back on (and more). The belief that anyone can lose weight and keep it off if only they "choose"  to do so, is  widely accepted. Even people who have been battling their weight all their lives tend to take the concept as TRUTH.

Most obese people blame themselves for their excess weight, and blame themselves for not trying hard enough or for failing again. It is one thing for the non-obese public to think of obesity as a self-inflicted matter of choice, but it is something entirely different, for a person who has spent an enormous amount of time and effort on losing weight, over and over again, to blame themselves for failing to make the right “choice”.

I know about the difficulty of losing weight and maintaining weight loss from my own personal lifetime experience.  Managing weight is not easy, and the truth is, that....despite the current hype ... weight has never actually been a good measure of health or of a healthy life style anyway.

Is obesity a choice?  The term “choice” implies that one has the freedom to choose from different options which are available to them, and the power to make that option a reality.

We make many different choices during our Lifetime, both small and large. We choose what Results we would prefer to see in our lives. Married or Single? Children? Education? Career? Our small daily Behavior choices have a great deal with determining our lifetime Results… but not everything.

I chose to get up and get dressed today. I chose to blog here. I chose to get married. I chose to get an doctorate. I chose to become a lawyer. I chose to spend 25 years practicing law. I chose to be a homeowner. I chose to become financially secure. It turned out that I had the power, through my actions, to make these choices into reality for myself. Some choices don’t carry that power with them.

I have the freedom to choose to fly like a bird, but I don’t have the ability to make it happen. I can follow through with my choice by jumping from a high-rise building, but the physical law of gravity will interfere to keep me from attaining success.

Most people “choose” to be healthy. Few people “choose” to have cancer, or heart disease, but it happens…to people of all ages ... even to non-smoking, marathon-running, normal-weight, organic-eaters.

Obesity belongs in the Health category. The condition of obesity involves genetic predisposition, an environment of stress, sleep deprivation, sedentary employment, abundant and omnipresent energy dense foods, unhealthy body-image promoting media, and one’s individual physiological and psychological makeup.

Some people have bodies that can overcome their health environment, and some don’t.
After surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, some people with cancer go into remission. Most don’t.
After dieting, and even surgery, some obese people become normal weight and maintain there.
Most don’t.

Much of the 25 years I spent as a lawyer, my personal appearance and attitude was similar to what we see of Jennifer Livingston in the video below, except that often I was even heavier. Although 20 years of Therapy didn’t make me thin, it did teach me to love and respect myself fat. I am pleased to see the self-respect that Jennifer portrays here.

I spent a great deal of my life being Obese. At present, I am fortunate enough to be normal weight. I didn’t “chose” to be fat, and then change my mind and “choose” to be normal weight. Always, being normal weight was my personal “choice”. From age 9 to here in my 60s, I’ve worked for my entire life ... through dieting, therapy, exercise, and even surgery and more dieting  … to make that option into a personal reality. The weight I am now is a Result of everything I’ve experienced, and all of my lifetime actions linked together. Before this present time, I was obese, not because I "chose" the option of obesity, but because I did not have the power to make the option of normal-weight a reality.

Leave me a comment.

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Existing Comments:

On Oct 06, 2012 sad wrote:
I think that this is a very good topic and one that goes to the 'choice' of weight on either end of the spectrum. Getting positive feedback from friends and family can help when the bullying affects self image. I am overweight and although I chose not to diet I am very self aware of all the factors that make up who I am and my self image is a positive one.

On Oct 06, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi Suzanne. It's good to hear that you have a positive self-image. <3

On Oct 06, 2012 Alma wrote:
I said "Touche'" when I first listened to this and hoped you would address it here. Weight does not hinder our capability to perform jobs. Jennifer definitely set this man straight and sent a strong message to society. Employers are pushing to toss out resumes of those who have a "categorized imperfection" and especially to do with weight. That should NEVER happen. Many people don't understand OUR ongoing battle. I don't know if she has decided to sue him but "poetic justice" would be to get a judgment of forced service with Bulimia/Anorexia patients and a donation to the same cause. It hurt to see the tears attempting to break through. Her boss is a SAINT for allowing her the air time to address this ill-informed, hurtful person. In his future, he probably will put a few pounds on or middle age spread might change his body.

On Oct 06, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi Alma, There is almost no pressure requiring peple to be "politically correct" in the way they address obesity. Today people who would never dare to use racial or sexual slurs still feel justified in heaping put-downs, ridicule, and verbal abuse on fat people.

On Oct 07, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
Saw the video on GMA/ABC and wonder whatever posessed this individual to write such a letter in the first place. The writer was tracked down by ABC News for his reasons, and lo and behold he was a former overweight person himself. He lost a lot of weight and is now a gym and fitness fanatic. This is sort of like the reformed drunk syndrome. Still no call to chastize another about their weight problem. We are all different and live under different circumstances and each one has to decide what is feasible for their lifestyle and genetic makeup.

On Oct 07, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             John, Thanks for the additional info on the person who sent the e-mail. I found this situation to be an excellent example of the type of judgmental, negative attitude and behavior that many "normal-weight" people show to fat people ... which for many years, included me. The sad thing is that this type of negative comment isn't unusual.

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