Americans Need More 'Shame' in Their Diets

Tuesday, 16 Oct 2012 09:04 PM

By Chris Freind

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In genuflecting to political correctness, America shuns shame. It has become a nation so afraid to offend that it turns a blind eye to its biggest problems, such as obesity.

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and a staggering percentage of children are growing up (and out) with little regard for how this epidemic will impact them. Some medical experts have predicted that our children may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

When one of the world’s best-loved theme parks shut down a classic ride, it was for a very “deep-seated” reason: people were so obese that the boats in which they rode were scraping the bottom.

How would obese patrons feel if they were required to stand in a queue marked, “Obese Riders Here.” And if they had to meet a height and “width” criteria?

Or when flying, the obese would board separately, required to sit in extra-wide seats, for which they pay double?

And what if stadiums had a section of reinforced seats where overweight folks were required to sit?

Unfortunately, our country doesn’t binge on such options, which is truly a shame.

And that’s the problem. There is no shame.


And why? Because society has sent the message that being fat is no “big” deal. The stigma once rightly associated with obesity is disappearing as quickly as fat is accumulating.

How do we get to the bottom of this problem? Shame.

Two examples of effectively using shame are occurring in Georgia and Minnesota. In Atlanta, an extensive advertising campaign targets childhood obesity. Taglines include “It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not”; “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid”; and “Big Bones Didn’t Make Me This Way . . . Big Meals Did.”

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota is targeting overweight parents whose behavior is often mimicked by their children. One ad shows two chubby boys arguing about whose dad can eat more — a discussion overheard by a father as he approaches with a heaping tray of fast food.

Without being mean-spirited, these campaigns prod people to acknowledge, and change, their unhealthy behavior. Not surprisingly, both are criticized from the waistline-challenged community. Their biggest beef? It’s not education, but shaming, which, of course, is “bullying.”

They don’t get it.

Shaming isn’t the total panacea, but it is an integral part of the solution. Just look at the demise of smoking, achieved because of society’s conscious effort to shame smokers. Light up in a bar, and you receive dagger-like stares. Do it outside, and people move away.

Smoking kills, and we routinely point out that fact. But so does obesity, yet we hesitate to mention it. Just as non-smokers pick up the tab for massive medical costs related to smoking, non-overweight people are subsidizing the obese since it is “discriminatory” to charge differently for healthcare.

But shaming is now taboo. No one is ever at fault or accountable for his actions. Consider:

-It used to be, when a student received a detention, they weren’t just shamed in front of their classmates. They had to tell their parents, which would invariably trigger another punishment.

Contrast that to the reaction to a New Jersey principal’s letter to parents about their underage children on Facebook holding alcohol bottles. Instead of offering thanks, a number of parents ripped him.

-Airlines have attempted to charge double for obese passengers. While commonsense, such policies are met with scorn and even lawsuits by the obesity-without-consequence crowd.

-And since it would be “discriminatory” to have obese-only sections in stadiums, seats are being made wider to accommodate plump posteriors. And wider seats mean fewer of them. Who pays? You do. The same way that the non-obese eat the cost of new ground-supported toilets to bear the weight of America’s fat brigade.

What’s under the skin matters, but what’s on the outside should count, too. But on any beach, linebacker-sized women parade in bikinis and mens’ guts reach the next block. Since there isn’t a mirror shortage, one can only assume shame is not a part of their lives.

And how shameful is it that overweight people are not just guzzling food, but fuel? A recent report calculated that 1 billion gallons of gasoline are wasted every year just to haul Americans’ extra pounds, and airlines are using roughly 175 million more gallons of jet fuel per year just to accommodate the overweight.

If not shame, then what? Do we tax fast food? Soda? Do we regulate portion size? No. Not only are such ideas unenforceable, but they are tactics, not strategy. It’s time to tip the scales against obesity and solve the problem.

Otherwise, we will soon find the “elephant in the room” isn’t a pachyderm at all.

It’s an average American.

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Friendly Fire Zone. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.

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