“As long as my insurance and tax dollars continue to pay for there [sic] diabetes, and heart disease, I’ll continue to feel justified in telling every overweight person I see that they need to lose weight. Shame is powerful and there [sic] fat is costing me real money”
So I read when I broke the cardinal rule of being fat on the internet and read the comments.
First of all, when someone brings this up I typically demand to see their list of things that their tax dollars pay for broken down into things that they want to pay for and things that they don’t. Nobody has ever produced such a list – that’s because this really doesn’t have anything to do with their tax dollars, it’s simply a convenient way to couch their size bigotry. Nevertheless, I hear this argument a lot and I think that today is the day to break it down.
It is based first and foremost on the assumption that fat people are unhealthy and going to get diabetes and/or heart disease and that losing weight is possible for most people and will make fat people healthier. I’m going to look at this two ways. First the reality/truth, and then if those assumptions were true:
We’ve already talked about the “Diabesity” myth. Also, independent research has shown that the money argument is seriously overblown. The truth is, you cannot tell how healthy a person is by looking at them, you can only tell what size they are. There is no such thing as a healthy weight. There are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people. There are physically active fat people and sedentary thin people. There are fat people who eat a “well balanced diet” (which is to say a diet of which concern trolls would approve) and thin people who eat fast food almost exclusively. I think almost everyone has a thin friend who eats a ton of crappy food and stays thin, and typically people accept that. But let a person eat well and still be fat and, in my experience, those same people call you a liar. Regardless, all of these choices are the right of the person making them, everyone gets to choose how highly they prioritize their health and the path that they choose to get there. But I digress.
Health is complicated, multidimensional, and not entirely within our control.
But let’s pretend that the assumption is true.
In that case: I’m fat, so I’m unhealthy. But…
I pay taxes too, and my taxes go to pay for the war on obesity – I’m actually funding a war waged against me by my government. Meanwhile, prior to the Affordable Care Act I had been without insurance for 14 years because insurers were allowed to exclude me based entirely on my BMI.
I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. And yet my tax dollars go to all the people who get health problems related to smoking.
I don’t drink. I’ve never even been drunk. And yet my tax dollars pay for cirrhosis, drunk driving accidents and alcohol poising.
I’ve never done drugs. And yet my tax dollars pay for people whose lives and bodies fall apart due to drug abuse.
I look both ways before I cross the street. And yet I have to pay for people who get run over after failing to do so.
I don’t mountain climb, but my tax dollars pay for the healthcare costs of people whose attempts to do so are unsuccessful.
And well they should, because that’s how civilized societies behave. I would rather my tax dollars pay for antibiotics to cure bronchitis than pay for hospitalization for pneumonia. And I’d rather my tax dollars pay for hospitalization for pneumonia than pay for a public funeral because someone didn’t have access to healthcare. I think that a society with access to healthcare is better from every possible angle and so I’m interested in removing barriers to healthcare, not justifying them with an argument about my tax dollars.
I’ve also noticed that people who want to police my “health” (and by health I actually mean body size which is not the same thing) are never that excited to have other people police their health. Should vegans only have to pay for the healthcare of other vegans if they believe that’s the healthiest lifestyle? Should Christian Scientists taxes not have to pay for any healthcare at all? Since I think that people who make this argument are bullies should I not have to pay for their healthcare since I don’t like bullies?
Marathoners drop dead of heart attacks. People who do everything “right” die of diseases to which they were genetically predisposed. Other people live their lives in ways with which we disagree, we live our lives in ways with which other people disagree, and all this “won’t somebody think of my tax dollars” hand wringing is nothing but thinly veiled fat bigotry.
Even if you could prove that being fat makes me unhealthy (which you can’t). And even if you had a method that was scientifically proven to lead to successful long term weight loss (which you don’t). And even if there was proof that losing weight would make me healthier (which there isn’t). And even if you were going to go around yelling at smokers, drinkers, jay walkers, and thin people who don’t get exercise (which you aren’t) this slope is still too slippery. And that doesn’t take into account the reality that your premise is completely flawed, your assumptions are faulty, and your method of shaming people is utterly ineffective since you can’t make someone hate themselves healthy.
So I think it would be dandy if they would just shut up.
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