December 13, 2006 at 10:36 am
I suspect our society’s current treatment of obesity is a lot similar to our treatment of the mentally ill centuries ago. Mental institutions used to be horrible places. Not that they’re amusement parks nowadays, but at least we don’t charge people a penny to view the ‘freaks’ like they did at Bethlem Royal Hospital in the 18th century. I’m sure they’d charge more today. Inflation, you know. Entry free on the first Tuesday of the month! (No joke.) People didn’t have much knowledge about the causes of mental illness back then and thus couldn’t treat them. So the unfortunate sick were locked up in deplorable conditions.
Today if you’re schizophrenic or manic depressive, there are at least medications and humane treatments available to possibly better your quality of life. We can’t necessarily cure people. Finding the right meds that don’t cause side effects worse than the disease can be challenging. But at least we’re making headway. A couple hundred years ago depressed people were just told to cheer up, much like fat people are told to just stop eating so much.
As far as obesity goes, there is still so much we don’t know about how the body regulates hunger and metabolism. Scientists are researching it, discovering chemicals like leptin which regulate hunger, but what we don’t know far outnumbers what we do know. And whatever one study declares another one seems to contradict. The conventional wisdom on dieting changes from year to year and you never know who’s right or wrong. So the diet industry thrives, yet seems to barely help anyone. Extreme measures like weight loss surgery are the only treatments that will work for some people. Fat people are blamed solely for their condition because of their lack of willpower and laziness, when there are likely other factors involved both metabolically and in their environment.
I hope that a hundred years from now our fat descendants have it better off than we do and will laugh at the silly weight loss treatments that are now in vogue. Because if people are still trying the grapefruit diet hundreds of years from now, God help us all. Except for the grapefruit farmers, of course, who will rule over us like warlords. And squirt grapefruit juice in our eyes. Bastards.