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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Obesity 'Anomie'

You've heard about the 'social contagion' of obesity -- what I discussed in my previous post -- when people tend toward being or becoming obese because their social contacts are.

But there's also a vast number of people who are or become obese and overweight because they feel ALIENATED and ISOLATED from the people of the social circle they are in BECAUSE of their obesity. Their social contacts -- friends, spouses, co-workers and colleagues, family members -- all seem to be rather fit and slender. The obesity of ISOLATION is when YOU -- the obese person -- is the ODD PERSON OUT. And even if you are not really super-obese -- if you feel chubbier, chunkier, a bit out a shape as compared to the SUPER-fit and svelte people you hang out with -- it's even more alienating. And this feeling of being so much BIGGER and heavier and perhaps, more unattractive, 'different', even 'abnormal' from the rest of the 'gang' can lead you to comfort eating, excessive eating, addictive eating -- especially when you are alone, and you become even heavier and more unfit than when you first felt 'different' from others in your social circle.

Food becomes your friend, your spouse, your love, your WORLD, really, and your secret 'balm' against the cruel world. And, of course, this may lead to even MORE isolation, alienation, and loneliness as you retreat from social interaction for fear of rejection, ridicule, feeling 'odd', or feeling ignored and 'invisible'. This last reality is really a crazy one -- when people who are a bit heavy or chubby are not even regarded at all -- treated as if they are 'invisible' because they don't OOZE that 'coolness' of being slender, even skinny in a society that seems to worship the 'super-skinny' look.

Often, people who are overweight, perhaps, mildly obese, get even HEAVIER -- moderately and morbidly obese -- when they feel alienated and not looked upon as desirable and worthy.

This is sad because, at that point, they may become irreversibly unhealthy. When they were slightly over their healthiest weight or, more correctly, body fat level, they could get into a healthier range of body fat easier and with more dignity and grace. Once they get to the super-obese state, the struggle is that much harder and the body is now set up for some of the chronic illnesses to complicate and isolate their lives even more.

And, many SUPER-OBESE people DO live isolated, lonely lives. They are shunned and not getting proper treatment for their obesity, nor do they have the confidence or self-motivation to get out themselves or to go after proper help. Their lives are spent chasing after the symptoms and problems associated with the chronic diseases they ended up getting from being obese. It's a vicious circle.

It's REALLY BAD when all the slender people in the social sphere of the obese/overweight friend, spouse, family member, co-worker try to inflict their standards and perspectives on food and exercise on the obese person. I know this is done, most of the time, to HELP that person, but let me tell you -- it often is damaging as it makes the person who has a weight problem feel even WORSE as they feel incapable or HOPELESS.

The fact is -- everyone has a very different HISTORY of food and physical activity. There are cultural differences, for sure -- but even within a country or neighborhood -- some families and people value sports or exercise or fashion or academics or whatever, far more than food or just spectator activities. But, this doesn't make the people who were raised highly valuing, even PRIORITIZING food in their lives as well as less active leisure activities, BAD people or less interesting or less 'cool' or more stupid or lazy or less loveable/likeable. Well, it shouldn't, anyway. There are many people in the world who are raised valuing food and less active leisure activities more than sports,fashion, academics, etc, etc. who are NOT obese or overweight and who are, actually, skinny and slender and THEY are not lectured upon and gawked at and presumed to be lazy and weak.

Presumptuousness and inflicting your own standards and values of food, exercise, body images, and beauty onto a person who has DIFFERENT standards and values of food, exercise, body images, and beauty can really get in the way of truly understanding why a person is obese and how to REALLY help them out.

It is VERY IMPORTANT to appreciate and EMBRACE the differences that people have about the importance of food and exercise in their lives and to learn to respect, appreciate, and embrace all perspectives on what constitutes an ideal body image and definition of beauty.

What IS very important is to help people achieve their 'personal best' --- for HEALTH, but ALSO for their OWN body image and type and within the realm of what makes THEM feel and look beautiful. THEN, can they feel 'normal' and socially embraced and respected and UNDERSTOOD and a worthwhile, integrated member of society -- at least in the social circle they may be a part of where most people are a certain weight or height or look, eat, and move differently than they do.

It's prophetic that the NORMAL distribution is a bell-shaped curve. If everyone who was considered NORMAL all looked the same, the shape of NORMAL would be a straight line -- a skinny, uninteresting straight mark.

So, curves are NORMAL and this is desirable. Of course, when too BIG of curves occur, then unhealthy conditions can and do follow. THIS is where the problems begin.

Let's strive to understand, respect, and love all the differences in perspectives on values and standards about foods, exercise, body images, and beauty. This will, hopefully, prevent the phenomenon of OBESITY ANOMIE from occurring, contributing to the obesity epidemic from the OTHER end of the spectrum as the OBESITY CONTAGION.

BOTH realities have to be considered.

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