Obesity and Personal Responsibility

Obesity: then and now

There is much talk about an obesity epidemic, and without question obesity has exploded in modern times, in large part for the reasons outlined on the previous page. While eating always been a social activity, only in very recent times has tasty food become cheap and widely available. Also, affluence has become so widespread that people have the leisure to sit around watching TV and eating, rather than being up at 5AM to work on a farm.

In medieval times poorer people were thin, for the very good reason that they did not get enough food to eat, and they had to do physical labor to survive. Now poorer people tend to be much heavier than those higher on the social ladder, because food is relatively cheap, and because the vast majority of modern labor is not physically demanding.

Obesity and the cult of victimization

But the driving force for obesity in modern times is the factors above in combination with the widespread loss of a sense of personal responsibility.

In the last 2 generations, the United States has led the world in building the cult of victimization. Psychologists led the way in positing that acts of criminals were not the fault of the criminal, but the fault of society, in some way. Either criminals had been “forced” to steal as result of their poverty, or induced to violence by TV shows, movies, or video games, or driven to depraved acts by mental illness. In America in the 1980s lawyers began to pick up on this trend and launched a tsunami of civil lawsuits based on third party liability that has continued to this day.

Buttressed by media productions of dubious validity, such as the book Fast Food Nation, and the spiraling profits of litigation the prevailing idea is that obesity is a result beyond the control of individuals: Restaurants are evil for providing food that isn’t healthy. The fact is that even fast food, if eaten only occasionally and in moderation, can be part of a healthy diet.

Obesity is not your destiny

The key is to take responsibility for yourself and the choices you make. You have complete control over the food and drink that goes into your body, but you have to have the discipline to exercise that control.

The more you have goals and ambitions that really matter to you the more likely you will be to exercise restraint; any goal that requires health and fitness can help you make the healthy long term choice. The basis of this discipline is self-esteem and a sense that you have control over your own destiny.

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