I See Fat People

June 18, 2009

Fat people have never had it so tough. In a world which worships the toned body, their thunder thighs, barrel bellies, man boobs, spare tyres and double chins are badges of dishonour. Greed, sloth, denial, weak, unmotivated are some of the tags that come with being an obese person. It is bad enough living with the guilt and shame of being relegated to an eyesore in the humanscape, but they are increasingly being blamed for more than just abusing their own bodies. Obesity is seen as a great burden on health expenditure, as it is associated with 45 morbidities including the 2 biggies; cardiovascular diseases and type II diabetes. £7.7 billion is the cost of obesity to the National Health Service in the U.K every year with 1 in 4 of its citizens obese. It is now more acceptable to criticise fat people as they are increasingly being seen as a drain on national resources. Studies show that they are not only endangering their own lives (they live a decade less than if they were healthy) but they could also be threatening the survival of the entire human race. Reason; fat people contribute more to climate change.

A World Health Organisation report states that each overweight (let alone obese) person causes an additional tonne of CO2 to be emitted into the atmosphere every year as a result of their lifestyle choices. With 1 billion people in the world thought to be overweight (with 300 million of them obese) that results in 1 billion extra tonnes of CO2 a year that we could certainly do without. How do they do it? Fat cats are believed to eat more meat which comes from the meat industry that has high CO2 emissions. 1kg of beef produces 22kg of CO2 equivalent emissions (same as that to produce one iPod). In addition, pastureland and cattle feed (like corn and soya) are often obtained by clearing forests, which are natural carbon sinks. Obese people are more likely to use cars than walk, cycle or use public transport. They are also heavier to transport and consume more fuel on account of their extra pounds. For example, the average American weighs 24 pounds more than in the 1960s and thus transporting 736 million passengers (air traffic for 2007) a year would use 176.4 million gallons more of jet fuel than in the 1960s.

While it is tempting and convenient to place the blame on fat people, there is more to it than meets the eye (pun unintended). The recent surge in obesity levels can be attributed to poor policies that serve vested interests at the cost of overall health. Trends such as highly subsidised production of fats, oils and sugar and the promotion of HFSS (high fat, sugar & salt) food products especially among children are largely to blame. Car-centric urban planning is also responsible for reducing commute-exercise options such as walking or biking. A genetic make up for times of scarce food and high physical demands for survival is proving to be a liability with easy availability of energy-rich foods and labour-saving devices. We are ALL using more energy and emitting more CO2 than we really need and it is unfair to victimise the obese only because they physically manifest the symptoms of a high carbon lifestyle. After all, the superfit emit a lot of extra carbon too with all those power-hungry treadmills, not to mention driving to the gym.