He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

Sometimes it’s the advertisements that make the print product of a publication the more interesting version, and that is decidedly true at the New York Times. Various political entities want to put their cause in front of a prestige audience in the time-honored “tombstone” way. Last week, it was a collection of M.D.’s and others using “World Obesity Day” as a peg for demanding that the news media stop “labeling” people as obese “because obesity is a chronic disease, not a lifestyle choice.” They wish the language be shifted from adjective to object, as in “struggling with obesity.” This “person-first” approach, they say, “can begin to eliminate the weight bias against the nearly 200 million Americans living with overweight and obesity.” (My emphasis.) Their condition would thus be equated with other, more recognized, forms of disability. The signatories are all putative experts in the field, but this idea seems too slippery. Nowhere close to all of those 200 million are afflicted with metabolic limitations that condemn them to an unhealthy condition. Rather, this sweeping speech demand is part and parcel of the silencing of discussion of excess weight’s role in Covid-19 co-morbidities. Ever since Michelle Obama left the Kitchen Garden, the national conversation has ceased to focus on what is one of the most obvious means to improving public health…because it could lead to “shaming.” The doctors placing this ad, like marketers catering to heavy would-be customers, would let countless individuals off the hook for their diet and exercise choices. That the surgeon general of the U.S. and other such medical officials do not challenge such notions is an abdication.

Published by timwferguson

Longtime writer-editor, focusing on topics of business and policy, global and local.

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