If people can make themselves healthy, should we blame them for getting sick?

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Slate recently asked If people can make themselves healthy, should we blame them for getting sick? This is framed around the “obesity crisis”, which doesn’t surprise me: being overweight is probably one of the few things you can write an article about, blaming people for, and hardly make a splash.

As much as people might reference other health issues that are considered preventable, people mostly don’t publicly say things like, hey, you’ve got cancer? Why didn’t you eat more carrots and kale? I don’t want my insurance to subsidize your expensive treatment. Your mother had a heart attack? She should have gotten up from the couch every once in a while! It would be considered very mean and unsympathetic – and rightfully so, in my opinion.

I was overweight as a child. Other kids made fun of me, and the general consensus in our society is that fat is ugly. And avoidable. This was not a good atmosphere to live in.
I am now a half-marathon runner and yogi. I wear a size 6 or 8 and ran 28 miles last week. Yet I still think many of the issues I have today can be traced at least partly to growing up as I did.

I don’t really have an opinion on whether we “should” blame people for being overweight. Most of our society already does. I do think that feeling ugly and ashamed creates more of the bad feelings that probably lead to overeating in the first place.

All this said, I have to ask how much I blame others for their health conditions. To some extent, I do. I got up when I was tired to exercise. I ran in the rain and cold, and when I just didn’t want to. I restricted what I ate in order to be thinner.  I did more extreme and more unpleasant things to avoid gaining weight. Why should I have to do all that, and other people can blame genetics? I don’t like it that I think this way, but sometimes I do.

 

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