Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Smokers and Fatties: A Comparison

Recently, I've noticed a trend that I find both fascinating and pretty weird: people like to compare smoking to obesity.

In many ways, I think you can make some accurate comparison. In many ways, I think you can't. And it seems as if a lot of people can't seem to process that two DIFFERENT things can be SIMILAR in some ways, but DIFFERENT in others. Again, if there were no differences between smoking and obesity, they wouldn't be two distinct things; they would be smobesity. Duh.

So, I'm going to talk about it. Obviously. Besides, it's been bugging me for a while.

One thing that's very similar between obesity and smoking is that both are states of being (being fattie mcfatterson and being smokey mcsmokerson) that are very, very difficult to change. How many people do you know, or have you heard of, you have tried to quit smoking a million times? If you smoke, have you tried to quit? Was it easy?

Same with being overweight. I'd love to get some data on how many overweight/formerly overweight people think that losing weight is easy, and how many never-been-overweight people think so. How many people do you know who are on some kind of diet? Are trying to lose those last 10 lbs? Just can't seem to? Have tried every method in the book?

I've never smoked, but I've tried to lose weight. I've been trying to lose weight ever since I was 13 and didn't need to; 60 lbs later and 0 inches taller, I'm even more unhappy with my inability to shed pounds. It's difficult, it's expensive, and people are ridiculously judgmental about it, especially when I relapse. Which I inevitably will; ask anyone who's tried to lose weight or fight an addiction.

And I think that's a major similarity.

However, there are plenty of things about smoking and obesity that really aren't similar at all. First off, who ARE these people who think that obesity is something that people choose to be? Seriously, people who keep saying, "OMG just put down the donut and go for a run!" I've got some news for you: I don't eat donuts. And I run more than you do. And yet I'm still fat. GOOD JOB. I didn't choose to be fat; it's not as if I go through three packs of cookies a day while my comrades the smokers are going through packs of cigarettes instead.

Then there's the whole OMG YOUR HEALTH! Guess what? OMG MY HEALTH IS FINE. I don't have diabetes. I don't have high blood pressure (I will when I'm older because it runs in my family; my mother eats nothing but veggies and runs every day, and she has high BP). In fact, the only health problems I have that have anything to do with my weight are the CAUSE of weight issues, not the effect; ulcerative colitis is not caused by being fat, but it sure makes me lose weight, and PCOS is not caused by being fat, but man, does it keep me fat with no effort.

My health is FINE. Go pay attention to yours.

Then there's the whole "Tax cigarettes and tax junk food!" Both are not very bright (I say tax alcohol, honestly). Taxing cigarettes punishes people for having an addiction; it does not actually help many people quit. The way to help people quit? Better drug prevention programming and more accessible and less expensive methods to help people quit. There is no RIGHT way to quit smoking, and taxing cigarettes punishes everyone who has trouble quitting without aid.

And taxing junk food punishes people by class, not by weight, although I don't think either group should be punished.

Weight is a class issue; the wealthier you are, the higher the chances that you'll have time to exercise, or that you'll have a great gym membership, or that you'll have a personal trainer, or that you'll have exercise equipment in your home. Or that you can even afford things like running shoes. The wealthier you are, the higher the chances that you can buy plenty of healthy foods that you enjoy, that you'll have time (or hired help) to cook those foods, the more regular your schedule is so that you can plan your meals.

The less wealthy you are, the higher the chances that you're working more than one job, that you can't afford a gym membership, that you can't afford to shop at Whole Foods. Interesting.

The thing is, if you smoke, you're likely to become addicted to cigarettes. If you become addicted, or you magically don't but still smoke on a regular basis, you are highly likely to compromise your cardiovascular health.

If you're overweight, it doesn't mean very much. Many of us have high BMIs but aren't actually overweight or obese; BMI is one of the least scientific things ever invented, falling slightly behind organized religion and Santa Claus. BMI aside, plenty of overweight people, obese or not, are actually quite happy with their bodies, or they would be if people would stop WHINING about it. And plenty of overweight people (HI, folks) are quite healthy, or their health problems are unrelated to their weight, or their health problems even cause their weight to change in a specific way. Plenty of overweight people eat healthy foods and avoid unhealthy ones, and plenty of overweight people exercise. So where is all this bullshit, "OMG obesity is killing everyone!" crap coming from?

Look, smoking is a choice, albeit one that is often influenced by peer pressure, and one that's often hard to take back once you've made it. And in the majority of cases, being overweight is not a choice. In both cases, making change is difficult, not because of laziness, but because of what it means to be addicted to cigarettes, or what causes a person to be overweight.

So, I've had enough of all this, "Let's tax smokers and fatties!" No, let's all fuck off.

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