Morbid Weight Perceptions

A new study found that about a quarter of overweight women viewed themselves as “normal weight”, while 16% of average weight women felt that they were overweight. According to this article, “[the]¬†survey found that 30 percent of adult Americans in the “overweight” class believed they were actually normal size, while 70 percent of those classified as obese felt they were simply overweight. Among the heaviest group, the morbidly obese, 39 percent considered themselves merely overweight”

Sounds a little surprising to me, with all the messages about body weight in the media and eating disorders, I would have assumed that more women would have viewed themselves as heavier, but ok. It’s actually kind of nice, that women are not worrying about their weight.

What’s worrisome to me is the way that particular article presented the results. The tone was one of concern, that it is not healthy for women to underestimate their weight classification. The article states succinctly,¬†“The problem, according to study lead author Mahbubur Rahman, is the ‘fattening of America,’ meaning that for some women, being overweight has become the norm.”

Yes, the fattening of America indeed.

Take a look at those numbers again. Most of the women weren’t saying they were underweight or ideal weight when they weren’t, they were simply using the wrong term. Is it really that much of a problem if an obese woman thinks she is over weight rather than obese? Or for a “morbidly obese” woman to think of herself as merely obese? (The term “morbidly obese” is of course itself a loaded term that many women, understandably, would want to avoid).

And look at the terms used in the article. The ideal weight range was classified as “normal size”. If, as the author suggests, there has been a “fattening of America”, than perhaps these women weren’t misrepresenting themselves at all, they were simply looking around them and noticing that they do, indeed, look like every one else around them.

The authors, both of the study and of the article, seem to think that it is a terrible thing that women think they are in a lower weight range than they are. I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s time for women to take a positive outlook on their bodies, and if it means telling themselves that they are overweight when really they are obese, I’ll take that.

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True Social Welfare

The long anticipated post on social welfare is here.

Working in an office which deals with cases of inner city child abuse and neglect on a daily basis has given me a completely new perspective on this issue of social welfare.

I have some pretty conservative leanings politically. I have always been a high achiever, and tend to have similar expectations for the rest of the world. A little unfair, yes, but so be it. If you want to eat, you have to work. Almost everyone in America has the ability to go to work. You’re a little disabled? Ok, get a job that your disability won’t hinder. You’re not the smartest key in the shed? Get a job that doesn’t require brains. You can’t stay sober enough to get to work everyday? You don’t get paid. Harsh, yes. Unfair, no.

However, there are certain aspects of social welfare which are really, truly, social welfare. I say that in comparison to what I call “personal welfare”. If one person can’t afford to eat and the State gives him food, that’s not for the good of society, thats for the good of a single person. Even if the state gives out thousands of benefits to thousands of recipients, these are all essentially lots of gifts that benefit lots of people individually.

Truly social welfare is different. It benefits society as a whole.

Every day, I interact with parents that have been accused of child abuse or neglect. One of the fundamentals in the field of domestic violence is “the cycle of violence”, essentially, an abused person is exposed to abuse for so long that they think that is how everyone acts, and they, in response, abuse others. Almost ALL of the parents that come into our office accused of abuse/neglect are already in the system as children of abuse. It’s a whole cycle. I probably have one client a week come in because they voluntarily put their child in foster care. These people live in a culture where many of their peers are in “the system” and they thinks its a completely responsible way to live. Find a guy who wants to have sex with you, get pregnant, stay with the guy even though he cheats on you/beats you/forces you to do things you don’t want because he says you’re pretty and that makes you feel good, get overwhelmed with being in highschool, having a baby, and dealing with your abusive boyfriend, decide you don’t want your baby being exposed to the bum baby-daddy, put the child in foster care, party, get clean, attempt to get your child out of foster care. Repeat.

The financial strain on our government from all this is infinite. The police officers that respond to the domestic violence calls, the State’s Attorneys and Public Defenders, the judges hired solely for child abuse cases, the foster parents, the medical care for foster children…the list in endless.

In many ways, the strain on our government budgets would actually be alleviated by providing birth control, sex-ed, health clinics, therapeutic centers, and state-funded education to underprivileged populations. Now, this may not be “fair” to the hard working people that actually pay for these things (and don’t be fooled by the recent law that requires no co-pay for birth control, you actually just pay more for your insurance premiums), but it benefits them as well. Crime is reduced. Taxes are reduced. More educated, achieving citizens are produced which in turn work and benefit their communities.

And that is TRUE social welfare.

Part II-"Friday Afternoon"

2:00. Eliana calls me, and tells me what happened.

“So did you call the health center, and poison control center?” I asked.

She said she did. The Poison control center told her the toxic level of contact solution is very low, so not to worry about that.

The health center told her to try various methods of getting the contact out, such as:

*eating something hot
*eating bread
*going to the bathroom
*throwing up

When none of these methods worked (Ok, she didn’t try the last one) she called the health center again, and they told her to go to the ER. So, 2:30 Friday afternoon, 3 and a half hours before Shabbat, we head out to the Hospital.

Eliana has since come up with a theory about hospitals. “The whole point is to simply move you from waiting room to waiting room, so that you think they are getting something accomplished.”

When it was 5:00 and we had only been seen by the triage nurse, it was pretty clear we weren’t getting out of there before Shabbat. We called the campus rabbis, and one of them offered to walk the 5 miles to the hospital to come and meet us after dinner! We told him no way, we did NOT want him to walk ten miles in the cold rain for us.

The other one advised taking a taxi. It’s better that a Jew not do the driving, and theres no way we could have walked. Theres more to this psak than simply that, but I don’t have time to go into it now. Perhaps a later post.

We still weren’t a hundred percent sure what we were going to do when we finally were ready, but as the sun set, Eliana and I sang lecha dodi to the passing police officers, men in handcuffs, and drug dogs.

Part I – "Friday Morning"

It’s 9:30 am. “Eliana”, a friend of mine at UMD, wakes up and goes into the bathroom to do her morning routine. She has a nutrition test coming up that she has been studying for, so vitamins are all on her mind.

“All right,” she thinks to herself. “I’ll be healthy and take a calcium pill today.”

She reaches for the pills and then realizes that since she doesn’t usually take pills in the morning, she doesn’t have a cup in the bathroom. But, no worry, her roomate’s cup in sitting convienently on the counter. And even more conveiniant, there’s already water in the cup.

“Sweet!” Eliana thinks to herself as she gulps down her pill with the water.

But as she drinks the water, “sweet” is not the term coming to mind. More like “bitter” “burn” and “acid”. Thinking that it must not have been water she swallowed, she asks her roomate what was in the cup in the bathroom. Roomate responds “My contacts and contact solution. Why?”

“Eh..” Eliana responds. “I think I just drank your contacts!”