Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, May 02, 2015

The Causal Factor

"I'm still considered a very obese man. But I can bend over. I can tie my shoes now. I can climb up six flights of stairs at work."
"Try moving your body when it's 505 pounds."
"I don't ever want to be perceived as disabled. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. That's the most important thing."
"I want to be treated the same. Yes, I'm obese Yes, I'm fat. Whatever you want to call me, I am that. But it doesn't define who I am."
Paralegal Marty Enokson,  Edmontonian
Marty Enokson poses for a portrait in Toronto, Thursday April 30, 2015. The Edmonton man weighed over 500 pounds going into bariatric (stomach-shrinking) surgery about six years ago and now weighs 370 pounds.
Tyler Anderson / National Post   Marty Enokson poses for a portrait in Toronto, Thursday April 30, 2015. 
Obesity, its effect on individuals and on the society which they inhabit, most notably the health care system and the way that the obese are regarded in society, is being discussed at the fourth annual Canadian Obesity Summit in Toronto. There are various recommendations brought to the fore by summit participants. Who insist that obesity does not reflect laziness or complacency, that those who are obese can help themselves if they only "try harder".

For these health professionals and advocates for the human rights of the obese, the manner in which obese people are regarded, and their rights under the law represent a human rights issue. "We need a fundamental shift in our norms and in our regulation in addressing obesity", charged Bill Bogart, a professor of law at University of Windsor.

People who are obese should not be stigmatized. Society should be more accepting of those among them who present "in a variety of shapes and sizes"goes the argument. Laws geared for the protection of people with obesity from discrimination or prejudice have been too long in discussion, not swift enough in implementation.And the recommendation is made, and not for the first time, that obesity be recognized as a "disability".

Despite that "Many fat people do not regard themselves as disabled or ill. They want to be judged ion merits, not measurements." Professor Bogart sees a transformed society, one where amended laws ban the bias inherent in how appearance is evaluated. With the enactment of a law prohibiting discrimination based completely on how a person presents physically.

Since, when encountering people whose size is so out of proportion to that of most normal people, it is almost automatic for people to gawk in amazement, that's like insisting on regulating a visceral reaction; cannot be done. Just as people who are obese can't be persuaded that they should simply overlook perceived slights related to their appearance. People simply are human and not given to oblique indifference.

As human beings we tend to be curious, we want to have answers to questions, we try to understand the source of a puzzling dilemma. And most people viewing someone so physically incapacitated by their size that they find it impossible to negotiate any kind of physical endeavour from the most mundane to the more necessary chores of simply looking after themselves, want to know why that person is the size they are. Put rudely, at 550 pounds how does one manage to wipe one's behind?

Chances are that there is a genetic inheritance that relates to metabolism; sensible people knowing they will gain weight more quickly than others will perhaps decide to focus on whole foods taken in moderate dimensions, and to exercise their bodies by walking, climbing, some kind of daily activity. Immense weight gains don't come from nowhere; they are most often a product of neglect and failure to exert a modicum of discipline.

Let's face it, eating is a pleasure, and it's one we engage in with great gusto. And we are surrounded by temptation, by readily available foods of all descriptions, moderately priced, and there for the taking, most of it also highly processed to taste "good", loaded with salt, sugar and fat, all guaranteed to put weight on any human body when moderation is not observed.

Mr. Enokson, a hugely fat man underwent bariatric surgery six years ago when he weighed 505 pounds. He now weighs 370 pounds; not slim by any measure of comparison. Compared to his previous weight, however, while still grossly fat, he is no longer immobile and in pain. As when he was taking 40 mg of OxyContin four times daily to deal with the pain "just to be able to move around.

When he ended up in hospital a year ago with pneumonia, the emergency doctor informed him that the reason he had pneumonia was because he was "morbidly" obese. Mr. Enokson took umbrage with the word "morbid", feeling it quite unnecessary. "The medical world created a whole new way of shaming a fat person", he observed.

But he's quite wrong. Extreme fatness is in itself a dire threat to any human being. It leads to chronic illness and disease, all life-threatening. So obesity is indeed "morbid". Severe obesity has increased by over 400 percent over the past three decades in Canada. An estimated 1.2-million Canadians suffer a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or over.

In Europe obesity is deemed to represent a disability; where in December, the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of a Danish child-care worker who claimed to have been fired as a result of his weight. The man, weighing 350 pounds, was dismissed when it was observed he was incapable of bending down to tie his shoes. And this, a child-care worker, who needs mobility and dexterity to look to the needs of children in his care.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2008 that disabled people -- including the "morbidly" obese -- have the right to two seats for the price of one on flights within Canada. The clinker there is that in some provinces some human rights codes require that a disability must be recognized as having been "caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness".

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