By Jeff Davidson,

When highly successful anti-smoking campaigns were introduced years ago, following the discovery that second-hand smoke was harmful, people responded intelligently. Across-the-board, most athletes, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with lung or vascular problems stayed from second-hand smoke.

A Shattered Myth

Today, on a somewhat similar vein, the myth about being fit and fat has been shattered. Certainly, you can climb stairs if you’re overweight and even excel at various sports. You cannot, however, overcome the long term effects of gravity. If you are overweight or obese gravity pulls on your organs as it does with everyone else, except in your case, over many years the strain might prove to be too much.

It is not acceptable to be morbidly obese. The health and morbidity risks related to being overweight or obese are extraordinary. By some calculations for every 10 pounds that a person is overweight, they exert 40 pounds of pressure when in motion such as walking running and working out.

Once, by age 30, and almost definitely by age 40, to weigh 400 pounds was a death sentence. Today, due to miracle pharmaceuticals, 350, 400, and even 450 pound individuals are living longer than their counterparts of one generation ago.

On the Road to Acceptance

Somewhat predictably, the fat acceptance movement is gaining a foothold, not on par with society’s current awareness of transgenderism, but it is making inroads.

Some fat acceptance groups that insist airlines should reconfigure their cabin seating to enable morbidly obese people to be more comfortable. The airlines have objected to such insistence, but could be starting to yield.

Traditionally the airlines issued a seat belt extender so that the obese can be safely seated. Many airlines request that morbid obese people purchase two adjoining seats to accommodate their girth.

What About Everyone Else?

If you’re an average weight person, being seated next to the obese is no small issue. In particular, if you’ve ever sat in the middle seat between two highly overweight passengers, you likely experience an uncomfortable flight, be it for one hour or across the ocean.

When you an encounter an online article advocating for fat acceptance, read the comments following the article, where many normal weight people have had enough. They’ll write statements such as “lose weight,” which won’t gain them any favors among the overweight. They’ll also say, “go by car,” “pay for a charter flight,” “buy a first class seat,” “fly at odd hours when planes are almost empty,” and related comments.

As the situation unfolds over the next several years, some issues must remain clear. While we should be reasonably accommodating to people who have a weight problem, and recognize their humanity, our civil and legal rights need to be considered.

The Social Impact of Self-Induced Affliction

For years, marijuana advocates asserted that smoking pot or using other ‘light’ drugs was a self-induced affliction and did not impact others. Now we know differently. Marijuana, particularly today’s strains, is the gateway to stronger and stronger chemicals and drugs. We know as well that the impact on families, neighborhoods, and society in general is significant, sometimes devastating.

The same goes for earth-shaking numbers of individuals becoming overweight. The reality of our times is that great masses of people do little or nothing to maintain their weight, fitness level, and overall health. They eat what they want, whenever they want. They exhibit little if any regard for the caloric and nutritional content of what they ingest. They seem oblivious to sodium content, added sugars, additives, or preservatives.

Such individuals have little or no regimen for maintaining their health. Then, regardless of the financial and social cost, they want society to accommodate them. From a practical standpoint we cannot readily re-engineer tens of thousands of city bus seats, train seats, and airplane seats.

Beyond economics, morbid obesity sends a poor message to children, those in their formative years, and to young adults.

Solutions, Not Accommodation

Chronic over-eating and under-exercising is a self-induced affliction that impacts many others. Rather than devote time and attention to fat acceptance, let’s focus on viable solutions such as striving for fitness, weight reduction, diet modification, and behavioral changes.

More than anything else, this focus will help people become more healthy as opposed to being merely accepted which, in many instances, means barely tolerated.
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Jeff Davidson is “The Work-Life Balance Expert®” and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, effectiveness, integration, shift, blend, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Perfect Timing, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit BreathingSpace.com or call 919-932-1996 for more information on Jeff’s keynote speeches and seminars.