Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Obesity, Health, and Body Image

There are a lot of perspectives about obesity in society today. Personally, I think health care in general is focused too much on weight. There seems to be a common assumption that obesity causes illness, but I've read a lot of things that lead me to believe that obesity is a possible effect of unhealthy habits that also cause certain illnesses, and for the most part, not the cause itself. From this perspective, addressing health problems by focusing solely on getting someone's weight down is like treating a fever by putting someone in a tub of ice until their temperature is back to normal. The fever is actually often a good thing - it's the body's way of coping with certain infections. I have recently heard similar views presented about obesity and diabetes, from different sources like this Ted Talk and the book Health at Every Size - the view that extra fat actually protects people with diabetes from having complications. I don't know how true it is, but it reinforces my belief that weight loss is often just a band-aid solution to something, and that we could approach health in a more holistic way. I don't think weight loss itself is a bad thing if someone approaches it in a healthy way, I just think that its importance is over-stated, to a point where we sometimes don't even get to the root causes of it.

Another idea that I want to talk about is body image. I sometimes come across the message it's a bad idea for fat people to love their bodies because then they won't be motivated to lose weight. This idea is bass ackwards, if you ask me. Think of it this way: Your relationship with your body is somewhat like any other relationship. What if you said "I love my husband, but he smokes," and then your friend responded "If you love him, he'll never stop smoking." The solution is not to stop loving someone. You can love someone and not love their bad habits, just like you can love your body and not love your own unhealthy habits. Also, I think if someone loves their body it makes it easier for them to take care of it, and not the other way around. People often have unhealthy eating habits because they feel ashamed about themselves. I think this idea is important because I sometimes come across messages that overweight people need to feel ashamed of their bodies, and I think these messages are doing more harm than good, contributing to both mental and physical illness.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

How Why This Way Has Helped Me See Clearly

Since I've been involved in Why This Way, I feel like I've been better able to evaluate the amount of truth in the messages around me, and have a better idea of how I want to respond. I think part of this is due to its emphasis on identifying logical fallacies. I took a class on logical fallacies when I was in college, and I thought it was really easy and obvious. But it was mostly hypothetical. Why This Way involves actively rooting out those fallacies from my own speech patterns and those of people around me, with the enforcement of the rules of communication in meetings. How has this helped me in real life?

There are a lot of common speech patterns that are sort of ingrained in society, in which people say things that aren't entirely true, such as exaggerations and over-generalizations. And it's so normal to do it - I've always been aware that it's common, and I expect people to exaggerate and over-generalize, but I didn't realize until recently how much skewed thinking and reasoning can result from it. It generates racism, and other forms of discrimination. It perpetuates ideas about people, where if people don't fit with them, they might feel like something is wrong with them. I think there's nothing wrong with a little figure-of-speech exaggeration like "it's hot as blazes outside" but I think the problem comes when people take or present over-generalizations as truth. Then an idea can enter the consciousness of society such as "Men only want sex, and everything they do for women is so that they can get some."

Being involved in Why This Way has helped me identify potentially harmful over-generalizations, and I respond to them by saying things like "I don't think that's always true," and/or presenting a counterexample if I have one. I've found that usually people will agree, if they think about it, that their generalization isn't entirely true.

Another thing that I often hear is people ascribing motives to other people. I believe that no human being knows better than you what your motives are. In the past, if I had people tell me what they thought my motives were, I might have believed them, and internalized it. But now if someone tries to tell me something like, "you might be resisting this activity out of a subconscious fear of thus and such," I can be like, "I don't think I am. I think I have other reasons why I don't want to do it." And I think I've also become more aware of my motivations, on some level.

All in all, I think I've developed a clearer ability to filter the ideas around me in terms of their levels of truthfulness, subjectivity, healthiness, and whether they're ideas that I want to associate with. I think I have a better ability to protect myself against manipulation and having ideas pushed on me that I don't want.