Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Weight of the Matter

Most people are keenly aware of trying to be "politically correct" ("P.C."). Since the phrase first came to be widely used, it has loomed overhead like a giant balloon from Macy's parade, casting a large shadow.

The so-called P.C. movement is dominant in our culture. No one wants to say or do anything that is not P.C. On the plus side, there is nothing wrong with being careful about what we say. After all, we've become a population of loudmouths who often speak before we think, typing thoughts then hitting 'send' with little awareness of what we've done.

The world could benefit from a little more consideration toward each other.

But somewhere in the process of this increased consciousness, the scales have tipped toward the ridiculous. There is a tendency to tip-toe around what we say and do for fear of being un-P.C.

I've been a fan of "Seinfeld" since it first appeared in the 1990s. I confess to having every episode in my library. If you think I'm an isolated case, just pay attention to the many Seinfeld-isms that have morphed into our popular culture. There are many phrases heard daily like "not that there's anything wrong with it" and "sponge worthy." But this entry is not intended to praise "Seinfeld," although that discussion may soon occur.

One of my favorite episodes of "Seinfeld" involves agonizing about remaining P.C. Jerry has a crush on a girl who happens to be Native American. He takes pains not to offend her by describing such activities as getting a table at a good restaurant ("reservations"), buying tickets from a seller who charged too much ("scalper") and asking for the return of an item given as a gift ("Indian giver"). The show reminds us that if we become too aware of every detail, we'll never accomplish anything.

In case you have been stranded on an island until recently, the inhabitants of the world are becoming fat. It's true. Just stop by any public location -- grocery, discount store, shopping center, movie theatre -- if you doubt this statement. Our transition from size 8 to size 28 did not happen overnight. The transition sneaked in, perhaps like a Snickers, and coaxed us to nibble and snack until we were full.

Obesity is here, like it or not. Shows like "The Biggest Loser" have turned weight loss into a rather pathetic game. How much will the big bear weigh this week? Let's watch and see! While we watch, let's prepare a snack and sit in front of the television. What fun.

Obesity is a real health concern. Look at the plethora of related products advertised routinely on television or in print: insulin injection devices, blood glucose monitors, diabetic foot pain treatments. It's astonishing. Diabetes is certainly a condition to be avoided and brings with it a host of problems including circulation loss and vision dangers.

People with weight problems have a higher occurrence of conditions other than diabetes. They risk heart conditions, perhaps stroke, joint pain and weakness, and breathing difficulties. This information is nothing new. What is surprising is how many people are in denial about the entire matter.

The prevalence of obesity has become more common in the last decade. Commerce has not missed a chance to profit from this growing condition. Large-size clothing stores are easy to find. Furniture is now being made bigger, including everything from recliners and sofas to coffins. We want to help the overweight perform their everyday tasks, especially if there is money to be made.

Why is it that we rush to use "nicer" words for someone who is fat? We identify someone as plump, overweight, chubby, heavy, big-boned, stout, portly, chunky, beefy -- any of a number of options rather than say "fat". Perhaps if we were less inclined to dance around the actual term, we would be less fearful about speaking the truth.

P.C.-ism only goes so far.

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