Thursday, January 17, 2013

"I'm Only Concerned About Your Health."

We postpone Thesaurus Thursday to bring you a letter.

Dear Only concerned about your health,

You said this when commenting on X's picture the other day, and there is something I've wanted to ask you:

Are you?

Are you actually so concerned about complete strangers' well-being?  If you are, I want to see that you've signed up to coach intramural soccer classes; that you make healthy bag lunches for the homeless; that you have taken direct action yourself to make other people's lives better (so dealing out any humiliation or condescension for your cause will discount these; they don't make lives better). Or, as is more likely, did you feel "safe" behind your computer screen and have the compulsion to comment because you did not like the way X looked, then try to justify publicizing the sentiment by adding the word "health"?  Are you worried about X driving up healthcare costs and actually only concerned about your wallet?  (I don't want to debate that here- what matters is whether you believe it).  Simply put, are you pushing your own agenda when telling X to lose weight?  Because if you are, you are not "only concerned about [X's] health."

Have you lost weight and feel great, or do you know someone else who feels great after weight loss, and you are so entrenched in your own happiness that you believe everyone else should feel the same way?  I think you do truly believe that you're doing the right thing, but telling others what to do because of your own personal experience is misguided.  As they say, "The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data,'" (Brinner) it is 'anecdotes.'  Your/your cousin's/your friend's sister's boyfriend's situation will not necessarily apply to X.  You think that X will feel better after losing weight; this indicates that you assume X isn't already leading a fulfilling and active lifestyle, which is rather presumptuous on your part.  Also, because the weight-loss industry needs to be profitable, we are bombarded with the success stories and tend to forget that there are a lot of people who lose 20, 50, 100+ pounds, don't feel great, and wonder why emotional hangups and body image issues didn't disappear along with the weight.

Concerned, I think that you are not actually concerned.  You never take the time to get to know anything else about X's lifestyle after telling X that she is fat and should lose weight "for her health."  You never inquire about physical endurance, percent muscle mass, blood work ups, or cardiovascular tests.  You simply take it for granted that a doctor has found high blood pressure, clogged arteries and a failing heart, or signs that these will eventually occur, in X.  Assuming something about the internal workings- physical or emotional- of another person based on that person's looks alone has a name.   It's called stereotyping and is a form of prejudice.

For argument's sake, let's say that X does lose weight because of you and is very physically healthy in the end but develops such an obsession with counting calories that it interferes with daily activities and makes it hard for her to maintain friendships.  Will you be calling X out and saying, "I'm only concerned about your mental health," then?

I somehow don't think that you will.

Only concerned about your conscience.

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