Countering Charge of Irresponsibility in Obese People
- Category: Culture and Media
I found a "Called Out" comment on Forbes Magazine attacking obese people outrageous. I address it here.Meghan Casserly has a wonderful article, "Eating Disorders and the Executive Woman," running in Forbes Magazine. She describes the call to anorexia that many professional women answer by restricting to the point of endangering their health and way of life. But she doesn't address the call to overeat or binge eat that creates overweight or obesity.
The outrageous comment contains this excerpt:
For both men and women, being significantly overweight, or in some professions even a bit overweight, is a sign that one cannot control one’s appetite. And being overweight is known by everyone to be dangerous to a person’s health.
So if your lawyer can’t be responsible and control their appetite, they are signaling that they will allow harm to themselves to occur.
Then the client or customer wonders “If my lawyer can’t control their appetite, and is endangering their health, will my lawyer also be unable to control and perform the task I give them without any harmful oversights or overly risky actions?”
I'm particularly concerned about the accusation that an obese lawyer demonstrates an inability to be responsible.
I've been an eating disorder recovery psychotherapist for over 25 years. In my experience, overeating serves a purpose. The person who overeats, especially to the point of becoming significantly overweight, eats to soothe themselves and create a barrier between themselves and experience they cannot deal with emotionally.
Using the lawyer example, a lawyer may be responsible in dealing with nasty situations and abrasive and attacking people while being assertive or aggressive to achieve a professional goal. She may have to take on philosophical positions she finds personally distressing but legal and ethical to win her case. She may confront issues daily that relate to painful personal experiences.
The eating and physical padding can both soothe and protect her so she can function on the job.
Yes, the overeating may cause physical damage and create health risks. Yes, the stigma of being overweight in this society may cause her emotional grief. Yes, she may suffer in personal relationships because of her weight.
But, her eating and weight may contribute to her being a responsible and competent attorney. And her eating and weight may contribute to her needed emotional protection.
To eat normally and live at a normal weight a person has to be able to tolerate her feelings as the world dishes out challenges, sometimes severe challenges.
That's not a situation that can be changed through will power or shaming.
Healing and developing inner stamina to cope with personal vulnerability takes time, effort and commitment. Following such a path may or may not be worth it for an individual.
But being significantly overweight is not a reason to call someone irresponsible. There are many reasons why a human being would allow harm to themselves to occur, some of them tragic and some of them rather noble.
When you are on the battlefield you don't put down your means of protection unless you have a better way of caring for yourself. Sometimes in a tough profession, the extra armor of weight is needed armor.
- Do you know competent and responsible people who are overweight or obese?
- Are you one?
- What might be the risks you would need to take to change the way you eat and live in order to lose many pounds?
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