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on psychiatry and psychology

Prejudices about and Incidence of Obesity

Abstract: Are obese people greedy? Are obese people psychologically disturbed? Are obese people lacking in will-power? Do we have prejudices about obese people?

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Prejudices about and Incidence of Obesity

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Written by: Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail:
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 08 Aug 2008.

Are obese people greedy? Are obese people psychologically disturbed? Are obese people lacking in will-power? Do we have prejudices about obese people?

Answer:

A person who has obesity problems should not only be concerned with health conditions, but should also tackle a vast range of prejudices that are very widespread in our society.

Prejudices about obese people represent a very widespread kind of cultural racism based on a range of wrong stereotyped beliefs and are deeply rooted in Western cultures.

The most common prejudices are:

  • obese people are greedy people that gain weight because of their uncontrolled greed
  • obese people are psychologically disturbed people
  • obese people are people without will, otherwise they can lose weight

These prejudices are more serious because scientific research has shown their falseness. They are ideas that almost everybody has to such a point that even if obesity represents a problem which is widespread as an epidemic at world level (roughly 20% of women and roughly 30% of men of the world are destined to suffer from it by the year 2005) the world would continue to do its best to make obese people's life difficult.

A lot of obese people are too fat also for medical science: to be effectively contained by an operating bed, to stay on a common hospital wheelchair without being jammed inside, to enter a tunnel of an appliance for tomography CAT and NMR.

And yet, if the last two or three million years of human history are considered, obesity seems be a sad, but inexorable destiny of a lot of us.

Evolution seems to have favoured people that have chosen fat and energetic food. Originally, it was useful for the survival of people capable of storing calories to face famine situations. Up to a hundred years ago, this system worked for those who had unlimited access to food and/or had sedentary employment.

With the coming of technologies that automatized this work world and our everyday lives, exercise has become an option or a luxury for many people who live in Western countries. But it is not for this reason that people give up eating high caloric food.

Nowadays one American out of two is considered overweight (in 1950 it was one out of four). In Italy we have 40% overweight people.

Prejudices are not useful to tackle the problem and miraculous pills produced in recent years by pharmaceutical companies do not seem to be giving benefits comparable to their side effects.

Therefore research devotes itself to research on genes that control lipid metabolism and fat deposits.

In the meantime the only thing that seems to work is getting used to a balanced nourishment related to your needs linked to a regular program of physical activity (according to the American National Institute of Health 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day should be enough).

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