Tuesday, 9 December 2008

What about fatness and the poor?

There is a lot of talk about poorer people being fatter than others. I have a few doubts about that, starting with the fact that BMI favours taller people and as you go up the income scale, people get taller on average. And the general suspect and biased nature of obesity stats.

Then there's the picture on the ground which is a little more nuanced that flat out stating that low incomes equals greater fatness. I live in London in a mixed but mainly low income area.

The scale of the UK is a lot smaller than say the US or other European countries. I can't remember how many times it can fit in Texas-and I'm not about to look it up, Heck, maybe it can squeeze into Houston for all I know!

So people don't have the same ability to isolate themselves physically as places spread over a greater land mass, although maybe it tells more in manner. And there is the unlovely class system.

Anyway, where I live, there are plenty of people who are fat, to varying degrees, some very, but there also seem to be a lot of people who are slender and thin. More than we are lead to believe. I cannot speak for America of course, but the biggest people seem to me to be not uniformly among the very poorest, where there seems to be a divide, but those who are just above that, those at the edge of the middle class and the top of the working poor. And I'm talking fat and plumper on average.

Whenever I go out at night, the majority of youth, from teenagers sometimes younger are whippet thin, with an eerie uniformity. Thinner than a lot of (middle) middle class kids. Now I don't wish to label them, but these kids seem to be a bit more likely to run into a disagreement with the authorities, let us say. And yet they are almost uniformly thin.

Virtually no one mentions this, for obvious reasons. The authorities wouldn't wish to admit that those characterised as more rascally are thin in the way they desperately desire in the more obedient. The hypocrites. They don't wish to admit that free ranging your kids may be part of what stops those prone from plumping up a tad. They are desperate for the favoured battery style child rearing that we grown ups have favoured should prevail.

Those tucked up in bed vary in size widely it's true, but that's the point, it's the poorest kids who tend to be out at that time.

It's somewhat of a cultural thing, far more children used to be out like that, then a lot of parents stopped that and it's become a sign of almost a sign of bad parenting-such is how our insecurities work. I'd go so far as to say it's perceived as neglect and seen almost as an 'underclass' thing.

So those kind of children remain. Now others that they hang out with must be fatter, there is overlap between them they are family and friends too. But I would doubt one could say that on average they are not thinner.

It does of course depend on how you measure income. Maybe what I observe is too finite in difference to show up. Maybe it's as much a difference in mindset cultural aspiration, connections etc.,

The children I speak of, it's easy to mis characterize by looking some of the people I went to school with were the same still I feel the need to be careful, but they seem a little bit more, maybe not wild, less repressed by petty bourgeois style manners.

They see a little more relaxed and louche, not so uptight, sometimes they are polite, sometimes not. There's a different atmosphere around them, a bit of a swagger, they project a sense of ease that they may not wholly feel, only somewhat, although I don't wish to exaggerate this. They have their constraints the same as anyone else, probably more. Just different.

Maybe because their aspirations tend to be more accepting of their situation, i.e. they wish to make something out of what's around them more than aspire to things more outside their environmental milieu, maybe that has an effect on their countenance and maybe that's part of the divide. At least at younger ages.

It's not necessarily that they always do worse than their peers, it's more that others are brought up in an atmosphere where there is more pressure on them is a lot more pronounced, where with them, there's more a sense of encourage and talk, but it kind of gets left up to them. They are stopped more by outer dictates than inner ones, and that's probably why people accuse them of having 'no discipline'.

Progress into certain professions and jobs maybe reflect what we'd all be like if no-one was "pushed". Before anyone gets the idea that I'm judging, try to remember that if you are born into a middle class family where say, your mother's a teacher and your father an accountant and you wish to be a doctor, you are not strictly speaking really aiming higher either. And you are praised for not doing so as if you are.

You don't have to, you're already 'respectable' and aiming for no greater than you were born in is seen as perfectly admirable. People like this, and the middle class seem to be more likely to be thinner.

Those who tend to be fatter are not necessarily the poorest of the poor, but the aspirant poor. They are taught to aspire. Just beneath the middle class and above the poorest. In a way, being in this kind of group can be a bit like trying to change your weight, at some point there is a danger of burnout along the way and that probably sees off quite a few from reaching their goals.

They are not settled and yet they become accustomed to an environment they are supposed to concentrate on exiting, they wish to rise to aim higher they are taught not to be satisfied with their environs. They have a low income and mix with the poor, but have more bourgie views, aspirations and repressions. They have to learn to view themselves from the outside in, although this is not necessarily clear in their youth.

It would be funny if so like fatness, seems more likely to fatness, i.e. it fatness finds it's meter in existences like fat experience.

Therefore the underlying message they get that the other kind of people I mentioned maybe don't get at home is, that they are not quite good enough as they are. If you are why better it?

That feeling of not being quite good enough is not expressly stated, on the contrary you see yourself as a good person with good intentions. But if you consider it, it gives a root for the anti obesity rhetoric to bind on. It even sounds like the idea of obesity, not quite good enough, but can try harder.

Then at a certain point, the combination of never feeling quite good enough, striving to be better which may require you to be more sedentary-against your desires and instincts to move you have to fight those, to study, to learn, sacrifices have to be made-which is the key as much as anything. You are always striving, never quite at ease with yourself, not being able to quite identify with your surrounds without feeling you must surmount them. And yet if you don't strive this way, it could mean propping up society's bottom. Especially if you come from an immigrant background.

What none who wish to sell obesity and some who you might expect to be a bit more sceptical do not wish to say is that fatness is often about striving beyond your comfort zone and possibly a little past your inner resources; at least for a time and hanging in there to do the things you don't want to do. That doesn't come for free. This is one of the stories some strangely allied do not tell about fatness. I'm thinking of those who wish to use low income fatness to 'prove' fat people are oppressed. As is the fashion among many groupings.

It's about being trapped in responsibility at every turn, all can change or alter your metabolism and by that your appetite and hunger which respond to your needs. Something that appears to be ignored, but I have a feeling is noted and in this way, it can become a way of identifying certain groups you wish to put pressure on. Those who impertinently wish to fulfil their potential, rather than leave it to the ubiquitous middle, middles. It's remarkable how sensitive some people's bodies and/or minds are-in the short to medium term at least and others not so under the same circumstances.

It is this kind of background of cross currents of stress, plus the striving and enough food to eat, and by that I don't mean excess or not, but regular meals, that seem to provide an advantageous atmosphere for fatness.

Striving to better yourself may be good for you or your family in the long run, but it can take it's toll on your body and it is .here that fatness seems a little bit more likely to be called into action earlier. And thus exposes some of the more self defeating ironies of healthist dogma, what you gain by maybe achieving a better life, maybe compromised by taking a toll on your health, eventually.

If you remain too, of course. And that's the rub, whilst we can look at the stresses on us, we were not meant to leave a pristine corpse as they used to say.

It's why I see one of the less visible themes of the crisis to be an attack on those who strive to better themselves, even if it ends up by being not much. One has to be careful that this low income link is not used to obscure this reassessment by the those who are trying to pull up the ladder, to narrow or close the door on energetic potential 'interlopers'.

Those health advisers often betray their disregard of people, by giving them another extra burden of responsibility, that is time consuming energy wasting, when that time is needed for extra study and chores to help working parents out and other things.

There's a false 'morality' going on here regarding the so called morality of exercise and healthy eating. It is often just the way of enforcing social distinctions. 'Morality' often gets introduced when things are needed to cover ulterior motives.

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