Academic Suggests Shaming Fat People Into Thinness

Left to right: TSA obesity levels 1 through 3
“Hey fatty, you’re fat!” said the TSA agent. He continued reading his script, “You’re so fat your fat has fat. Speaking plainly, you’re fat. You’re so fat it’s syllogistic: The government doesn’t like fat people. You’re fat. Therefore the government doesn’t like you.”

The TSA agent—a police employee of our State—is engaged in a new duty, that of Official Shaming. Shaming is being floated as the solution to the growing “obesity epidemic” which plagues our nation. It might not be TSA agents who enforce the plan, but I suggest it, as it gives them something worthwhile to do.

Shaming is supposed to “nudge” fat people—though it’s hard to imagine nudging a 400-pound man—into behaviors which conform to State approved comportment, into more environmentally conscious eating habits, and finally into pairs of skinny jeans favored by hipsters who want to show off their scrawny legs.

We’ve tried everything else. Poverty didn’t work: study after study shows that poor people don’t have enough to money to, well, I’m not sure what. “Poor” is flexible term, and many who are “poor” have a lot of things. But whatever they don’t have, they do have money to buy too much food and eat it.

Diets of every possible combination exist. Eat just meat, eat no meat. Drink only juice, drink only water. Have food delivered, prepare your own meals. Fast, eat steadily. Swallow this pill; no, that one. Buy that exercise machine; no, this one. Wine is good; no, it isn’t. Weight is gained regardless.

“Raising awareness”, the go-to solution of the Enlightened, succeeds marginally: fat people are now aware they are fat. They know why they prefer sweat pants over skinny jeans and why they don’t fit on Delta Airlines. Their raised awarenesses haven’t caused them to lose any weight, though.

Awareness raising has more problems. Daniel Callahan, the academic who thought up shaming, said a “large number” of people “are unaware that they are overweight.” He probably means females, who actively seek information on their adiposity but who are consistently (but wisely) misinformed on the subject by their mates.

Scientists are still at this, but theory suggests the historical confluence of the universal availability of cheap plentiful food and masses of human beings whose main source of pleasure is eating is causing this epidemic. The real answer may never be found, but it doesn’t have to be. Let people figure out how to grown thin by themselves; we’ll shame them into it.

Other academics are giving Callahan grief, but I like this shaming idea. And not because I need to lose weight and lack the self discipline. Yours Truly is 6’2″, a strapping 200 pounds of hardened sinew and manly muscle. The only fat in me is the half-pound slab of bacon I daily consume. No, I like the idea because it shouldn’t cost any money.

Gluttony—though obesity sounds more scientific—is one of the seven deadly sins. It should be railed against from the bully pulpit politicians occupy (temporarily, it is hoped). Just as sermons bemoaning it should come from normal pulpits. And from parents.

One of your glutinous kith and kin waddles over to you, you owe it to him to say what Marlene Dietrich said to Orson Welles in Touch of Evil, “You’re a mess, honey.”

But to a stranger, your obligation is your silence. His eating habits are none of your business. Wait, strike that. They are none of your damn business. That statement is true even if you are a doctor (and the man is not your patient), or you hold a PhD from an Ivy League institution like I do and know what’s right and wrong with sublime precision.

That gluttony is bad and temperance good is indisputable. But that does not imply that the State should mandate thinness and regulate eating. Right, Mike? Not a dollar of the public purse should be frittered in the pursuit of the porky.

The argument advanced by progressive puritans is that gluttony costs the public money because the public foots the bill for medical care, especially via Medicare and soon Obamacare, therefore it is the public’s duty to spend money to prevent gluttony.

Allow this kind of reasoning and there is nothing the State won’t see as its business to regulate. Anything can be said to influence the budget because everything touches human health. If freedom means anything, citizens must be allowed to eat whatever and however they please. (Some wag is sure to bring up cannibalism.)

Though if we’re intent on this plan, maybe we could have the TSA display our body-fat content as we go through “screening.” Might as well do something useful with those expensive toys.


  1. Eric

    You can have my long pork when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

    Too tasteless?

  2. Mike Ozanne

    ” If freedom means anything, citizens must be allowed to eat whatever and however they please. (Some wag is sure to bring up cannibalism.)”

    Doesn’t that occur every week at mass?…..:-)

    wag wag wag…..

  3. Rich

    Curiously, being too thin is regarded as an illness and treated with the appropriate condescension and understanding. Being underweight causes illness too and so also impacts the public purse. But no corresponding campaign is meditated – so far as I know.

    Super models have to be excessively thin to look right in photographs we’re told (though they’ve discovered Photoshop for everything else) but presumably people manufacturing clothes for fat people need models too. Yet no ‘super’ fat models exist.

    I expect this all tells us something profound about Society. Or possibly something banal.

  4. MattS


    “I expect this all tells us something profound about Society. Or possibly something banal.”

    Likely that something is neither profound nor banal but rather unpleasant and disturbing so no one wants to think about it.

  5. Fat people know they are fat. I worked with a woman who was 5’4″ tall and weighed 300 pounds. She remarked one day she was tired of her doctor telling her to lose weight and that she was fat. “I can see myself in the mirror. How can I not know I’m fat?” So true.

    Imagine if someone suggested this technique for reducing the number of children born to unmarried women…..or raised by “single moms”.

  6. “I like the idea because it shouldn’t cost any money.”

    Briggsy, what planet have you been living on? Fatshaming will blossom into a multimillion dollar industry, just from radio, movie, and TV spots filmed by the Nomenklatura’s favorite hack filmmakers. Pile on the inevitable Ministry of Obesity, no-knock workplace inspections, the daily 5-minute hate sessions, and backlash court cases; and this nonsense will end up costing billions.

    You did omit the growing belief that a major contributor to America’s obesity is the nutritional “pyramid” scheme foisted upon us (at our expense) by the USDA. Or, as I like to ask, “Does this government make my butt look fat?”

  7. Ray

    Haven’t you read about the obesity epedemic? It’s contaigous, like TB, so obviously fat people should be quarentined and kept away from the public.

    Have you noticed that the politicians offer to pay your doctor bill with other peoples money and then claim they have the right to tell you how to live because they are paying your doctor bill with other peoples money?

  8. anona

    This article is such a joke when put in context of a deficit-spending govt that is working hard to eliminate the debt ceiling restrictions on spending.

    If the academic argument against obesity that it imposes costs on the rest of society, the very same criticism can be applied to all government programs which transfer wealth from one class to another. Specifically, it can be applied to the new healthcare tax.

  9. john robertson

    Course you can not get a progressive to even discuss the cost to society of all their interference and meddling.
    Canadian Tax payers association estimates the cost of red tape as $31 billion per years.
    Canada’s budget deficit is $28 billion.
    I suspect your EPA tops that alone.
    The burden of the regulatory class, our elected and appointed royalty, is more than productive people are willing to bear.
    Small business is disappearing either shutting down or doing cash only.
    As the incentives to operate within the govt rules are becoming severely negative.

  10. Chinahand

    One of your glutinous kith and kin waddles over to you, you owe it to him to say what Marlene Dietrich said to Orson Welles in Touch of Evil, “You’re a mess, honey.”

    But to a stranger, your obligation is your silence.

    Prof Briggs, you regularly seem to think you owe it to us to tell us how governments should be structured, statistics undertaken, how we should view a zygote etc.

    What obligation causes you to break your silence on these subjects – your obligation, damn you 😉

  11. txslr

    Mike Anderson,

    Right you are! I’ve just finished reading “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes and the amount of damage that has been done by the usual cast of characters (including George McGovern no less) to the nation’s health is staggering. I am struck by the fact that the our superiors in government can’t bring itself to accept the results of over 100 years of research into obesity but feel perfectly content to shackle the economy because some knucklehead looked a few tree rings.

    BTW, I’ve cut back on refined carbs and have lost 15 pounds without ever being hungry. Perhaps if I had been shamed I’d have lost more?

  12. Food is so tied up in our psychology, weight loss becomes more than just calories in, calories burned. It’s comfort, etc. I do find this subject difficult to relate to, having been on a diabetic diet for over 40 years. Food is what I eat at a certain time in a certain amount. It is not comfort. The worst is when I have to eat and do not want to. Perhaps this is to my benefit, as I am aware of the number of calories I eat, and can adjust to lose weight if needed.
    How do we change the way we view food? I’m not sure–I didn’t get a vote in mine. Personally, I have no problem with people having lap band or other surgery to force the issue. It’s maybe the only way for some people to actually lose weight and not gain it back.

  13. Craig Loehle

    There is considerable irony in viewing fat as bad while at the same time pushing for legalization of pot (and of course alcohol is already socially mandatory). If the only metric for value is health and how long you live, then fat is bad but so is pot (and booze–ask my cousin who died at 40). If one has the right to as much pleasure as one can consume, then pot is good but so is eating (too much). If we are to be officially athiests, then why is any pleasure forbidden? Why not a corner heroin stand? It is all totally arbitrary. But why is the only metric how long you live? I have known people who needed to smoke in order to handle the stress in their lives, to even be able to socialize–why is that no longer ok? It is ok with me, though I certainly don’t smoke.

  14. anona


    Have you heard about this thing called “taxation”. The govt is no stranger to the people it steals from.

  15. Sander van der Wal

    By the time people are dying from too much smoking, drinking and/or overeating, lots wish that they had quit smoking, drinking and overeating earlier. But by then it is too late.

    So there is a group of people (could be the government, could be some other group) pushing for measures to be taken to make more people stop those bad habits early enough. Which means that less people will wish they stopped earlier when facing an early death. Saving both the otherwise dying people, and the ones who take care of them at that stage, much grief.

    When conditions in the mountains or out tomsea are dangerous, the government can also ban people going there, or urge them to stay at the very least. Not only to save the lives of the people going, but also to save the lives of the people going to rescue the ones in trouble.

  16. Joey H

    So there is a group of people (could be the government, could be some other group) pushing for measures to be taken to make more people stop those bad habits early enough.

    Isn’t that the whole argument – that entity x doesn’t have the right to force entity y to do activity z for their own good? I apologize if I missed the satire.

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