Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fat shaming and dental floss...

This morning, as I was waking up at the ass crack of dawn, I started thinking about random stuff.  One thought that crossed my mind was how fat shamers like to get up on a moral high horse and whine about how obese people cost their fellow Americans so much money.

Fat people are "unhealthy", they reason.  They have to go to the doctor more often for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and all the other illnesses that are exacerbated by excess weight.  That costs money and all the skinny "healthy" people are paying for that!  So, they reason, fat people deserve shame heaped upon them as a way to get them to lose weight.

As someone who has studied public health, I don't disagree that obesity can be unhealthy for most people.  I can't say that a person who is obese is automatically unhealthy, though, because I think it's hard to really define what a state of good health actually is.  I mean, if you're able to function and never need to see a doctor, how can I say you're unhealthy even if you're clearly overweight?  And honestly, why is it my business?

Anyway... it occurred to me this morning that almost everybody is guilty of being "unhealthy" at times.  One example that immediately comes to mind is dental health.  A lot of people never visit the dentist for cleanings or exams.  They figure if they aren't having any pain, why bother with the expense?  Quite a few people, some of whom are not overweight, don't bother to floss their teeth.  That's a real pity since flossing regularly or using an oral irrigator is very important to your overall health, not to mention your hygiene.

When I first met Bill, I noticed that although he was within normal weight standards, he had often had bad breath.  I asked him point blank if he flossed.  He admitted that he didn't.  Since I was in graduate school at the time, I explained to him that poor dental hygiene is linked to heart disease, complications of diabetes, respiratory ailments, and even dementia.   Besides that, brushing alone doesn't remove enough plaque.  If you don't floss, you'll end up with plaque and other nasty stuff stuck between your teeth.  After awhile, that shit starts to ferment and your whole mouth stinks.  I have a very sensitive nose, so halitosis is a huge turn off for me.

To drive home my point, I told Bill to get some plain dental floss and run it between a couple of his teeth.  Then I asked him to smell the used part of the floss.  I laughed when I saw him grimace.  The floss smelled horrible.  "That's what your breath smells like." I said.

After that experiment, Bill became a devoted flosser and brusher.  I am proud to report that since he's been married to me, Bill's oral hygiene has really improved.  This is a man whose had many dental dramas over the years.   Now he rarely has trouble at his checkups.  His breath smells a lot better, too.

Most people could be doing more to protect and promote good health.  Even those who are doing all they can to be "healthy" run the risk of becoming unhealthy at any time.  All it takes is a little bad luck or a slip into complacency and good health can become a thing of the past.  People who are unfortunate enough to be sick need help and empathy more than they need condemnation.  A person who is overweight doesn't need to be shamed.  It won't help them lose weight, nor does it do anything positive for their health.  It's just mean.  

I don't think fat shaming is really about concern for a person's health, anyway.  It's about people who are disgusted by another person's appearance and feel the need to comment about it.  Since it's rude to fat shame, these intolerant folks couch their shaming into "concern".  I think the next time I run into a fat shamer, I'll ask them when they last flossed.  And if I'm face to face with them, I'll probably be able to tell if they're lying.  Peeeeeyou!

They want to fat shame?  Fine.  I will floss shame.  Dude... how did you let your teeth get like that?  Don't you use dental floss?  That's disgusting!  Your lack of attention to your oral health is costing ME money and making me want to throw up!  Hey!  Why don't you hang around?  If I have to smell your breath, maybe it'll help me lose weight!  That rank smell doesn't do anything for my appetite.  See?  It's a win/win situation!  They'll be shamed into improving their oral health and getting rid of bad breath, and I'll be too nauseated to eat.

What's that you say?  Not all fat shamers have poor oral health?  Okay, I'll shame them about some other aspect of their self care or lack thereof.  Do you see how ridiculous this mindset is?  Why do we need to concern troll or shame people about their health?  Why is another person's health anyone's business?

Nobody's perfect, and we all have our own lives to live. Everyone is struggling with a burden of some sort.  Seems like a better idea to just be kind and considerate whenever possible.



  1. I know this is incidental to what you wrote, but on the downside of thinness, thin-to-underweight people are more prone to anemia,to fractures in general and to osteoporosis in particular, to reduced immunity, tomany forms of lung disease, to depression, and to Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.If anyone wants to talk about who is the biggest drain on healthcare dollars, with the aging of boomers, the Alzheimers'-and-related-disorders club will probably take the cake. Most of us aren't calculating that, though. We just want cures to all the illnesses that plague so many of our loved ones.

    1. Yeah... people are living longer than they used to. Elderly people use the health care system for complex diseases that would have killed them twenty or thirty years ago. That costs a lot of money.

      One thing we talked about when I was studying health is how the lack of smokers actually has an effect on healthcare costs. It used to be smokers would die of a stroke, heart disease or lung disease when they were younger. Now that there are fewer smokers, we have more of an aging population.

      Healthcare costs is a very complex topic. Most people haven't really thought about it beyond seeing their own medical bills.


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