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Better Blind Than Fat?!

Considering the staggering pain and loss that come with blindness, alcoholism, and severe depression, I assume the women polled for the ASU study wouldn’t wish those afflictions on any of their overweight friends — even if it meant their bodies would shrink down to a “normal” weight. (Please tell me I can assume that.) Why, then, would many of the pollees choose those maladies for themselves over having to shop in the plus-size section? To be fair, obesity is unhealthy. It’s linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and stroke. Nobody wants it — not those who have it, not those who dread it. But do you know what blindness is linked to? It’s linked to not seeing anything! Ever! As in you can’t read a menu or drive a car, do a crossword puzzle or gaze into a lover’s eyes. Besides, obesity is adjustable. Diet and exercise are no picnic (no picnic I’d want to attend, anyway — no picnic with, like, fried chicken and a wheel of brie) but if Weight Watchers and workouts could cure blindness, I guarantee we’d all be tripping over guide dogs at Zumba class. In fact, if you asked people who’ve lost their sight, or are racked with severe depression, or who get the shakes between daily bottles of whiskey, I’ll bet most of them would trade their heavy physical and emotional burdens for a solid 60 pounds of body weight any damn day of the week. (Yeah, I know I’ll hear from the rest of you; bring it.) So here’s what I think is driving those startling poll numbers: shame. Blindness is a blameless affliction, whereas society (don’t even try to deny it) still considers obesity to be a character flaw — and fair game for ridicule. Regardless of what we now know about genetics, deeply ingrained cultural eating patterns, and the good ole fat-fostering American diet, we still want to drape our fat fellow compatriots in shame. Don’t we? We want to savor our superiority and chide their lack of discipline. The irony, of course, is that our culture has grown increasingly empathetic to the plights of alcoholism, which used to be rebuffed as a vice, and depression, which used to be rebuked as a weakness. When you consider the way we still snub women wearing a double-digit dress size — and live in fear of becoming them — it makes blindness just a smidge more palatable. At least you wouldn’t have to witness the hypocrisy.]]>

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