My video post about the Food Cops sparked an online debate with someone who says he doesn’t want MeMe Roth policing our food, but still believes she made some valid points.  Specifically, he agrees that:

  • Obesity should not become socially acceptable because that does indeed make it socially contagious, and 60% of Americans are already overweight.
  • If you ruin your own health, it’s not just your business because everyone else pays the cost.

There’s so much wrong with those two little opinions, I hardly know where to begin.  But I must, so I will.

(NOTE:  We’re discussing public policy here, so this post is at least as much about politics and economics as it is about diet and health.  Those of you who don’t care for my libertarian politics … you’ve been warned.)

Let’s start with the easy one:  60% of Americans are overweight!  That figure is, of course, based on the Body Mass Index, which classifies pretty much everyone with thick bones or decent muscles as overweight, regardless of how fat they are.  To be considered “normal,” you must actually be thin, as opposed to merely not fat.

The usual comeback is something like “I don’t see a lot of people walking around who look like bodybuilders.”  Neither do I.  But I see plenty of men built like, say, George Clooney, who is on the lean side and not particularly muscular.  He’s also overweight according to the BMI standard.

Despite the artificially low threshold, as I noted in an earlier post, only 38% of American adults are more than 10 pounds above “normal.”  I don’t know what percentage of Americans are actually fat, but it’s not even close to 60%.

But waaaaaaaait … aren’t more people really and truly fat now than a generation ago?  Yes, obviously.  Which brings us to the second point:  social acceptability and social “contagion” have nothing to do with it.

MeMe Roth likes to point out that obesity tends to cluster around marriages and social groups.  Gee whiz, it must be socially contagious — they’re catching the “it’s okay to be fat” attitude from each other!  See, it’s not just a personal choice (as MeMe often says) … we have to shame you into losing weight to protect your innocent friends and family.

That’s utter hogwash.  Guess what?  Alcoholism clusters around families and social groups.  Nerdiness clusters around families and social groups.  Obama-worship clusters around families and social groups.  See, here’s the wacky alternate theory:  people tend to marry and hang around with people who share their values and like them for who they are.  I hung out with the nerds in high school.  Why?  Because I was one of them.  I fit in.  I didn’t catch nerdiness from one of them by borrowing a contaminated slide-rule.

Whether it’s becoming acceptable or not — and I don’t believe it is – most obese people hate being fat.  They’ve tried over and over to lose weight, but failed because of all the bad advice they’ve been given; they’ve failed because their hormones are screwed up, so they’re not in a state of energy balance unless they’re fat.  They’re not going to magically succeed at losing weight because naturally-skinny “I’ve never even been on a diet” MeMe Roth finally shames them into it.  They’ll just be fat and ashamed.  (You think being 20 pounds overweight is unhealthy?  Try developing an eating disorder … then tell me how healthy you feel.)

By the same token, they’re not going to become fatter just because we accept them for who they are — which is what anyone with an ounce of compassion would do in the first place.  And yet, here’s what my debate opponent believes:

Are big is beautiful magazines, clothes etc not a way of spreading acceptance for obesity? Obesity IS socially accepted in America. I mean for God sakes, the US is the 3rd fattest country in the world with more than 60% of its citizens being overweight, how can it be socially unacceptable when the majority is fat?

Oh, horrors!  We’ve got magazines and clothing manufacturers telling people who can’t become thin that they’re actually beautiful.  We mustn’t have that … they should go through life feeling ugly and unacceptable because they don’t meet MeMe Roth’s standards.  Good lord, that attitude is so callous and stupid, it’s beyond comprehension.  And by the way, a lot of big people are beautiful.  I thought Jordin Sparks, one of MeMe’s “bad role models,” was lovely.

Now, the truth is, there are people who could probably lose weight but don’t care to.  So what?  The United States is a melting pot, and some cultures have different attitudes about body size.  (As Eric Oliver pointed out in our interview, the “thin is beautiful” and “thin is virtuous” attitudes are somewhat of a holdover from our Puritan heritage.)

Some people also operate under a different value system.  I’d rather be healthy than eat french fries and ice cream and pizza, even though they’re delicious.  But other people would rather live large, suck up all the pleasure they can, and to hell with the consequences.  And guess what?  That’s okay, too.  How they live their lives is their business … not mine, or yours, or MeMe’s.

I’m guessing at this point at least a few of you are mentally protesting:  But then we all have to pay for it!  Or as my debate opponent put it:

It’s her business when she has to pay for the cost of obesity. So when Mr LardAss decides to buy another burger its his choice, but when he gets sick because of it, its no longer his choice IF his choice now affects other peoples economy. Or do you want to pay for treatment of lung cancer patients who smoked for 40 years despite the warnings?

(Burgers make you sick?  I’ll have to just let that one go.  This is already going to be a long post.)

So, do we really want to venture into “but we all pay the cost!” territory?  Fine, let’s go.  You bring the flashlight, I’ll bring the snacks.

First off, as Nick Gillespie pointed out on Stossel, the MeMe Roths of the world are attacking the wrong end of the problem.  If your bad habits impose costs on others because of socialized medicine, then the problem is with socialized medicine. Coercing us into all supporting each other is not actually a proper role for the federal government. But that’s where we’re at, so let’s take it from there:

If anything you do (or don’t do) that imposes a cost on society is my business, then pretty much your whole life is my business.  It’s my business if you don’t attend college — you’re more likely to be unemployed later in life, and that will cost me, by gosh. It’s my business if you play football — you could get badly hurt and run up some big bills.  It’s my business if you don’t exercise — people who exercise are healthier on average than people who don’t, regardless of body size.

It’s also my business if you drink, smoke, jet-ski, skateboard, surf, spelunk, hike in the wilderness, gamble in Vegas, piss off your boss and get fired, visit friends in dangerous neighborhoods, or have kids.  After all, if my neighbor has four kids and I have two, he’ll cost the public school system $216,000 more than I will, while also receiving two extra tax deductions.  Waaaaaaah!  He’s having a negative impact on my economy! It’s not just his business anymore; we’re all paying for those kids.

Uh … but no, we’re not all paying.  In the United States, the top 1% of income-earners pay 40% of the income taxes.  The top 10% of income-earners pay 70% of the income taxes.  But of course, incomes taxes aren’t the whole story — there are payroll taxes and Medicare taxes that are flatter, so let’s re-adjust:  for all federal taxes combined, the top 1% pay 28% of the taxes, the top 10% pay 55% of the taxes, and the top 20% pay 70% of the taxes.  (The bottom 50% pay close to nothing.)

In other words, if you’re not in the top 10% for income, it’s unlikely you’re subsidizing anyone’s life.  If you’re not in the top 20%, it’s far more likely that you’re being subsidized.

So, fat people cost “society” a lot of money?  If you’re not in the group Uncle Sam considers “rich,” then get over it.  You’re not the one paying.  (My best friend is paying, but he would never tell other people how to live.  That’s one of the many reasons we’re best friends … people with similar values hanging around together and all that.  Or it’s just socially contagious.)

But so far, we’re still assuming people with bad health habits are costing our beloved government extra money.  That’s not always the case, either.  Let’s take my debate opponent’s example of the guy who smoked for 40 years.  (I’m using today’s figures, but they would hold up over time … unless inflation-adjusted taxes and spending go down.  Yeah, right.)

So, Mr. Socially Irresponsible Stupid Smoker (a.k.a. Mr. Siss) puffs away on a pack and half per day for 40 years, then gets lung cancer, and we all pay for it through Medicare.  Let’s see how that works out:

The average cost to Medicare of treating a lung-cancer patient is just under $40,000.  (Wow, that is rather a lot.)  But in 40 years, Mr. Siss will pay $50,000 in cigarette taxes.  Then again, more than half of that is state tax, so he does cost the federal treasury a lot more than a non-smoker, right?

Wrong.  Because believe it not, everyone who doesn’t die in an accident will eventually get sick and die anyway.  Many of them rack up big Medicare bills on the way out.  My 95-year-old non-smoking, naturally thin grandmother has probably cost Medicare more than she and my grandfather ever paid in taxes in their entire lives.

So ultra-healthy MeMe Roth doesn’t smoke and therefore doesn’t get lung cancer at age 65.  Instead, she gets pancreatic cancer or colon cancer at age 85.  She’ll still receive Medicare treatment, at a cost of around $25,000.

Meanwhile, because Mr. Siss is a smoker, his lifespan will be (on average) 10 years shorter than a non-smoker’s.  That means he’ll collect about $140,000 less than average in Social Security payments.  If MeMe Roth lives 10 years longer than average because she’s so skinny and healthy and doesn’t eat at McDonald’s, she’ll collect $140,000 more than average in Social Security payments.  So here’s the final tally on the federal side of the ledger:

Mr. Socially Irresponsible Stupid Smoker:
Medicare:  (-$40,000)
Cigarette Taxes:  $22,000
Social Security vs. Average:  $140,000
Net:  $122,000

Mr. Socially Irresponsible Stupid Smoker saved the federal government $122,000 compared to someone who never smoked, had an average lifespan and never had a single Medicare procedure.

MeMe Roth:
Medicare:  (-$25,000)
Social Security vs. Average:  (-$140,000)
Net: (-$165,000)

MeMe Roth cost the federal government an extra $165,000 compared to someone who lived an average lifespan and never had a single Medicare procedure.  If MeMe doesn’t get cancer in her old age and never requires a Medicare procedure, she’ll cost the federal government an extra $140,000 … just by living ten years longer than average.

Since the cost to society makes it everyone’s problem, I think there’s only one possible conclusion we can reach here:  We must all demand that MeMe Roth take up smoking immediately.  I’m sick and tired of paying the bills for those selfish, skinny non-smokers.

See how stupid it gets when you decide other people’s lives are your business?

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56 Responses to “MeMe Roth: A Burden On Us All”
  1. anon says:

    Bottom line: If you burn MORE energy (calories) then what you take in, then it is physically IMPOSSIBLE to gain weight. If you consume more calories then what you burn, you gain weight. This is regardless of your genetics. But okay, I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree.

    We live in a society ripe with excuses where folks think it’s okay to spend more money then what they bring in, then file bankruptcy, allow the govt. to rob from another group to give to them, then blame the leaders in Washington when surprise, surprise, the economy goes to crap, then turn right around and DEMAND to be taken care of, and vote in the same type of pathological liars they were responsible for voting in BEFORE.

    WHY on earth would this subject be any different?

    All you’re proving here is that you don’t know anything about the biochemistry of fat accumulation and weight gain. In countless clinical studies, attempts to induce long-term weight loss by exercise or calorie restriction have failed miserably. The obesity researchers are well aware of that.

    Your body isn’t a bank account. It’s an unbelievably complex organism that has been designed by evolution to survive long periods of semi-starvation. When people simply eat less or exercise more, they lose a bit of weight at first. Then the body adapts to survive and begins slowing the metabolism, induces feelings of fatigue to prevent excess movement, and of course ramps up the hunger signals. The rate of long-term “success” for the eat-more-move-less theory is less than 5% — and “success” is defined as a loss of 10% of baseline body weight. That’s 30 pounds for a 300-pound person, who will still be obese after losing those 30 pounds.

    Your body’s desire to remain fat is determined by hormones. When hormones tell a hibernating animal to get fat, it will get just as fat EVEN IF IT’S IN CAPTIVITY AND RESEARCHERS CUT ITS FOOD SUPPLY IN HALF. Researchers have, in fact, taken animals hormonally driven to be fat and starved them to death — and they died fat. The hormonal demand to hold onto body fat was so strong, the animals digested their own organs and muscles instead of their body fat. A study of former contestants on The Biggest Loser showed that most of them had substantially depressed metabolisms after enduring all that eat-less-move-more nonsense. That’s why most of them regain the weight, often gaining more.

    So please, this isn’t a simple matter of fat, undisciplined people being unwilling to stop stuffing their faces. It’s a matter of extremely frustrated people giving up after trying diets that don’t work because those diets don’t address the hormonal drive to be fat.

  2. anon says:

    I’ll say one more thing then I’ll leave you alone and quit:

    The point I was trying to make on Roth drawing on social security, is that what she pays in will far exceed what she pulls out by living a healthy lifestyle, that is barring any accidents, or freak diseases.

    [No, she won't pay more in social security than she'll draw out. The only people who pay in more than they draw out are those who die soon after retirement. That's why social security is going broke. If Meme lives 20 years beyond average, she'll draw out an additional $300,000. Few fat, sick people are going to rack up that much in additional medical expense.]

    By staying within that dollar amount, she is less likely to need costly procedures that eat up the dollar amount she put in. When someone reaches the point to where they have exhausted the amount they put in, and start being treated for medical conditions with the money someone ELSE put in, THEN they become a “burden” to the taxpayer. The obese, and usually fairly early in life, even when they work and put into social security, are MUCH more likely to need medical treatment for one ailment or another. I honestly don’t understand why you don’t get this? Are we thinking of a different type of obesity?

    [The obese people who need additional treatments early in life will be tapping their health insurance, not Medicare and therefore not the taxpayers. Obese people die younger, which means they also draw less in social security.]

    Because the one I’m thinking about isn’t the one where you are just a bit thick around the middle. You know, the few pounds over that otherwise causes no problems till (maybe) later in life. Middle age spread is what I think the term is. I’m speaking of the type where knee replacements are a given, stones of all sorts afflict the body, late night trips to the emergency room because of unexplained breathing problems, and no matter how hard you wash, you can’t get rid of the constant lingering odor. If it is purely genetics, then why do millions get gastric bypass, and why is the success rate for weight loss in those areas practically 100%?

    [The people you're describing there are a minority, and many will die before retirement or soon after, so once again, they won't draw nearly as much in social security as healthy, skinny Meme. If healthy, skinny Meme finally gets pancreatic cancer or kidney failure at age 90, Medicare will pay for hugely expensive treatments intended to extend her life by another few years.]

    I consider myself a libertarian also, but while I agree people like Roth shouldn’t push to have more govt. interference in people’s lifestyles and CHOICES, I also am not going to sit back and make excuses for certain behaviors and give them passes. You don’t have to do that to stress the no govt. involvement.

    [As a libertarian, if you're concerned that other people's bad habits are costing you money through socialized medicine, then surely you realize the problem is socialized medicine. If other people's behaviors that might cost the taxpayers money are my business, then their whole damned lives are my business. As I pointed out in the original post, we had a neighbor who popped out five kids. We have two kids. His choice to have five kids (it was four when I wrote the post) will cost the school system $324,000 more than my choice to have two kids. So I guess his desire to have a large family is my business now. I shouldn't have to sit back and make excuses for him while he burdens us all with his kids.]

    We hold smokers responsible when they get lung cancer or emphysema. We know it’s their fault, and THEY know it is their fault. Same thing with car accident injuries and seat belts, bike helmets. It IS lifestyle choices, and what they CHOOSE to put in their mouths. I’d be willing to bet money, that your family that you are CONVINCED are eating healthy in front of you, have a hidden stash SOMEWHERE in the house.

    [A hidden stash of what?]

    I guess somewhere along the line, fat folks quit lying.

    [No, what happens is that after trying many times to lose weights on diets that are based on incorrect theories and therefore don't work, they give up. Even if they have no interest in losing weight, that's none of Meme's business.]

  3. ofrah1 says:

    “(You think being 20 pounds overweight is unhealthy? Try developing an eating disorder … then tell me how healthy you feel.)”

    Tom, I don’t understand what you mean by this quote. Are you saying that being overweight is less bad healthwise than developing an eating disorder, which often times contains an irrational fear of weight gain?

    Exactly. People who are considered merely overweight (not obese) have longer-than-average lifespans. If you obsess on your weight and develop an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia), now your health is in danger.

  4. ofrah1 says:

    Two Quotes from MeMe Roth that make me mad:

    -One of MeMe Roth’s tweets “Weight stigma is over when obesity is not self-inflicted”

    Not only does this justify the PERPETUATION of weight stigma, but it also creates the binary opposition of the “good fatty/bad fatty” i.e. people feel sorry for you if you gained weight due to thyroid or Prader-willi, but condemn you if your weight is attributed to choosing to eat junk food and be sedentary; basically, your basic human rights are contingent on being a “good” person (whatever that means) and proving to others that you DESERVE fair treatment.

    -On the Fox Business episode “Food Police,” MeMe Roth mentions her problem with fat people EXISTING: “It’s a crisis when you have twenty percent of our preschoolers are overweight. Thirty to forty percent by the time they finish elementary school. By the time we graduate them from high school they are as fat as the rest of us. That’s a problem. YOU KNOW IF THEY WOULD JUST DROP DEAD, I THINK FAR FEWER PEOPLE IN THE GOVERNMENT WOULD ACTUALLY CARE BECAUSE IT WOULDN’T COST AS MUCH MONEY. BUT GUESS WHAT? WE FIND THAT THE OBESE LIVE THE LONGEST IN A PURGATORY OF CHRONIC ILLNESS AND IT’S COSTING US A LOT OF MONEY” (emphasis mine)

    I know I’m pointing out the obvious in that MeMe is ignorant and downright rude, but I thought that these quotes might be of “interest” to read.

    I would be lying if I didn’t think that at one point MeMe seemed articulate, reasonable, and intelligent to me, but now I can totally see why people think she is “insane” and “callous” and I agree with them.


    When faced with challenging questions from a vigorous and logical opponent (Nick Gillispie of Reason Magazine in the episode I watched) she turned into a stuttering, blithering idiot.

  5. ofrah1 says:

    On the Fierce Fatties blog post titled “On Hold with Atchka! and MeMe Roth,” one commentator raised an excellent point (worthy of an “oh snap!” by the way) about how the health problems of MeMe’s immediate fat family members weren’t so much attributed to obesity as MeMe would like to believe, but WEIGHT STIGMA (in which MeMe may have had indirect or direct influence on):

    “I’m sorry about your grandma, but instead of shaming people just like her. Don’t you want them to be healthy? Do you think your grandma would be in the position she’s in, if she didn’t live in a anti-fat society? Meme, if you really loved your grandmother, you would want to help other people like her with HAES. Instead you want to sentence those like her, to living a life of fearing fat. You, Meme Roth want to sentence people to being just as sick as you are.”

  6. Anon says:

    Wow, this article is so bad. Meme cares for people and that’s why she does what you do. You “Irresponsible Smoker” example is so misleading and you even bashed her for having an increased life expectancy. If you were correct in making that bash of her, we should just start killing people of when they hit 65 so they can’t get retirement benefits and people who are already old should be killed. You probably are just insecure with yourself and that’s why you hate Meme who says time and again she is all for people loving themselves.

    Shaming fat people because Meme is naturally skinny and therefore views herself as morally superior doesn’t make her someone who cares for people. It makes her an arrogant and ignorant bitch with zero understanding of what makes some people fat and some people skinny. If she wanted people to love themselves, she wouldn’t define “self love” as being skinny. She would define it as self-acceptance, and anyone who says Jordin Sparks is a bad role model because she’s too fat isn’t in any way promoting self-acceptance.

    Meme’s excuse for being an arrogant bitch who likes to shame fat people is that they’re costing her money by not being as healthy as she deems acceptable, so their weight is her business. So the fact that she’ll draw hundreds of thousand of extra dollars in Society Security makes her longevity my business, since she’ll be costing me money.

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