As I was driving my rental car back to the airport, I heard a radio item about a study that suggests that individuals are not to blame for their obesity (estimated to afflict 50% of the UK population by 2050). Instead, the scientists concluded we have an ‘obesogenic’ society, where high-calorie food is cheap and readily available, and labour-saving devices, motorized transport and sedentary jobs reduce our ability to burn off those excess calories.
I was staggered. I imagined countless fatties breathing a sigh of relief and thinking to themselves, “Thank heavens, it’s not my fault. Society is to blame, so I can stop feeling guilty about it and give up trying to lose weight.”
We seem to increasingly live in a world that allows the individual to abdicate responsibility for their lives. If a person spills hot coffee in their lap, it is not because they were clumsy – it is the fault of the company that supplied the coffee. Smokers sue the tobacco companies. Children sue their parents.
While accountability to the public can be a good thing, there is a point beyond which the individual has to accept responsibility for their own choices. This may (gasp) involve some willpower or self-discipline. There is nobody forcing that cream cake or pint of beer or burger down our throats. Yes, they may be available, cheap, enjoyable and even addictive, but we still have FREE CHOICE.
It is easy to externalize blame for our failings – I should know, I’ve blamed my weight gain on everything from sugar addiction to ‘special circumstances’ – but ultimately I had to realize that the only person I was harming, and the only person who could make the change, was myself.
Training update: This morning I was out running around the reservoir in Central Park. My schedule dictated 20 minutes hard run, which with warmup, stretch and cooldown made for a workout of over an hour.
10 minutes into the 20, I was wondering how on earth I would get to the end. I was knackered.
But it helps that Jason asks me to rate my ‘Level of Perceived Exertion’ as a mark out of 10. Although I thought I was struggling, when I assessed my actual LPE it was still only 9. Not even a 9+. I clearly wasn’t going to die in the attempt, and no other excuse would be acceptable… so I made it to the end, beetroot-faced and sweating, but proud of myself.