Prominent bioethicist Daniel Callahan says our current obesity issue could be solved by just trying a little harder to make overweight people feel bad about themselves. He calls this strategy “edgy.” We call this strategy offensive and stupid.
Stigma can play an important role in promoting social goods. I’ve argued here before that drumming up a little more stigma around unhealthy food couldn’t hurt.
But that’s not Callahan’s angle; no, the good doctor suggests we increase social pressure on heavy people based on body image. His strategy would include posters with slogans like:
“If you are overweight or obese, are you pleased with the way that you look?”
Making people feel bad for not being thin enough or not meeting a certain body ideal–what could be ‘edgier’ than that? Oh, right, maybe something that hasn’t been the norm for hundreds of years in media and society.
Sadly, Callahan is no random nutjob. A senior research scholar and president emeritus of The Hastings Center, he’s the author or editor of 41 books and has contributed to Harpers, The Atlantic, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, The New Republic and more.
“He must not have any contact with actual free-range fat people,” Deb Burgard, a California psychologist specializing in eating disorders, told NBC News. “For him to argue that we need more stigma, I don’t know what world he’s living in.”