An editorial in Forbes examined the wisdom in the proposal of a "fat tax" in the US to finance the out-of-control healthcare spending in the country.
The logic is this: since fat people supposedly require more health care, they should pay an extra tax to finance the spending.
Because shame and blame is such a great motivator of health and positive behavior change.
The problem that most people don't seem to grasp is that people can't control what they weigh. It's like charging tall people more because they have more serious falls, or pale-skinned people more because they're more likely to get skin cancer. Or people with other skin tones more because of some other reasons. Maybe the links are legit- I don't know. In the end it doesn't matter. We know that people can't permanently change their height or their skin tones. But despite evidence to the contrary, we still persist in thinking that people are in charge of what they weigh.
I don't know any person, fat, thin, or anything in between, who hasn't tried to lose weight at one point or another in their life. People aren't fat because they refuse to be thin. They're fat for any number of reasons, some of which might be able to be altered, others not. It's tremendously presumptuous to assume that anyone with excess adipose tissue is simply too lazy to do anything about it and that their appearance is their fault.
And fault-finding seems to be the key issue with this type of proposal. I'm all for taking responsibility for your health and well-being. I'm all for preventing a disease rather than treating it later. It's just that prevention campaigns seem to morph into victim-blaming. "Hey, we tried to prevent obesity, so if you're still fat, it's all your fault." You can substitute any disease or thing-that-might-be-prevented in there. Except that no matter what we do or how hard we try, people will be fat, people will get sick, and people will die. Such is life. Not much can be totally prevented, even if we funnel boatloads of cash into the effort. Life's a bitch, and then it has puppies.
The irony is that most people can recognize that charging people more taxes because of race or ethnicity is pretty discriminatory. That thinking hasn't trickled down to weight-based discrimination. It's the last acceptible discrimination. Not only is it acceptible, most people who are subject to this discrimination believe they deserve it. Which is pretty messed-up, if you ask me.
Weight isn't a behavior. People can change behaviors. But since weight isn't a behavior, you can't always change it.
Health is complicated. I don't have all the answers, and I don't know anyone who does. Anyone who is fat can tell you horror stories about how they were shamed about their weight (and yes, charging you more because you have a fat ass does count as shame), and most of them are still fat. Not because they have no willpower or they don't care about their health or they just couldn't be bothered to un-Velcro themselves from the couch and stop shoving Twinkies into their mouths, but because body weight is really complicated and we don't get to pick our weight any more than we can pick our height, shoe size, or skin tone.