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Is being over weight a moral failure?

Morality is the rule to maintain our symbiosis for survival.
"Over weight" weakens the symbiosis.
So, it is a "moral failure"

Tell me , what do you think?

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    Jul 30 2013: Obesity doesn't always start with the individual. People are brought up in families where most of their families are overweight. If your parent says this is what we are eating tonight, eat it or go hungry. Then your going to eat it. You don't know any different either way!! If you are overweight as a child it is a much harder habit and to work for something you've never had before. we also have cultures within the family. It is these habits that we learn from our parents to help moderate what we should be eating. There will always be mental health issues as well, and self esteem problems. When people get to a point where exercising is hard it is painful and they have difficulty pushing through the pain and their activity therefore also decreases. It is not immoral to have insufficient will power, they are hardly hurting anyone else directly but their own well being. This is not a fair assumption!

    There is also a condition called Hypothyroidism. Hypo, meaning low, and thyroid reffering to the thyroid gland. Now your thyroid helps regulate your weight by producing hormones which alter your metabolism. Which the altered metabolism causes you to put on weight. It cannot be a moral issue if your not putting on weight due to your own decisions.

    Even then calling obese people immoral is hardly a solution, would you then not be feeding the guilt and eat cycle? And there is also the other option that as harmful and expensive to our health system it is, what right is it of ours to tell people what is moral to eat? And Morals will be different from individual to individual/society. What they need is multidisciplinary support, not judgement. Support from a dietician, a physiotherapy to help mobilisation and minimize injuries to knees and joints, as well as mental health support. Is a more productive approach to a solution.
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    Jul 30 2013: Natalia, I guess that depends on who judges ... Religions have the seven deadly sins ... the sins are usually given as wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

    Some are genetic .... lack of will power .... personal problems ... sloth ... gluttony ... mental ... physical ... etc

    There is no one size fits all ... no one solution to reduction. Each person must be evaluated and diagnosed based on their needs.

    Being overweight in a condition ... one that must be acknowledged and accepted by the individual .... no matter how much you may want to help a loved one reduce for a healthier lifestyle ... they must commit to the work and changes that are necessary.

    As a side note .... say some one is 6 feet tall the ideal weight is between 144 and 190 .... according to the chart I found on the web. Most people I know at 6 feet tall are in the 210 - 220 area and do not look fat to me ... but the chart says they are grossly over weight. Perhaps the charts need to be reviewed ... LOL

    Some cultures have a diet that adds to the problem ... many of the pacific Islanders are large people.

    Overweight people need a solution not a brand on their forehead.

    Perhaps it is we that have the moral failure by judging others.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Jul 30 2013: "Perhaps it is we that have the moral failure by judging others."

      Couldn't have said it better myself Robert.
      Thank you.
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        Jul 30 2013: You inspire me ....

        Thanks .... Bob.
  • Jul 29 2013: With the exception of certain medical conditions which are fairly rare, more a failure of willpower than a failure of morality.

    I tend to think of failing to take steps to prevent obesity along the same lines as other self destructive habits like smoking or excessive drinking. Not so much a disease as some lifestyle choices that needs to be rethought and dealt with.
  • Aug 1 2013: Let me comment on the morality question on the over weight problem. The overall answer is yes or no, depending on one's belief. A parallel situation is the judgment on suicide. If one is a Catholic, then his/her suicide, regardless of what's the reason, is judged as a moral failure by the Catholic religious leaders. Their argument is that the human life is sacred, even the taking of one's own life is a sin; i. e. a moral failure. But to non-religious people, a suicide is just an unfortunate incidence, and we usually sympathize with the "victim" of a failed or unfortunate life.
    Now being obese is simlar to suicide that one led to death/mortalty and the other led to morbidity. The reason of this "failure" is usually due the the lack of will power, even though a few of them could be genetic factors. To avoid obesity, one must avoid overeating, but really also depend on what kind of food ingredients one consumes every day. The tricky problem is that even though one should eat less fat, carbohydrate and sodium, etc,. one couldn't survive without most of these ingredients also. Physical exercise is very important too. Again, that doesn't mean that one has to use exercise machines in his home or in a health club. For example, one rarely sees very fat japanese females on the street in Japan, because they usually work all day long in cleaning their homes to maintain their traditional cleanliness habits. They don't need any specific exercise routines to control their body weight. Therefore, overeating and laziness work hand-in-hand to cause obesity. These characteristics are usually not considered as good virtues, but many wouldn't think these living "habits" as moral failures either.
  • Jul 31 2013: That whole part about the potato chip and " I know I shouldn't have another because I will get fat but I will have another". Ever stop to think that that doesn't cross a fat persons mind? Or maybe they don't care what other people think? If a fat person was so immoral to survive they would just die. Thats where they rely on their brains. Work easier not harder. That is all part of the fixed mind set. I used to be fat as a child myself, I opened my mindset and got out of it. Some people have immovable mindsets, some happen to be on food and stomach contentment. Immovable mindsets of saving energy. Exercising uses energy and changing mindsets use energy.

    Last argument. Ever think that certain people can have a lack of education which leads to a low pay job which means the cheaper fattening foods instead of more expensive organic food.

    I personally think loosing weight is an easy thing when your brain is ready for it. Giving people anxiety about their weight is counter productive because they will just build up walls and ignore you. I think that its binge eating isn't morally wrong because if the person really truly believed it was bad they wouldn't reach that point. If they really thought that then it wouldn't be apparent. Sounds like pressures from society and environment. It sounds like obligation to society over self which is why people choose themselves over society. Binge eating is a right and we don't live in a society where it is a survival must to be in shape.
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    Jul 31 2013: Do you think that you could love an overweight person?

    You might find this little clip interesting as well.
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      Aug 1 2013: I think i could love an overweight person so long as they didn't have a heavy heart.
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        Aug 1 2013: true.

        And think...........

        "To let true love remain unspoken is the quickest route to a heavy heart." Warren Peace
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    W. Ying

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    Jul 31 2013: .

    Morality is the rule to maintain our symbiosis for survival.
    "Over weight" weakens the symbiosis.
    So, it is a "moral failure"!
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    Jul 30 2013:

    I think it is far too easy to be reproachful to fat people because they eat to much, addicted people because they drink or smoke too much, or depressed people because they don't get enough contingency experiences or feel so bad about themselves. Or stupid people because they were to lazy to learn for that matter (my personal blame to the world)

    Such ideas are just too simple and based on the idea that our will power is infinite and you have a free choice in those matters, independent of environment or education or biological precursors...

    Have some more compassion... Try and look at people and wonder about how they came down this path. Did they get good education? Did they get the experience of control? What diseases did they get and other stresses in life? Did they got healthy food habits?

    The psychology of addiction, habit,... is all part of us, and no, we humans are not equally armed to 'fight' these all the time all day.
    To simplify (though it has been researched by psychologists, think there are some talks here that support this too)
    If you call it your 'willpower': being able to resist something drains part of it. If you then have other things you need to do, but want to avoid: the will-power bar drains again. Some people get drained fast or have less willpower compared to others...
    Would you state that a lack of willpower is morally reproachable?
    I think that people with low will-power don't need to be blamed. They need training and help (therapy maybe). Or they need an environment with less temptations (so their willpower is not drained so fast)

    "knowing your limits" and "acting to your limits" is not the same, and no reason to blame.
    If you feel bad because you drank too much the other night, or didn't finish your work before the deadline, you can reproach yourself, and if needed, try to improve. But stating it is a moral failure is (imo) a bridge too far
  • Jul 30 2013: Many times, becoming or being over-weight,
    is an issue of honesty and those who are over-weight
    are being dishonest, mainly to themselves.

    Certainly not in all cases but in many.
    In America today, as obesity rises and increases, so too do the Americans
    worship and believe more and more lies, that they then tell themselves daily
    and this contributes greatly to their obesity.
    Their money problems are obese, their beliefs are obese, their Imperialism is Obese,
    their 3-letter acronym agencies are obese and their egos are obese.
    Not to mention obscene, which also begins with o..b.

    Let's see, what else there begins with o...b?
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    Jul 30 2013: Is maintaining appropriate body weight a moral victory?
    • Jul 30 2013: i dont know, is it?
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        Jul 30 2013: It is not immoral to exceed the maximum government recommended body weight for one's height and body type. It is not what goes in the mouth that corrupts, but what comes out. Morality is about how we deal with one another. As a fat guy I can be just as compassionate, generous, and dedicated to helping others as an ABW (Appropriate Body Weight). There is no connection. Never the twain shall meet!
        • Jul 30 2013: point taken, although if you read my top comment im more so getting at the people who are so morbidly obese they can no longer cater for themselves. i do very much agree with you though
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        Jul 30 2013: RE: " point taken." . I was captivated by the punch of your bold face headline. I responded to that while only scanning your amplifying remarks. May I suggest you include all essential information in the bold face headline because folks do not always read the complete text, nor should they be expected to, especially when they are lengthy. Thanks for a crisp and relevant question!
        • Jul 30 2013: haha fair enough, it is a pretty bold statment. i like your writing style by the way, packs very much flare and style.
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          Aug 1 2013: I second, edward long's suggestion. Good topic, though. I'm reading some interesting things the further I scroll down.
  • Jul 29 2013: Obesity is a condition caused by many things, none of which relate to morality.

    Lets consider morality using the wiki:

    Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are "good" (or right) and those that are "bad" (or wrong). The philosophy of morality is ethics. A moral code is a system of morality (according to a particular philosophy, religion, culture, etc.) and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with "goodness" or "rightness." Immorality is the active opposition to morality (i.e. opposition to that which is good or right), while amorality is variously defined as an unawareness of, indifference toward, or disbelief in any set of moral standards or principles. An example of a moral code is the Golden Rule which states that, "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.


    Obesity may be related to genes, it may be related to mental issues, and it is a health problem. Until your obesity starts becoming the concern and problem for other people, and you have the capability of full controlling your weight, then it is a PERSONAL problem.

    Morality deals mostly with your interactions, ethics, and behavior choices as they relate to other people.

    An example of immoral behavior would be to believe obesity is a moral failure.
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    Jul 29 2013: So, I read the question... Am I the most immoral person in this conversation or the most diseased...
    Well, the doctors tell me that inspite of my girth, I am good into my 90's which is not all that comforting,
    Even if I lost a lot of weight, I will still not be pretty, just way more wrinkled, so, it's has to be my lack of morality.

    OK, let me have it. I am sure that all these critical comments coming will raise my stress level and have me running to the refrigerator for a slice of lemon meringue pie....
    • Jul 30 2013: haha omg i just had some lemon meringue pie!! :P haha im sorry if this has offended you but my English teacher had brung this idea up a few years ago and i was going to choose it to do my persuasive speech on ( i chose decriminalization of marijuana instead) and i always thought itd be an interesting thing to write about so here i am getting everyones ideas :P haha i explain what i mean on my comment i just posted if you wanna read? im more so talking about the people who deliberstley go against there will to extremes and it just baffles me.
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      Aug 1 2013: Mike, I'm looking at your picture and I assure you it's probably all baby fat. It will go away once you start to grow. And with the advances in technology and medicine these days, you'll probably be living well into your hundreds.
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        Aug 1 2013: Daniel, Daniel, Daniel
        This is a 2 piece of pie comment.
        As some age, their cognitive abilities go first, so they are not really aware of the end.
        There are others who are not so lucky. Mentally sharp, they see the physical failure and the end rushing towards them. They are weighted with all sorts of questions...
        Am I leaving the world better then I found it?
        Did I do all I could have done?
        Did I love the best I could?

        And you tell me that I will probably live way to long to ponder these questions...
        No thank you
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          Aug 1 2013: Have them read Buddha's Five Remembrances.
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    Jul 29 2013: Most causes of obesity are rooted in mental disorders, the rest are caused by physiological disorders. It's exactly the same as with smoking, drinking, or other chemical abuses.

    I thought we were well past the point of blaming blaming victims of health disorders for being "bad." Are victims of Depression just morally weak? Victims of Tourette Syndrome just need to control themselves? What about victims of Schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder? They're just need a swift kick in the butt, right? Shame on anyone (invariably thin, of course) who still thinks of obesity as a moral weakness.
    • Jul 30 2013: in a sense obesity is a moral weakness. i dont think it should be classes the same as any mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar where it is out of the individuals control. obesity is in the individuals control, it is them who puts too much foo into their mouths no one else, i would like to refrain from saying moral failure as many people have highlighted whatmorality actually is , i guess i could restate my claims and say obesity is for the weak willed instead
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        Jul 30 2013: So gay people are making a choice to be gay, is that it? They just make a choice? And that there are no such thing as behavioral disorders? Having both obesity and bipolar disorder, I can tell you that you are wrong.

        I can also tell you that you are a non-smoking, non-drinking, straight, thin person. Hopefully you'll learn more empathy for those who are different from you.
        • Aug 1 2013: People are born gay, people are not born with weight issues (in some cases yes as this can come from genetics). People who are gay cannot help who they are - Over weight people can.

          While you say that obesity can come from mental disorders or physiology , an additional point can come from this. Mental disorders = only some people have Whereas the physiology of humans = everybody has inherited.

          When you said' physiology disorders' i believe you were pertaining to the problems that come with our basic physiology as human beings.. Problems such as that deep rooted want/ need for sugars and fats and so on that is hardwired in our brain from hundreds and thousand of years of evolution etc. its a basic survival mechanism we all inherit to survive. It is now in our society where food sources are no longer scarce and food is of plenty we have to now fight back the urges our deeply inherited ancestral physiology to be able sustain a healthy and happy life. To me , this is morality- fighting back greed and gluttony and letting our will power flourish.

          ultimately ,most people the 'majority' will all have troubles trying to maintain a healthy weight. i write this as you imply through your writings that obesity is no ones fault and it all stems back to 'mental disorders' or 'physiological disorders' This is just absurd.

          To add my homeland of New Zealand coming in a close second with the highest , with many of my family members having passed away from the health problems associated with obesity. This is is not a foreign concept to me as you think.

          I am thin because i work hard and go to the gym. i do drink and smoke on occasion i am no angel nor am i the apathetic girl who fails to empathise with other
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        Aug 1 2013: Your logic is flawed, Natalia. You say fat people have no excuse because they can choose not to eat. Can't gay people choose not to have sex? So they don't have to be gay, right?
        • Aug 2 2013: no, i think you dont understand my logic.
          the way you use try to draw similarities to gays and obese people is false when being gay is innate whereas being overweight isnt(in some cases) BIIIIG difference.

          i am saying that being overweight is in our control(in some cases) ! we can choose wether or not they want to be overweight or slim though diet and exercise. gay people cannot choose wether they want to be gay or not , they are born this way! people are not born overweight. do you understand?
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    Jul 29 2013: or can be ignorance. maybe we don't understand the body enough, and even the thin knowledge did not make its way to the public.

    or can be cultural. how often are you ridiculed if you are reluctant to eat something that is widespread in your society? how often you are reinforced if you take the right turn? it takes some balls to walk your own path alone. being overweight in an overweight society might be the preferred choice.
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    Jul 29 2013: Have you heard this recent TED talk? I think it may interest you:
  • Aug 6 2013: being fat has many different causes not all of which are negative but some eat to much out of joy of food and that's known as gluttony is it wrong? physically yes but morally?? not to sure really religion would say it's wrong but i really see nothing wrong with it other than my biology saying it's ugly.
  • Aug 4 2013: No! No! No! Being overweight is just that, being overweight. Having "morals" means we are "virtuous" by a given societies perception of itself or how it would like to be perceived or in fact be. It is a majority rules issue. We can imagine a make-believe planet where allowing people to starve to death is well within the moral scope of that distant society, while here, of course, it is not.

    Being overweight may be a failure to pass on that second helping or a failure to recruit the necessary energies in maintaining a healthier life style but morals don't enter in to it. Morsal failure maybe but not a moral one.
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    Aug 1 2013: In order for it to be a moral failure there would have to be a moral judgment and there can't be since there is no moral certainty because it cannot be proven either that they were under any moral obligation or that they were moral agents or if they had moral support and so the case is dismissed, which may or may not be a moral victory, I'm really not sure at this point.

    When it's all said and done, to be human is to err, so we are all culpable in some way or another. That alone doesn't make any us moral failures. Rub your tummy if you feel me.
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    Aug 1 2013: Judging people for being obese is a moral failure, just as is judging them for any other attribute (be it physical, or functional, or age related).
    One of the best talks on TED for your question;
    • Aug 1 2013: well what if i told you, that encouraging obese people to be happy with their weight only encourages them to be unhealthy... ultimately , sometimes being nice can do more harm than good.
    • Aug 2 2013: not judging, just made a bold title to capture peoples attention and to gain insight on this topic;)
  • Jul 31 2013: Yes, most of the time people talk about your looks which makes over weight people negative. But still there are few people enjoy life.
  • Jul 30 2013: my idea on what moral failure is when people know there limits and defy them, like knowing that you shouldn't eat this extra potato chip because you could get fat but do so anyway in turn for happiness that comfort food may bring for you, which in turn is letting go of your moral standards have set in place- to be healthy and strong willed.

    it is when i think of those case of people who consciously let them selves get to the point where they could not even use the bathroom without assistance let alone get up from there seats that baffles me. There had to be some sort of realization in there thought at some point where they would have thought about the consequences of overeating and stop and change there eating habits for a happier and healthier future for themselves.. but instead they don't change, the let them selves go and eat and eat and eat till they pop already knowing full well of the consequences. thus to me this is a form of moral failure as it signifies weak power of the will, gluttony, greediness and at most times selfish - particularly to catering family members

    Of course, i am not speaking for all overweight to morbidly obese people as that would be unfair. we are all aware of the main contributing factors to obesity, with most of them being outside of our control. factors such as genetics , mental health, culture and even the food that is being franchised today - so cheap , so good and yet so deadly. i agree with a lot of what everyone has said here today, i would just like to highlight that in some cases i do think that obesity is a moral failure as ultimately, it is your choice to put what you want in your mouth- no one else it is up to you to show your moral willpower and do what you believe is right to benefit yourself.
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    Jul 30 2013: No, it's a social failure. The same with being underweight and malnutritioned in certain countries. Obesity is a disease after a point but it is a life style disease. Life style has a social denominator.
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      Aug 1 2013: As I have always said, "It takes a village to raise an obese child. LIterally, a small village, but a village, because obese children are really heavy and you can't raise them up all on your own."
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    Jul 29 2013: I tend to think that most overweight people have personality problems. For example, I was reading Jillian Michaels, once the host of a show about weight loss called the Biggest Loser, and she said that every fat person should get into psychotheraphy.
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      Jul 29 2013: I know I do.
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      Jul 30 2013: Greg, one of Jillian's parents is a psychologist, if my memory serves me right.

      And yes, there is usually an underlying issue that makes people go to food for comfort.

      Some turn to alcohol, some to drugs......

      Her ability to talk to overweight individuals, and get them to love themselves, and to stop the abuse on their body through an unhealthy lifestyle, is quite remarkable.
      I have seen her at work. Her words have quite an effect on those that take her advice.
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    Jul 29 2013: it's interesting that, so far, no one has mentioned modern food in these threads.

    there's this fascinating view many people take that it is entirely the individual at fault without any recognition of the current landscape of fast, junk foods and all of the chemical substances that are added to preserve and present the food.

    now, i agree that much of the problem/solution resides with the individual but even a reduction in advertising would probably help with this issue (cue capitalists crying foul over this sort of regulation).

    why are certain things off limits to under 18's and yet every day, it's possible to see kids stopping at the dairy on the way to school to load up on pies, lollies and fizzy drinks.

    surely it has gotten to the point where it's time to address the health issues caused by obesity in a similar way we address other deleterious products on the market.
    • Jul 30 2013: good point, although that's where i get back to my main point, itsa moral failure becauseit is the individuals choice to eat these unhealthy foods no one elses.
      although i do agree with your point more so i just like to argue lol . I mean, everything that is unhealthy for you seems more cheaper more easier to access and even is manufactured to be suiting us with optimum levels of salt and sugar that make us crave them ever so more. in a sense i guess what i'm trying to say is, its almost impossible to be healthy these days.
      • Jul 31 2013: I agree with your argument about that it is eventually the responsibility of the obese people to modify their eating behavior, rather than to restrict the prepared food on the market. Furthermore, it would be almost impossible to prohibit all the foods that could cause obesity. For example, let's take the potato chips, it is the snack food for most of the people, obese or not. It would be unreasonable to take it off the market because it would increase the body fat. And, many of the prepared foods are used by people who are either too busy or too lazy to cook their own food. Just like the mayor of the city of New York, I don't believe that he will ever succeed in reversing the obesity epidemic in NY or anywhere else.
        My personal view is that the more effective practice of reducing the body weight problem is the restriction of the QUANTITY OF FOOD INTAKE RATHER THAN THE RESTRICTION OF THE INGREDIENTS OF PREPARED FOODS. People will get fat even if they rarely take prepared food, and the opposite could be true also. Of course, the former would depend more on the will power of the people who are having the risk of obesity. Overeating is really a substance abuse just like smoking or drinking alcohol, or even soft drink abuse. The remedy for the latter two "abuses" is not to prohibit the intake completely, but to encourage moderation.
  • Jul 29 2013: Calling obesity a moral failure is like saying that everyone who has cancer spends too much time in sunlight.

    As Lawren Jones said, there are many causes for obesity. This epidemic will not be stopped with broad generalizations. Each person must be treated individually, looking for the cause involved in that individual case. Unfortunately, the medical profession cannot always determine that cause, and the behavioral sciences are still in the dark ages. Obese people must find help, and with the support of others, find a path back to health.

    Usually when sick people are trying to heal, they are supporting the body's natural healing mechanism. In many cases of obesity, there is something wrong with that natural mechanism, and doing what seems natural is the problem rather than the cure.

    Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can be more difficult than recovering from addiction, and it requires the highest level of determination and perseverance, along with a good plan.
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    Jul 29 2013: Oh God! No! It is not a "Moral Failure". Considering some people have genes which make it easier for them to be more fat. In some societies (as Salim Solaiman points out) being fat was viewed as a positive (reference to the Medieval Times). It greatly depends how you define "Moral Failure". There are a few Over Weight people I know who are very happy and satisfied with their life who do not worry about their "physical status".
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    Jul 29 2013: In some society obesity is symbol of beauty.
    Obesity is mostly considered to be life style condition which is more prevalent in this era when we have more sedentary life style and depend on lot of processed food or to be more specific eat lot of junk food . Some thoughts are also there about it being of genetic origin.
    Well whatever may be the reason , why it should be considered as a moral failure , may I know about that ?
    To me it sounds like , once lot of diseases were considered to be curse of god so treating those conditions were sin !