4 Ripple Effects of Second Hand Fat

The obesity mindset series, part one

Posted Aug 02, 2012

Simply put, Second Hand Fat is the net toll we (even unintentionally and unknowingly) lay upon others—our loved ones, colleagues, teammates, organizations, and society—when we are substantially overweight.

The Second Hand Fat mindset promotes the belief that it’s no longer about what we choose to do to ourselves, it’s about how our choices affect the world and people around us. And the SHF mindset is fed by the SHF threat and its ripple effects.

This Four-Part Series will help you explore the upsides and downsides of your Obesity Mindset, and should you desire to do so, take firm, enlightened action to switch your mindset on the defining issue of our time, before it’s too late.

Why it matters. Results from a recent, nationally representative Gallup poll show that 81 percent of people say that obesity is an “extremely” or “very serious” problem, up from 69 percent who said the same in 2005, which was the last time Gallup asked the question.[1] In fact, the percentage of people in the U.S. who say that obesity is an extremely serious problem for society is now higher than the percentage saying the same thing about cigarette-smoking, according to a new Gallup poll.[1]

Second Hand Smoke Versus Second Hand Fat. The second hand smoke research snuffed out a deeply entrenched social habit. At this point everyone knows, “Your right to smoke ends at the tip of my nose.” Smokers are now all but banished to the dark corners, alleys, and specially equipped chambers where they can huddle together, far from our freshly empowered and healthier nostrils.

While those who adhere to the SHF mindset would argue their case and cause is easily analogous to second hand smoke, we simply cannot allow our obese population to suffer a similar trauma, being marginalized when we all most need to be engaged in improving upon the overall situation.

This shift from first hand to second hand smoke was nothing short of a global revolution. It’s time to take note that there is a growing number among us who feel a similar revolution is desperately needed to stem the spread of Second Hand Fat for the sake of our loved ones, especially children, and for the sake of future generations.

Second Hand Fat—the threat—is about the expanding emotional, financial, environmental, and personal ripple effects or the collective toll one’s habits and heft may have upon others.

Emotional Ripple Effect

If you’ve ever cleared your calendar, adjusted your life, or sacrificed (financially, emotionally, opportunistically, etc.) to rush to the side of a loved one who is suffering from some obesity-related ailment or condition, which they would not likely have encountered (at least as soon) if they’d been healthy, you’ve experienced this ripple effect of Second Hand Fat.

Sitting in the tear and fear-filled waiting room at the Intensive Care Unit at a prominent regional hospital, awaiting the news on my father’s triple bypass surgery, I recently overheard one patient’s wife turn and exclaim, “It’s just not fair! It’s not like he didn’t see this coming. He knew better. We all told him. His doctors have been telling him forever. He knew he was killing himself with the way he lived, just eating whatever the heck he wanted and never getting off that blasted couch. I mean, seriously! What do you expect? It’s not like his family doesn’t have longevity, either. I mean, his five siblings all lived into their late 80s and 90s. He’s 63. 63! I guess that’s why I’m so…so mad. This is so scary. And he’s potentially robbing me, all of us, from decades of life, so many good years we could have all enjoyed with him.”

SHF expands well beyond the pain related to a specific person. If you find reading the exploding number of headlines and studies related to “the obesity epidemic” disconcerting or depressing, if it raises genuine fear or concern for the future of your country and our species, you have experienced the emotional ripple of Second Hand Fat.

Financial Ripple Effect

The numbers, 150-250 billion dollars, hardly communicate the full financial toll obesity heaves onto our faltering frames.[2] Obesity and its related ailments (type two diabetes, heart disease, strokes, hypertension, etc.) consume the lion’s share of our health care dollars, which is the highest ticket item in our economy. It is argued that without obesity, the US could match the Swiss system of essentially free comprehensive health care for all. But obesity’s gravitational pull plunges us into a deepening morass of excruciating cuts in costs, care, coverage, and compromises.

Along with First Lady, Michelle Obama, the Pentagon has raised concerns over obesity threatening our national security, as it becomes tougher and tougher to find, recruit, and fill the ranks of our military with sufficiently fit individuals to defend our nation. Obama said, “Military leaders who tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight, childhood obesity isn’t just a public health issue, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well.”[3]

Transportation and recreation costs are rising, as busses, trains, airplanes, stadiums and entertainment venues have to be reconfigured for fewer, but larger passengers and patrons. “At both the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, seats are wider than their predecessors by 1 to 2 inches.”[4] It isn’t just entertainment venues, “The University of Alabama at Birmingham's hospital, the nation's fourth largest, has widened doors, replaced wall-mounted toilets with floor models able to hold 250 pounds or more, and bought plus-size wheelchairs (twice the price of regulars) as well as mini-cranes to hoist obese patients out of bed.”[4] Ultimately, these costs simply must be passed on to the customer.

Environmental Ripple Effect

The latest staggering findings suggest that, as our current level of obesity and the resulting consumption it takes to sustain it expand globally, it is the ecological equivalent of adding one billion people “of world average body mass” to our planet.[5]

If we do some rough and imprecise math, consider what this means. The World Health Organization indicates, including children, close to two billion people are significantly overweight or obese. This means each obese/overweight person consumes the resources of a minimum of 1.5 healthy people, giving whole new meaning to “the size of the global population.”

Personal Ripple Effect

While the most difficult to quantify this is the greatest toll of all. How many adventures or opportunities are left unconsidered or under-experienced due to your or someone you love’s girth-mitigated capabilities? How many vacations, plans, escapes and activities have been amended or deleted because one of more of the intended participants lacks the mobility, health, energy, speed, or basic ability to take it on? If you’ve ever suffered from the shrinking menu of life’s potential experiences resulting from anyone’s expanding waistline, you know the pain of Second Hand Fat.

Likewise, anytime anyone has suffered loss of personal space, missed a flight, been late for a meeting, or had to adjust one’s agility, pace and possibilities due to an obese other, that too is Second Hand Fat.

It is the accumulation of these SHF ripple effects that induces a growing number of people to adopt the SHF mindset. This raises opportunities and concerns.

Ultimately, there are two versions of the Second Hand Fat mindset, unenlightened and enlightened. The unenlightened version can carry with it all of the judgment, pain, divisiveness, and damage you might imagine.

In Part Three—“The 5 Simple Questions and 4 Brutal Truths to Shift Your Obesity Mindset, Now”—we will explore the potential underbelly of the unenlightened version of both the TOG and SHF mindsets more specifically. The enlightened version, in contrast, sparks the opportunity for personal responsibility, resilience, and meaningful action, the central theme of Part Four—“The Four CORE Mindset Questions for Taking Meaningful Action, Now.”

[1] Americans’ Concerns About Obesity Soar, Surpass Smoking. Mendes, Elizabeth. 2012 July 18; http://www.gallup.com/poll/155762/Americans-Concerns-Obesity-Soar-Surpas....

[2] The Obesity Epidemic. CDCStreamingHealth. YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCORDl4bqDE&list=PL5FFE0A96FE03C73C&index....

[3] Michelle Obama: Child Obesity A ‘National Security Threat’. Seidl, Jonathon. 2010 December 13. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/michelle-obama-child-obesity-a-national-...

[4] As America’s waistline expands, costs soar. Begley, Sharon. Reuters; 2012 April 30. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/30/us-obesity-idUSBRE83T0C820120430

[5] Global weight gain more damaging than rising numbers. McGrath, Matt. BBC World Service. 2012 June 20. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18462985

About the Author

Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D., is the author of GRIT—The New Science of What it Takes to Persevere, Flourish, Succeed, and the CEO of PEAK Learning, Inc.

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