Lynne Murray says:
We’ve gotten into a miracle pill way of thinking since the 1940’s when
antibiotics began to be used as the “magic bullet” to treat infections
that were once incurable.
The concept of magical cures comes up all too often for fat activists,
most recently in light of what I think of as a virulent epidemic of
bariatric surgery. In all its smug, simplistic glory, the question is:
If there were a magic pill that you could take that would make you
thin instead of fat, would you take it?
Clearly this is a question with an agenda: Fat is bad/unhealthy and
no matter how much you say you like and accept your fat body, you’d
change it if you could, wouldn’t you?
The question seems plausible because we’ve come to expect drugs to cure any illness.
The term “magic bullet” suggests a weapon against an invading army of disease. But unlike the microscopic critters that cause infectious disease, fat is not a disease, nor is it contagious. The only contagious part of the so-called obesity epidemic is the prejudice and hatred toward fat and fat people that it stirs up. When we turn our efforts against our own bodies and make them into the enemy, we are damaging rather than promoting health.
Leaving the realm of medically-endorsed hysteria, let’s look at magical
remedies in fairy tales.
Magic remedies always cost something in fairy tales. Consider Hans
Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. The heroine, a mermaid, falls in love with a human prince. With the help of a sea witch she is transformed into a human woman with legs replacing her mermaid tail, so she can try to win the prince’s love. In the process, the mermaid loses her voice, and every step she takes feels like walking on knives.
Pretty major side effects if you ask me.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I have had a few relationships like that. Reading the tale again as an adult, I see that after all that she went through to be with him, the prince didn’t even marry the mermaid–condemning her to total annihilation under the terms of her agreement with the sea witch. The deal was no marriage, no immortal soul. I’m not going to even start to get into the sexist meaning of that contract. The Little Mermaid’s sisters had to do another deal with the sea witch to try to save her life. Here’s to the underwater sisterhood.
In the real world, magic pills may be advertised as “curing” illness, but even when they target a specific microbe, things can go wrong. For example, microorganisms have now evolved to become resistant to antibiotics, as described in a
Most of the candidates for “magic weight loss pill” work via blocking the body’s natural hunger pangs. Given the dismal long-term results of calorie deprivation as a weight loss tactic, this is futile at best, and certainly unethical, considering the uncharted side effects both from the drugs themselves and from the yo-yo regain that accompanies most short-term weight loss.
Now that I have spent several years listening carefully to my body, I can say with total assurance that one thing it has never asked is for a magic pill to make it a smaller dress size. Considering the Little Mermaid’s example, I would mistrust any magic that took away my voice, made me ignore my body’s feedback, or made me live so that every step (or every bite) brought pain.
Medicating to ignore our physical needs drives a further wedge between our selves and our bodies. This is not a recipe for health.