Thursday, 21 April 2011

On being on benefits while fat

[Image is a vintage food advertisement from 1895. There is a drawing of a young woman with package of Loring's Fat-Ten-U food tablets and package of Loring's Corpula, a fat-producing food. The text says, "Get Fat on Lorings Fat-Ten-U and Corpula Foods".]

David Cameron today has said that taxpayers [feel that incapacity benefit] recipients should be "people who are incapacitated through no fault of their own", that is, not those who are ill because of alcohol or drugs, or because they are overweight.

According to these statistics, the number of people who claim disability benefits because they are obese, is 1,830. Compare this to 398,700 who claim for depression. It is hardly a raging epidemic. There may, equally, be other people who claim benefits for a particular impairment, while also being obese, and this is a whole other matter entirely. Yet here we have a new message of hatred from the government.

I am on benefits and I am fat. I am not on benefits because I am fat, but I am on benefits because I am ill, and I am fat because I am ill. This is many layered, but before I was ill, I was slim. Too thin for a good while, in fact.

Then I started taking psychiatric medication. The more common antidepressants didn't affect my weight, but when I started taking neuroleptic medication the weight piled on. At the time, Olanzapine was the 'wonder-drug' of choice by many psychiatrists, and I was put on it at a time when a lot of other mental health service users were. We all gained a significant amount of weight, very quickly.

I'm not on olanzapine any more, but I take other neuroleptics and a newer antidepressant, both of which have the same effect on weight. I have, at times, wondered whether I should come off them, to lose some weight, but I made a choice to do all that I could to prevent big relapses, and stayed on the tablets. Believe me, I would be costing the state a lot more if I came off all my meds and lost some weight, but spiralled into a paranoid psychosis at the same time.

These days I also have the added issue of more limited mobility, which means that I often can't do any kind of exercise. Many disabled people face this same situation, and many disabled people take medications which can cause their weight to rise - not just psychiatric meds, but steroids, certain painkillers and all sorts of others can affect appetite and weight.

And if I can't stand up for long enough to cook, or manage to chop vegetables or stand near the stove, then I also can't eat well. If I can't go out to buy fresh food, or can't carry anything home, it is virtually impossible to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Now, I don't have a problem with what my weight is. It is how it is, I don't hate it, it's just life. I don't claim benefits because of my weight, but if I wasn't ill or disabled I probably would weigh less. However, I am, and it's a small price to pay for relative mental stability (very relative!).

But because of Cameron today, as well as benefit claimants being written off as lazy, scroungers, liars, exaggeraters and malingerers, the Daily Mail readers of the world will be happy to assume that every overweight person on benefits is on benefits because they are overweight.

I don't have a problem with those who are, by the way, but there are many fat disabled people, just like there are many fat non-disabled people. But those who are believing the hype now have an extra line of attack against the country's benefit recipients. An extra line of abuse for us to receive.

(The image is in the public domain, and was made available by Chuck Coker. This blog post is cross-posted at incurable hippie blog).


  1. I think this is war. Every time we get a little further with informing the general public, these scumbags scrape the barrel one more time, dredging up an even more ludicrous smear than the one before. What next, "100,000 'Disabled' Welfare Claimants Found To Be Cooking And Eating The Babies Of HARD-WORKING PARENTS"?

  2. @Jan:

    "100,000 'Disabled' Welfare Claimants Found To Be Cooking And Eating The Babies Of HARD-WORKING PARENTS"?

    Is priceless.

  3. I suspect that those "on benefits because they are obese" have at least one of the "many" diseases associated with obesity that the NHS and the media are continually banging on about.

    What about those who are anorexic, buliminia, body dysphoria, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, claustrophobia - is he going to start on them next?

    Is his only view of disability one that aligns with his experience with son, and that's what he's passed down to the cabinet minions as the benchmark for all claimants?

  4. @MRadclyffe:

    You have to remember that Cameron only ever talked about support for parents of disabled children. He never, ever, not once, showed any interest in, understanding towards, or compassion for disabled people over the age of 16.

  5. Anyone remember the last time the Faily Heil brought this up?

    Apparently fat people and those with STIs were SHOCK HORROR 'on the sick for overeating and having sex'

    Except when the figures were assessed it turned out that 'fat' meant 'anyone with an endocrine disorder like diabetes or pancreatic cancer'. 'STIs' meant 'anyone with genitourinary, reproductive or renal issues - so kidney failure, endometriosis, severe vulvodynia, uterine cancer' etc.

    They are the worst kind of scum.

    @Lisa - yeah it's funny how relatives of PWD are always given a voice over us. I'll be on disability specific websites and some newb always disregards the rules that it's a safe space for PWD, blunders in with "HI! I'm a mom of [kid with disability] and I think you're wrong about X, Y and Z" and gets huffy when they're called out on it.

    It feels like "Nothing about us without us" has turned into "Speak for us and ignore us"

  6. I did make this point on the (now rewritten) BBC article that no one gets IB for obesity; it's a SYMPTOM of other issues - I have a condition which slows my metabolism down up to 30% and I was a weightlifter before I got ill. I barely eat but I would have to starve myself and work out for two hours a day if I wanted to try and make a dent in my weight - especially as the medication I'm on puts weight ON.

    So yes, now the article is slightly rewritten to make it sound as if the Guv'ment just wants to help all us poor folk by making us work (how does work help exactly? How does working so many hours with a half hour break in which I have to wolf down fast food so I can get back to my desk HELP?).

    I'd suggest the best way to help these folks is not to try and shove them into jobs but actually get assistance/drugs that aren't just a cheap alternative and therefore a fast track to weight gain or addiction...but that would mean not shredding the NHS. Hm, the wheel goes round and round.

  7. @Burtie:

    I wrote about the "speak for us and ignore us" thing on my own blog a couple of years ago here

  8. @Lisa Thanks ;) you know it'll turn up one of these days.

    I too am confused by the lack of thinking on the part of so many people; for example, the idea that disabled children often grow up into disabled adults seems hard for them to grasp. I guess it shows the amount of fear and hatred motivating all this, that people will actively avoid thinking, avoid logic, so that they can continue kicking downwards.

  9. These CONDEMS are simply EVIL.
    They should be charged with crimes against humanity.