Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blog 008 - how should we discuss obesity?

Dick Cavett wrote a scathing editorial on obesity that appears in the Sunday July 29th New York Times.

Here is a link:

I agree that something needs to be done to "shock" Americans out of their denial about the harsh consequences of the "poor lifestyle" epidemic (most visibly distinguished by the increasing size of people in our country).

However, I have to believe that the lashing out that Dick Cavett does in his article will only serve to stimulate indignation among obese people, and drive them to become even more entrenched in their denial of their poor lifestyle habits.

Furthermore, I fear that the food industry marketeers will capitalize on the words of people like Mr. Cavett and use their "unfair attacks on obese people" as a reason for obese people to "exercise their freedom to eat and behave as they choose - regardless of the consequences."

Obesity is a major public health issue and the discussion on what to do about it needs to be based less on emotion and more on cold, hard science. And the cold, hard science indicates that being obese is bad for your health - period.

Eating poorly, not exercising, and steadily gaining weight is bad for you as an individual, but also, because of escalating health care costs associated with obesity and poor lifestyle habits, it is bad for our country - very bad!

We should be very careful not to let this discussion degenerate into a "Fat versus Thin" debate with the food industry and their lobbyists acting as the cheerleaders.

I say let's keep the discussion grounded in the facts that are readily available, and keep our personal feelings of loathing or persecution to ourselves.

But, I could be wrong.

Let me know what you think.



SallyT said...

I wish I could read the entry w/o suscribing to the NYTimes. I can imagine, however, that he doesn't pull any punches.

Although I feel that people are responsible for how they conduct their lives, in the world of health the messages are so mixed that people don't know what to do.

I spent the entire day yesterday at a large Houston, TX hospital. I couldn't leave the waiting area. The only food available close by was sweet rolls, chips, sodas and coffee. What message does that send? I'm not much older than you and I remember the first fast food restaurant in my town. It was quite a novelty. Where I live now there are probably 20 fast food restaurants within 3 miles of my house. It's not safe to go out alone after dark but it's too hot to go out during the day. The schools provide lunches that are deplorable and the kids quit having recess in 4th grade. Since parents feel it's unsafe to allow their kids to be outside unsupervised, the kids play on the computer or watch TV while at home.

Since I read and listen to lots of information about health issues, I work around these obstacles to good health but most people are in a state of denial. The government needs to quit pandering to the meat and dairy industries so that the true cost of the excess calories in a Big Mac are reflected in the price. Cheap, fatty foods are addictive. Why not tax them the way cigarettes are taxed? Fund schools so they don't feel obligated to sell fast food in the cafeteria.

People do need to be resposible for their health but they need the lies to stop.

Uncle Drew said...

Doc, you have a wonderfully balanced look at this issue. As a native of the Midwest who now lives in Hungary, I'd say that the norms in the US are part of the problem. People notice really obese people here in Budapest, but around Chicago they seem to be the norm. But in no way should that be normal, for most people (I realize there are exceptions, but this has become kind of an excuse). Two last thoughts that turn people into houses: not moving even a minimal amount (living in a European city forces me to walk a little bit every day), and the outrageous food portions in the States. If we could make some changes to those 2 things, I think we'd be on the right track.

Stay tuned,

Uncle Drew

PMA said...

Obesity, what a terrible word that is, for most of my life I have been heavy, big boned, chubby, solid and even fat. Though the one term, to me that dehumanises the condition of being overweight is obese.

We don’t plan to get fat or obese, it seems to happen all on its own. The result of this problem is lower self esteem and feelings of guilt, which often is the root cause of the problem in the first place.

I found the answer to my weight problem was not diets or exercise programs, it was being a little kinder to myself, understanding that the problem of being over weight was not who I am, it is just a condition that I needed to come to terms with and tackle like I would any other emotional problem.

Once I made this choice, I started to fell better about myself immediately, I started to go for a walk five or six times a week, I now my walk about an hour or so each day. Baby steps to start. Remember “Inch by Inch everything’s a cinch”.

The one thing I do try to focus on is who I am, and picture what I want to become. It works! The new you us not a destination, it is a journey, so you can be a success as soon as you commit to a change. You may fall off the rails occasionally, that’s OK. We are mistake makers, that’s our nature. We are also Mistake Breakers and can rise above anything so long as we never give up.

Take heart, I know how you feel, really I do, you can do it.