Monday, June 18, 2012

Stop Pretending Obesity Is Not A Problem

I feel compelled to repost something I wrote in August of last year. Recently, there's been a LinkedIn thread with local people where a woman has been adamant that the obesity crisis in this country is a "false belief". She's been reading the type of blogs I describe below and she states that there is only "a relatively modest rightward skewing of average weight" (among other things).

I won't engage her in discussion because her mind is clearly made up. However, it scares me that intelligent people can be so easily persuaded into believing that excess fat has no affect on health and disease.

August 14, 2011
It's Just A Big Fat Lie. It's Not OK To Ignore Obesity 

Let me start out by saying that my primary objective at Body & Soul Fitness Studio is to improve the quality of women's lives. There is a very long list of physical, mental, and emotional benefits that come from regular physical activity. Although dropping excess fat is usually a byproduct of good nutrition and the right exercise, that is not the most important reason to exercise.

My goal is to help members get strong, healthy and fit, not to mold them into some cookie cutter ideal. I hate the fact that women are made to feel bad about themselves if they don't look like reed thin celebrities. Please keep that in mind as you continue reading.

While researching statistics for my recent newsletter, I came across some websites that try to minimize the obesity problem.

The basic premise of these pages is that the issue has been manufactured (or at least severely overblown) by those with the most to gain (the pharmaceutical industry, diet companies, doctors and hospitals involved in weight loss surgery, etc.).

I am not a fan of bariatric surgery, weight loss drugs, or pre-packaged food weight loss systems.

Do those industries prey on people's insecurities? Absolutely but that doesn't decrease the number of people who are overweight and obese. Those businesses aren't booming because a few Americans have a spare tire. Yet these fat rationalization (they call it "fat acceptance") websites are maintained by those who promote the idea that obesity is not a real problem.

One website author was upset because researchers who estimate the medical costs of obesity included expenses associated with treating a variety of conditions including hypertension, cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

They ASSUME that if we get heart disease or breast cancer, it is because we're fat.

I'm not sure researchers assume that someone got cancer because they were fat but it IS a risk factor for many diseases.

Is it just a coincidence that as the number of overweight kids has increased so has the number of kids with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure? These conditions were previously found almost exclusively in adults.

Does anyone logically believe that being overweight or obese does not exacerbate health problems? Isn't it obvious that having to lug around an extra hundred pounds all day long is tough on your body? Doesn't it seem rational that bodily organs not strangled by fat would function better?

Yes, I agree that there are much better ways than BMI to measure a healthy body. I also believe that someone can be overweight and still be healthy. In fact, if you're overweight but exercise and eat a healthy diet, your risk of many diseases is lower than a thin, sedentary person who does not eat as nutritiously.

That said, I'm at a loss as to how anyone can think this is a fabricated problem. Have they looked around lately? There have never been so many people who are 100, 200 or more pounds overweight.

One website claimed...

The obesity epidemic was fictional. Fat is genetic.

So where were all their 300 and 400 pound ancestors hiding?

I don't think people nowadays just stuff themselves more than people in the past.

Of course, with all our labor saving devices we are far less active. As I remind people, we don't even have to walk across the room to change the channel on the TV anymore. (Yes, kids, in the olden days there were no remotes.)

I also believe that processed foods are a definite factor in the obesity crisis. The food is cheap and, according to David Kessler, M.D. (former FDA commissioner), manufacturers have made it a priority to create high-calorie foods with the most addictive possible combination of intense flavor and "mouthfeel."

Our use of low or no-calorie sweeteners has also blown up in our faces. It appears that the sweet taste signals our brain to expect calories and when our body doesn't get any, our brains make us hungry and we eat more.

However, none of that absolves us from taking responsibility for our health and wellness. No one puts a gun to our head and forces us to eat a Tastykake instead of an apple. We don't have to regularly stop at McDonald's for a burger and fries instead of packing a healthy lunch.

It's not that I don't realize how difficult losing weight is or that I'm unsympathetic.

No one should be stared at, ostracized or made fun of.

But I take issue with those who want everyone to pretend that obesity is not a serious health issue. The FA crowd wants to pretend that if nobody talks about it, there won't be a problem. As if, super sized movie seats and coffins would make all the obese people happy with their lives.

They want us to ignore that our overweight children are headed for shorter lifespans than their parents (or maybe similar lifespans filled with drugs for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.) . They want us to ignore the effect of obesity related health care costs on the country. They want us to pretend that obese people don't care that they can't play with their kids or that their knees or back constantly ache.

Basically, if we just stopped talking about obesity, there wouldn't be a problem.

They're wrong.

And what's worse is that they're trying to convince people that they are trapped and have no way out.

The truth is that health, weight, and fitness are somewhat influenced by lifestyle, but it is far more influenced by factors outside of our control.

That's just B.S. If these bloggers want to give away their personal power and rationalize away the effects of obesity for themselves, that's fine. However, except in rare cases, people always have the power of choice in their lives and no one should try to convince them otherwise.


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