Newsweek is running a web-exclusive series called The Fat Wars: America's Weight Rage. There are lots of great articles in it. I thought this one was particularly relevent: The Real Cause of Obesity.
I'm so tired of the moralizing about obesity, the blaming, the shaming. We should take responsibility for the things that are within our control, and that means doing what we can to control our weight. But we should also acknowledge that there are things about our weight that are not so much in our control. There is a genetic predisposition to obesity in many people, and eating the modern American diet (in the modern American way: big portions, big calories) will unveil this tendency towards obesity in most of us. Also, when we lose weight (a lot of weight), our metabolisms adjust to help us hold onto whatever calories we ingest. Same goes for exercise: studies have repeatedly shown that our bodies respond to increased activity by increasing intake. Usually our exercise only burns a few hundred calories at a time, and it's very easy to ingest a few hundred more calories without noticing. This is why just exercise doesn't cause weight loss in most people.
The fat wars are becoming more public as talk of health care reform intensifies. The press and the public are identifying the biggest health care costs and arguing over how to address them in a system where potentially the taxpayers will be (overtly) bearing more of the direct costs, and obesity is one of those areas. There is a lot of finger-pointing going on. But WE know that obesity is not a moral failing. It isn't a sign of laziness or stupidity. The solution ISN'T "take the fork out of your mouth." Wouldn't it be great if, as a society, we could actually address the real causes and conditions of obesity as a society, in a holistic way, rather than pointing fingers and shaming? What if we could devote more research to things other than the magic weight-loss pill (that will make some company billions of dollars, even if it causes other health problems, a la Fen-Phen), and identify real ways to prevent and treat obesity long-term? What if we actually stopped publically supporting the corporations that profit from our food addictions and susceptibility to marketing and subtle ways of getting consumers to eat more high-calorie junk? What if we altered the way we work and live to make room for a healthier lifestyle as a society?
But no, instead we spend our energy complaining that the new surgeon general, Regina Benjamin, recipient of the MacArthur Genius award and champion of rural primary health care, is not qualified for the position because she is obese. Never mind that she is a real representation of the real problem that most Americans face: healthy lifestyle, extremely busy professional and personal life, trying to get a handle on weight. By all accounts she is active and healthy, but obese. Hey, that sounds familiar! Perhaps she could actually be an example for Americans? Is that possible?
Anyway, I found the article to be interesting and refreshing. Enjoy.