“To blame obesity on the obese is the easy answer but it is the wrong answer. The current formulation of gluttony and sloth, diet and exercise, while accepted by virtually everyone, is based on faulty premise and myth that have taken hold in the world’s consciousness.” — Dr. Robert H. Lustig, “Fat Chance.”
Is one of your New Year’s resolutions related to losing weight? Do you go around feeling guilty because you believe that those “extra” pounds are a result of your sloth and gluttony? In that case, you may want to read more about Dr. Lustig.
But first I want to discuss an interesting article that was in this newspaper toward the end of November: “Doctors are told to get serious about obesity.” How sad to think that it has come to this — that the lifestyles and eating habits that have become prevalent in the United States, and have inundated so many in our culture, have led to so much obesity and ill health.
According to the article, if you’re overweight, your doctor will now be encouraged to come up with a plan to help you lose weight which includes prescribing a counselor. You wonder if these counselors will perpetuate what Dr. Lustig says is the rampant myth that eating less and exercising more will solve the problem. If so, how many of the reported one-third of American adults who are obese would be inclined or able to follow advice for dieting and exercising that may ensue?
It was while this column was in the mixer that I discovered Lustig’s very interesting book. He goes into many psychological and physical reasons why so many people are overweight and are unable to lose for any length of time. They have very little to do with gluttony and sloth the way the rest of us think about them. He writes, “The behaviors of ‘gluttony’ and ‘sloth’ are very real, but they are the result of changes in brain biochemistry.”
Isn’t it time that the problem of obesity is taken seriously enough for government to step in and stem the tide before it completely inundates us — before many more people become so overweight and in need of prescriptions for counseling and cholesterol and blood sugar problems? Shouldn’t the reasons that people are overweight in the first place be addressed? Shouldn’t our government and the medical establishment thoroughly investigate and face up to why, especially in the past 30 years or so, there has been such an unprecedented increase in these problems and do something about it besides advising “eat less and exercise more?”
Isn’t it way past time that the onus is put where it belongs — on the food industry that gleefully sells junk food and government legislators who allow corporate interests to buy their votes? As Lustig argues: “governments around the world have been co-opted by the food industry. They must instead partner with the populace and exert influence over the food industry to stop the obesity epidemic before we all reach the medical and financial Armageddon now within sight.”
Consider how the American diet has evolved. We can go back to the refinement of wheat, the development of trans fats, to the huge increase in sugar consumption and, in the more recent past, the plethora of highly advertised and easily available fast- and ready-prepared foods, on to high fructose corn syrup, “secret” ingredients, chemical additives — the fact that what most people are eating now has little resemblance to anything whole and natural. So what can be done to try to counteract the effects of our hazardous safari into the jungle of fabricated foods?
Government must demand that industry gets chemicals like BPA out of our food, hormones and antibiotics out of food animals and who knows how many other chemicals that have never even been tested. And Lustig believes (based on much research) that sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup) that has become rampant in our food has much to do with the obesity epidemic. “Our bodies have not adapted to our current environmental sugar glut, and it is killing us slowly,” he writes.
Laws should be passed that would help reduce production and sale of so many anti-nutritious foods that offer nothing but calories and that many people consume regularly. For a start, any product that’s mainly sugar and doesn’t at least fill a set minimum requirements for naturally occurring nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals, would be clearly labeled to denote it as anti-nutritious. Such products would therefore not qualify for food stamps.
As Lustig concluded: “I get sick when I think of what’s happened to us, our country, our planet. This book is my outcry for a better world for our children. Time to cry out — and just maybe our children will inherit the Earth.”
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 700 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.