For this installment, I’m going to focus primarily on obesity and it’s effect on the health of our nation.
Back in the early 1980’s obesity was about 15% in America. Now it’s about 34%. Diabetes has also tripled in 30 years. There are also 30% more obese than undernourished people worldwide, according to the WHO. In addition, five percent of the world’s total population is diabetic. Does anyone think this is a problem? What changed, in just the last 30 or so years? And just as importantly, how can we fix it?
There are many different facets of these problems, and many different views.
There seem to be a few differing schools of thought in regard to how we go about addressing these problems, and it’s approached by two primarily different viewpoints. First are those who see obese people as perpetual ‘victims’. They tend to feel that it is society’s responsibility to fix the problem, and that the individual is just a helpless and powerless victim in the matter. Alternately there are those who feel that it’s an individual’s responsibility to change what needs to be changed.
The two mindsets oft do not mesh. But I do think that we may be able to reach a happy middle ground in order to actually break ground on a solution. If there is to be any solution at all, we have to reach a compromise and ultimately agree that the past is irrelevant as to who’s fault it was, and that the thing to do now is to move forward with dynamic and factual solutions instead of get wrapped around emotional arguments of who or what is ultimately responsible.
Ergo, we could argue endlessly whether or not it’s the obese individual’s responsibility whether they’re obese or not, but at the end of the day, nothing changes. They don’t get any less obese, and nothing is solved.
We also haven’t had much luck going directly to the people and talking to them about this on a national scale. They largely do not care, even though it’s affecting them and their loved ones profoundly. As Dr. John Lustig has quoted, “No amount of public education can fix this problem.” By this, he means that it requires government intervention. A doubled edged sword if there ever was one.
As of 2001, six million children in America were overweight. Fast forward to 2013. We are now at 20 million overweight children. Everywhere you look, children are unhealthily overweight. Even the basic sizes of children’s clothes take this into effect. For example, a size 6T shirt of today is actually larger than a size 6T shirt of 10 years ago. Why? Children have gotten fatter. But it’s not just children. Adult Jeans aren’t straight up and down anymore, they’re flared at the hips. Why? We’ve also gotten fatter. I used to by XL t-shirts and sweat shirts. Now I have to buy a M or L, because the other size is so big I can fit two of me in them. I compared two size XL shirts, one newer and one older, ostensibly of the same size, and the newer one I bought in 2008 is gigantic compared to the older one I bought back in 1999.
But the plagues that are Obesity, Welfare, and what I call the ‘Health Epidemic’, which includes rampant type II diabetes (especially in children), hypertension, lipid problems, heart disease, etc, are all intricately linked in the same web. Though obesity could definitely be included in the ‘Health Epidemic’, it is more a symptom of the Health Epidemic. It’s the result OF the Health Epidemic.
People aren’t getting fat because they’re eating to much. They’re eating too much because they’re getting fat. Obesity is just a symptom of all these other problems, not the cause of them. It is because this is so widely misunderstand in the health community that obesity has been getting worse for 30 years instead of better.
As a society we’ve got it entirely backwards, which is why we fail to succeed on all of these ‘diets’.
But what diets actually do work? Diets which are low in sugars, (usually) low in carbs, and high in fats. But these aren’t short term things in which you can just go on for a few weeks to lose a few pounds and then go back to eating plates full of cheesecake all day. If you want to be healthier, you have to understand what causes obesity in the first place, and make the requisite lifestyle changes.
We have to look at this obesity epidemic with an eye towards actually solving it. We can’t be afraid to call a spade a spade. In my opinion considering these people perpetual ‘victims’ will not solve anything.
Unless these people who are obese, want to change it, and seek to find answers of their own accord, then nothing will change at all. Some magic legislation is not going to be passed that will all of a sudden drastically alter their intake of carbs and sugars.
Whilst I agree with folks like Dr. Lustig that it goes ‘way beyond personal responsibility’ for the causes of obesity, personal responsibility is probably the only place we’ll ever find a solution to it.
If a solution is forced upon people, even if you could ever get it to pass muster and be put into law, people will resist it. They’ll cling onto their HFCS and sugar and loudly and proudly beat their fat-laden chests and declare how you are violating their ‘rights’. These people are addicted to the sugar and the carbs. I’ve had a few very obese friends in my life and cutting out sugar for them is pure torture. They always, invariably, go back to it. They can’t help it. They need their ‘fix’. An addict will always get their fix, no matter what they have to do.
(I’ve long said that if anyone wants coast to coast riots, outlaw sugar and soda pop, and see what happens.)
Whilst an obese 6 year old can’t take responsibility for their condition, and change their diet, their parents sure can. And I’m seeing a lot more obese 60-year-olds than obese 6-year-olds in my particular local area. Adults can no longer afford to make endless excuses and point fingers at other external forces for their conditions.
It is true that we’ve been given a raw deal and had the wool pulled over our eyes and the rug pulled out from under our feet. But complaining about it and taking on an “I’m the helpless victim here.”kind of mentality will never bring any solutions to this problem.
We need to trudge forward despite having been victimized en masse as a society. The time for the pity party, is over.
We, one by one, need to make a change.
We need to do it for ourselves, and for the future generations. We need to find a solution to this problem, and not simply pass the buck to our children and grandchildren.
However, we can’t make anyone change their eating habits, just like we can’t make anyone exercise. They’ll resist and hate you for it if you try to force them to do it. This is why even if we could pass legislation, simply outlawing sugar or HFCS wouldn’t work. Such an effort would be pointless, and fail utterly. It would just crop up on the black market and create a new and lucrative product for entrepreneurs.
Likewise, public education campaigns typically fail horribly. “Just say no to drugs.” Remember that? It worked beautifully, didn’t it? Because most people who were using drugs, just stopped using drugs after that campaign, right? Wrong.
It didn’t do a darn thing other than waste a huge amount of our tax dollars. It is true that overall drug use did decline during the years of the Reagan administration, but it sure the heck wasn’t from the kitschy phrase ‘Just Say No’. The decline in the use of recreational drugs can largely be attributed to an overall and increased general prosperity during that time period. When people are more prosperous, they tend to need less of an escape from their daily lives.
Now, what about exercise? Isn’t obesity caused by people taking in more calories than what they’re burning? Isn’t a calorie just a calorie, as my doctor says it is? No. A calorie is NOT a calorie. A calorie from an apple, or a piece of meat is NOT the same as a calorie from a piece of cheesecake. Your body utilizes and stores differently, the compounds in these foods.
In the cheesecake, you’ve got carbohydrates and fructose in the same place. In nature such a thing does not exist. In the apple, the sugars exist with fiber, which means you can eat it without much of an issue. Eating an apple a day will not make you obese.
The meat has protein and fat, which is not a problem at all. This is what your body runs best on. Fat does NOT make you fat. Sugars and carbs do. Fat burns off and is used as the preferred fuel by our bodies.
Exercise of some sort is important in an overall health plan, but honestly you could fix most of what’s wrong with you without doing a single sit up or push up. I lost 60 pounds just by drastically reducing the amount of sugars and carbs in my diet. Though I would indeed suggest at least walking a little bit each day. We’re designed for a lot of low stress, low speed movement most of the time.
But make no mistake, you aren’t going to exercise your way to fitness, much less whilst eating all the wrong things. People have been trying this on the advice of their doctors for the past 30 years, and guess what? People are working their butts off in the gym, and still getting fatter. Sedentary behavior is not to blame for the obesity epidemic. Likewise, people can be obese, and very active, and still be very obese. Take seasonal farm workers, for example. Many of them are quite fat and work extremely hard, many hours a day of physical labor. And yet, they are still in very poor health. You cannot ‘exercise’ your way to good health if your diet continues to be poor.
So how do we fix this? Can we even fix it? Is it the responsibility of the individual or of the society as a whole to fix this problem of obesity?
I don’t think it really matters who’s ‘responsibility’ it is, but rather, what will actually work.
Being an advocate of rightful liberty, my gut would tell me that this is absolutely an individual problem. People do need to take responsibility for their health and diet. Who else is going to possibly do it for them?
I have heard many people say that society needs to intervene in this epidemic. The problem is, society doesn’t give a rip. (Or they’d already be intervening, wouldn’t they?)
Who’s going to fix it then? Politicians? The people in power will NEVER let it happen. They’d lose a huge chunk of their power, voting bloc, and easy votes. More healthy people, means they’re needed less to lobby to pit people against each other and pit the younger generations vs older generations on such things as Social Security, Medicare, and Welfare.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me…
Societal intervention as a grass roots movement would be great. But it’s not going to happen of it’s own accord.
In order for a change to ever happen outside of the individual level it would have to occur at some kind of governmental level or the food industry would have to make voluntary labeling changes. We all know hat’s not going to happen willingly. It would have to be forced. Companies need to disclose EXACTLY what is in their products. How much added sugar, along with is it or is it not GMO, etc. Once people are informed, they can then begin to take personal responsibility and make better individual choices for themselves. So who can do that?
The Executive and Legislative branches of government aren’t going to touch this with a ten foot pole due to the campaign donations and the influence of the food industry. They’re largely bought off already, and have been for a long time. They also like us fat, dumb, and diseased. It keeps them in power, and keeps the votes and money coming in to support their endless problem, reaction, solution paradigm.
Which works as follows: First, create the problem, then wait for the reaction of the public demanding that ‘something’ be done, and then present the so called pre-planned and prepackaged ‘solution’ that the people demand. All whilst traveling further down the spiral and actually not fixing a darn thing, but whilst taking away even more of our health, wealth, and freedoms.
This leaves us with only one lawful option left. The Judicial Branch. The only way this is going to go anywhere is if it is raised as an issue before the Supreme Court, and fructose is heavily regulated. At the very least, labeling of added sugars must be added to the ingredient labels so people will be able to see what’s really going on with the food they eat. Then and only then will the obesity and health epidemics start to slowly reverse itself.
And it would take a truly grass roots movement to get it there before the Supreme Court in the first place. Assuming, of course, that they aren’t bought and paid for as well. They very well could be. I’ve seen some very strange rulings come out of there. When the highest court in the land is highly divided on what should be a pathetically simple question of what is, and what is not Constitutional, you have a very large problem. Nothing should EVER come down to a 5/4 ruling. That smacks absolutely and completely of sheer political horsepuckery. They are supposed to be the best justices in the land, and we’re expected to believe that half of them have no idea, on a regular basis, of what is and what is not lawful under the supreme law of the land? Bullchips. And if they are totally bought and paid for… well… then that’s that.
The only other option would be an absolute grassroots education campaign direct to the people. And no such thing has ever worked in our nation’s history. After all, it’s 30 years on, and most of us are still fat…
Do I blame the obese individual for being obese? No. But I do hold them responsible. In the end, we have only our personal responsibility. We cannot control others. We cannot bend or mold them to our will. We cannot coerce them or force them to behave a certain way, and we cannot legislate our way out of obesity.
No one is going to rescue us from ourselves. If anything is going to ever change on this front, we will need to ultimately make the changes that we’d like to see. We’ll need to step up and be the change we’d like to see. And that requires us to see ourselves as empowered individuals, not as helpless victims.
The time for somnambulism is over.
If you’d like to know more about how we got to these epidemics, here’s a few good places to start.
Dr. Lustig: Sugar Pandemic Part 1
Gary Taubes at Walnut Creek Library