Turn on your television, pick up a newspaper, listen to today’s politicians and everywhere you go someone is commenting on the size of the American waistline; from doctors warning us of the dangers of trans fats to certain city leaders calling for their ban, from fast food chains working to remove the problem oil to schools removing junk foods from their menus, what’s on our tables is now up for national debate. The newest thing in public service announcements is ads promoting fun physical activity to slogans that state eating fruits and vegetables will prevent cancer. Many, many popular TV news programs such as Dateline line up researchers with a number of theories and statistics on overweight youth and overweight people in general; documentaries like Super Size It are made by amateurs, in an average person sort of way, both to investigate hype and educate the public, however not at all under estimating the sometimes frivolous shock value somewhere along the lines of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 or Bowling for Columbine. That is to say nothing of the TLC series “We’re Killing Our Kids” And while the new interest in what we eat may alert and alarm some, such documentaries and exposès should come as no surprise to a nation that has come to allow prisoners to at least attempt lawsuits over what type of peanut butter is served, sued so called big tobacco over the supposed misleading addictiveness of cigarettes and won, along with persons sewing fast food places claiming their food made them fat because calorie counts and fat contents were not disclosed and judges not only kept the cases but awarded damages to these individuals in multiple instances.
The latest claims to come out of the TV exposè on this front, nutritionists lined up on Dateline and other news programs targeting advertising and the amount of it aimed at our kids that seems to be cornering and overwhelming parents in their efforts to say no to the latest sugar cereal or cartoon candied fruit snack; that is to say nothing of the CAT scan results that highlight that fast food, high fat or salty foods as well as sugary foods, tend to trigger the addiction centers of the brain in people who have trouble shedding the pounds, under scoring a previous and no less outrageous possibility that junk food and fast food makers are placing chemicals in food to make it addictive, or more addictive. Yet perhaps the most outrageous thing of all, Americans are buying into it. And while any number of things have changed since 80’s rock bands and the Dot matrix printer, once upon a time, say less than two decades ago, no one had to tell a grown adult to eat their vegetables and even if they didn’t fully know the consequences of eating a high fat diet or getting little exercise they would never have dreamed of suing a fast food joint because of their waistline. Neither did anyone have to say that fast food is not health food, and since when did the amount of advertising of anything so erode a parent’s ability to say no or make healthy decisions for their kids at least about what and how much of an item they put into their own homes?
Documentaries like Super Size It should be a call to common sense; no one should have to tell even a teenager today that you cannot go into a McDonald’s, Burger King or other such place order what could reasonably be presumed the most fattening thing on the menu, super size it, do that 3 times a day for a month and not expect at least the probability of significant changes. No wonder the maker of said documentary had problems with cholesterol, skin issues even depression; further the actual likelihood of a person eating all 3 meals a day out is still rare even in our fast paced, on the go society that has taken to dining out more and more. However those who choose to do so tend to eat at least one meal in a more traditional restaurant type setting that has more choices and more opportunities to choose healthier items in conjunction with dining out. Even the afore mentioned Dateline showed that people were able to lose weight and still eat out 3 times daily; although that usually only evolved a breakfast sandwich in the morning, salad for lunch and a regular sized burger for dinner, no combos, no super sized fries or soda.
And no obesity in America segment on the nightly news or elsewhere is complete without mentioning the towering healthcare cost for obesity and diet related illnesses, everything from the costs of treating things like heart disease and diabetes to hospitals purchasing larger beds and constructed with larger doorways and other equipment; making it seem more about medicines bottom line than the health of people, desperately pointing out the need for a nationalized healthcare system more than anything else. And hospitals long ago needed equipment for larger people; beds meant for the “average person,” likely for a size 8, aren’t going to accommodate the majority of healthy, reasonable weight people who are something other than that. Larger doorways may have to do with anything from when older hospitals were constructed, i.e. common size doorway in a given decade, to thinking ahead and insuring that the latest technologies can fit into the areas and can be transported to the places they must be utilized. To say nothing of it is illegal discriminate against race, religion, creed, age or weight in the working world that should be tripled when it comes to medical care; the obese need medical care too. Doctors, politicians, and news reporters can launch all the campaigns they want to counter this so-called epidemic yet healthcare professionals must treat those that still exist. Also seemingly hidden from news headlines but present in the documentaries were commentaries on genetics i.e. those of like body type having children together a possible explanation to the touted increased weight in kids and teens who later become overweight adults; are all of us overlooking genetic factors that can be larger in some people, somewhat discounting the comments of one lunch lady in a public school “waging war” on fast food who said of funding for healthier meals that if they took the money spent on diet related illnesses and diet aids they would have enough. This person also stated, when looking that the decades of poor quality lunches and future projections, we’re looking at half our kids with diabetes, yet it doesn’t take everything into account.
Could some of the increasing numbers of children with type 2 diabetes carry more of a genetic component as adults with, or who develop diabetes, have children and pass on a family history and what about those who have a long family history of the disease? The same can be said for things such as heart disease, one famous example, Dana Carvey, who made headlines for suing the doctor who botched his heart surgery. He ate right, exercised but still needed surgery for clogged arteries because the disease was hereditary. Further, throughout the years medicine has changed, attitudes have changed, technology has changed, new information come to light, new discoveries; products like margarine where advertised to the public as healthier than real butter, diet soda better than regular, especially for diabetics, once we’re being told to limit red meat then came the Adkins diet, once we were told to limit our consumption of eggs now they’ve found new properties that making them a regular part of your diet is beneficial. Medicine doesn’t know all the answers either; retuning to the CAT scans that seem to suggest salty, fatty and sugary foods may set off the addiction centers in some brains, no one yet knows if this is a medical or psychological reaction, is there a certain chemical or food additive these people should avoid, is there a body chemical lacking or over present in these individuals , is there a medical or psychological treatment that can help persons who are affected, all questions that need to be answered before we understand obesity but flash headlines make it seem otherwise.
And it is no small coincidence that the reason we spend so much on diet aids in the US is this county’s long held obsession with vanity everything form everyone wanting to be a size 8 to 40+ year olds wanting to look 18; now it appears we’ve added every doctor, researcher, nutritionist, advertising specialist and school lunch lady talking about the urgent need to lose weight. Diet product sales might go down if everyone stopped shoving weight and waistline reduction in America’s face using medical scare tactics such as epidemics of diabetes and tantalizing incentives such as warding off cancer. Often times statements that leave millions of people, in spite of all the “expert advice,” still fighting the battle of the bulge. Much is said about our kids and the state of their health comments from experts and others that state our kids are overweight, depressed and miserable, but why is that? Why do our kids feel so bad, whatever their body size; is it because they are trying to look like the size 2 model on the cover of a magazine, who probably developed an eating disorder to get there, is it because they wanted to be treated like a human being in a world that has long treated fat people like subhuman? Perhaps if we fixed some of these problems our kids would feel less depressed and miserable if they’re over weight by 30 pounds or 130 pounds or will just never be a size 2, letting them make weight loss decisions for the right reasons not the wrong ones. And, let us not forget that regardless of our weight, our family history life happens people eat right, exercise and still fall victim to things like heart disease, genetic diseases and those that have nothing to do with what’s on our dinner plate. And, you can eat right all your life and still get hit by a bus, die in a car crash be the mortal victim of a crime; there are an infinite number of risks with getting out of bed or going out your front door there are many more sensible things to be concerned about in addition to our favorite breakfast, dinner, snack food or dessert. Until many more questions are answered lets remember common sense not hype.