[R]esearch shows that people of all sizes have similar diets, but it only manifests as weight gain in some of us. People today eat more calorie-dense, nutrient-poor convenience foods than Americans did in the past. How we eat also plays a role, as eating while focusing on something else like driving, or eating while in a stressful situation affects our digestive processes. As the average American diet has gone downhill for people of all sizes, weight gain occurred for some — contributing to the high rate of obesity in America today — but Bacon says that “assuming fat people are eating worse than thin people is wrong.” For this reason, focusing efforts on obesity sends the message to thin people that they do not need to make any changes in their lifestyles when in fact they may also engage in unhealthy behaviors that put them at risk for disease.
Second, focusing on obesity stigmatizes larger people and imbues everyone with a fear of fat. Instead of encouraging people to adopt healthy behaviors, an anti-obesity message encourages the development of eating disorders and the adoption of dangerous, restrictive eating habits. In fact, dieters readily admit they are willing to engage in unhealthy eating patterns in order to lose weight. Bacon encourages focusing on health instead of weight and promoting acceptance of people of all body shapes and sizes. […]
The AP article that declared Huntington, West Virginia the fattest and unhealthiest town in America also says the town’s economy “has withered.” The piece describes a high poverty rate and an unemployment problem teamed with the problem of low-paying jobs with poor benefits for those who have work. In fact, when the mayor was confronted about his city’s health problems, he replied that he was too busy worrying about the economy to think about public health. The best way to accomplish Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver’s goals is to address social injustice and to reduce poverty in America. Why aren’t either of them talking about that?
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I saw that, too. I found the first paragraph that you quoted particularly brilliant – whether it’s completely true is up for debate, but that seems beside the point to me. It effectively demonstrates why focussing on fat is a bad approach and makes so much sense that you can hardly argue with it!
It is indeed true that study after study has shown that fat people, on average, eat no more & no differently than thin people do. Strangely enough, I have read several things over the years which suggest that we actually eat LESS fat & fewer calories than people did years ago, certainly to me it seems as if less than most of my long-lived relatives did. And, yes, researchers have virtually turned themselves inside out trying to prove that fat people constantly eat huge amounts of food.
I am suspicious of & in disagreement with all these people, including Dr. Bacon, who yap about there being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to eat, or ‘good’ food & ‘bad’ foods. Why is it that so many, including it seems most people in the fat acceptance community, assume that people eat so ‘badly’ or that there is a strong indication that eating a certain way promotes better health necessarily or longer life. We seem to lose sight of the fact that we are overall healthier & living longer every day; in fact, we sometimes gain as much as 4 to 5 months of life expectancy in one year. In over 60 years on this planet, I have seen that EVERYONE…of all sizes, shapes, eating habits, lifestyles…dies & that you cannot tell a damn thing about who will have what health problems or who will die at 40 or 100 by what a person eats. In fact, time & again reporters interview those who have made it to 100 or more about their habits, & they get little joy from it, as most of these older people may have spent years drinking &/or smoking, & frequently list such foods as Twinkies, Big Macs & KFC as their favorites.
I also get tired of the yapping about lifestyles/eating habits, even if they do try to say it applies to thin as well as fat people, because I personally have never known ANYONE who eats ONLY chips, soda, candy, or fast food & never eats grains, produce, lean meats, yogurt, cheese, etc. I have one granddaughter, who is in my care several days weekly, who is allowed to eat what she wants, including treats. I have another one who lives with my food & fat-fearing, health-obsessed older son. The one for whom I care will often choose cottage cheese or a banana herself, as indeed will I, despite the fact that my house always has plenty of ‘bad’ food in it. She will eat what she is hungry for, be it a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, fruit, cereal, yogurt, pizza or chocolate, & no food is given more weight or importance than another. I took care of the other one for ONE day a few weeks ago. Her mother gave me instructions to treat this day as a special day when she was off the hook, allowed to relax & have fun. She cleaned out half a large bag of M&Ms & some small Hershey bars & was on a search & find mission for sugar, & on one occasion her cousin, who was also here, ate cottage cheese & a banana while she ate cookies. Ironically enough, the child who lives in the fanatically-monitored ‘health foods only’ home gets sick more often than the other child does.
People are not eating as badly as they want us to believe we are & there is not a lot of real science to support all the ‘health’ prescriptions about food. Some studies have indicated that there is no difference in overall health between those eating one or two servings of fruits & vegetables daily & those eating five or more; five was an arbitrary number plucked out of the air for no reason. And I large, long term study of nearly 50,000 women showed that a lowfat diet makes no difference in occurrence of diseases or mortality rates. So I will continue to tune out all the arguments & the moralizing about how ‘badly’ we all eat, whether they are trying to blame fat on poor eating or suggest that ALL of us eat badly. And I am passionately against this whole idea of ‘nannying’, the belief that we need others to tell us how to live, eat, whatever.
Why is it that so many, including it seems most people in the fat acceptance community, assume that people eat so ‘badly’ or that there is a strong indication that eating a certain way promotes better health necessarily or longer life.
Yeah, good question Patsy, the short answer is classism. It’s easier to believe that the poor are fatter-if indeed they are- because of bad diet, if you’ve already been taught that they are intrinsically degenerate in the first place.
Forget the fact that many of the working poor are on the go all day in their jobs, whilst those saying “the poor have no access to gyms” sit on their arse all day in an office.
I can’t accept that healthy eating-as dictated– impacts on one’s health more than minimally if at all. I was brought up on fresh produce and think everyone should have access to it. However I’m not convinced that eating veggies out of a can etc, is necessarily worse for your health.
That’s why so much of it is about propaganda and mindwarping, it’s like a placebo/nocebo effect in play, talk up certain foods and even more so, talk down others. So that people feel bad when they eat certain foods and better when they eat others.
“assuming fat people are eating worse than thin people is wrong.” For this reason, focusing efforts on obesity sends the message to thin people that they do not need to make any changes in their lifestyles when in fact they may also engage in unhealthy behaviors that put them at risk for disease.
Focusing efforts on the fat, and excluding the thin, suggests a lack of belief that food does make any difference to your health. The real focus is weight, right or wrong and they are using healthist dictates to try and correct the fact that dieting is rightly recognised as bad for most people’s health.
Good to be suspicious of all people who “yap about there being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to eat, or ‘good’ food & ‘bad’ foods.” But don’t project this stuff onto me, Patty! I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that there are no good foods or bad foods, nor a right or wrong way to eat. Perhaps you want to read my book? You’ll find a section explicitly dispelling the idea that there are good foods/bad foods and encouraging people to reframe their ideas.
I don’t think that there’s any way to justify the claim that we eat more poorly now than at any time in history. It’s why we’re taller, smarter, and live longer. We eat roughly a fifth of the saturated fat we used to consume before the eighties. I feel confident that we should, on average, eat more saturated fats rather than less (too complicated to get into here).
I think the benefits of eating ‘healthily’ have been both grossly over-exaggerated and misdirected. Healthy eating doesn’t mean restricting your diet, it means variety, and eating what your body is telling you it needs. Deciding what to eat should be an internal affair, a conversation you have with your stomach. People telling you to eat something or other because it’s healthy are doing it for their own interests, sometimes financial and sometimes ideological.
Now, I can’t give you figures, but I suspect that the actual illness and suffering caused by disordered eating far outweighs any illness caused by eating ‘unhealthy’ food. The people I have known who have become sick from poor diets have all followed excessively rigorous health regimes with many food restrictions. I think that most of the fear of calories is about class and social status rather than health; poor people prefer calorie-dense food that is cheap. To prefer calorie-dense food identifies you as being lower class. The revulsion some people have for the food that poor people prefer is, I think, a kind of racist or classist transference.
I’m going to offer a somewhat dissenting voice to what some of the other commenters are saying about the quantity of food eaten. I currently weight about 270 lbs., and at one point weighed nearly 400 lbs., and I ate too much before. I didn’t eat poorly at all. In fact, I ate fairly healthily, but portion sizes and frequency of eating were too much. [diet details deleted] The effects of junk food are highly over-rated when discussing how fat people are getting, but focused upon because there is a sense that we can control that more than other factors.
I absolutely agree with the article that poverty is the issue, and that is why it isn’t addressed. It’s easy to criticize and tax. It’s harder to deal with a big social problem. That being said, I don’t think we can hold the government accountable for it. I think we can hold our own appetites for cheap consumables produced in countries with near-slave-labor-level wages responsible. When we buy cheap goods made in foreign countries, we put our desire to save money over the employment of people at higher wages at home. All that cheap crap at Wal-Mart and the like is part of what creates unemployment, and now we’re paying a social price for those lost jobs.
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