Archive for the ‘QOTD’ Category

Quote of the day

The NY Times has posted a number of reader responses to an “advice columnist’s assertion that pretending that obesity is not a problem may prevent hurt feelings but compromise health.”

In the small world department, one of those responses is from 83-year-old writer Anne Bernays, a great-niece of Sigmund Freud.

Bernays writes (emphasis mine):

The trouble began, I think, when euphemisms took the place of hard reality, such as the many ways of saying “fat” without using the actual word: “husky,” “pleasingly plump,” “statuesque,” “big-boned,” “ample” and many more.

Add to this semantic trickiness the idea that if you bring people’s attention to the fact that they could look and feel much better if they dropped, say, 15 pounds, you’re being offensive. You know they’re overweight and so do they.

I’m one of those old-fashioned women who refuses to believe that, given the choice, a woman wouldn’t rather wear a size 10 than a size 16.

I say small world because back in the early 90s, I knew Bernays. We were both sopranos in the Cambridge Chorale (now Cantilena). Bernays is from the generation before mine, so yes, she’s definitely old-fashioned. And I’m sure that most women who have grown up in our Western culture (most alive today given that Twiggy was named the “Face of 1966”) might rather be a size 10.

But that doesn’t make it healthy or right.

See Dr. Barbara Berkeley’s response for a more reasoned (IMO) opinion.

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Quote of the day

Chef Michael Ruhlman talks with MD Roxanne Sukol about “stripped carbohydrates” and the important semantic difference between “healthy” and “nutritious.” Here’s a highlight:

We are a nation drowning in stripped carbs and it is a dangerous situation we can make right, in large measure with words and education. “I’m all about the words,” [Sukol] said, seated on our porch Monday with a glass of iced tea. “Words are the key to giving people the tools they need to figure out what to eat. Everyone’s just so confused.”

“‘Healthy’ is a bankrupt word,” she continued. “We talk about healthy bread and healthy this and healthy that. It’s wrong. We are healthy. Our food is nutritious.”

We need to begin talking about nutritious food or we will cease to be nutritious when the bonobos come to feast on our fat, diseased selves strewn across the scorched earth we leave behind. Dr. Sukol recommends that if you see anything actually labeled “healthy,” throw it into the next aisle of the grocery store, which I hope is near the cleaning fluids. Actually she just said to put it back, but I would urge you, as an act of protest, to throw it into the cleaning fluids lane. …

You don’t need to worry about eating healthy if you’re eating nutritious food.


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Former Daily Show correspondent and now Last Week Tonight host John Oliver on Dr. Oz’s admission that his promotion of weight loss supplements is lacking in the facts department [4:30]:

But that’s the whole point! You’re presenting it as a doctor. If you want to keep spouting this bullshit that’s fine. But don’t call your show Dr. Oz, call it Check This Shit Out with Some Guy Named Mehmet.

Watch the whole segment below. Oliver transitions from Dr. Oz into the general problems with the supplement industry. Don’t miss Oliver’s suggestions at the end for how Dr. Oz could “fill a show with shameless pandering, without dangerously misleading medical information” [13:30]. My fave is Steve Buscemi tap dancing … because who wouldn’t want to watch that ;).

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I have a new favorite quote from weight loss doc Yoni Freedhoff:

Lose weight in the kitchen, gain health in the gym.

Read the backstory in Yoni’s Weighty Matters post on exercise and food intake.

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Summer Tomato blogger and author Darya Rose asks why “virtually all health and diet advice” seems directed at “perfect” eaters who “eat for one reason and one reason alone: optimal health and nutrition.”

Rose describes mythical “Nutricons” who “are completely rational about their food decisions” and also points out the seemingly Emperor’s New Clothes aspect of what/how we eat:

Nutrition knowledge is meaningless unless we can actually implement it in our daily lives. … Unless you acknowledge that your actions will never be driven by nutrition knowledge, you’ll continue to spin your wheels and blame yourself––instead of the bad advice––each time nature shows you that you’re a human and not a robot.

To get healthy you need to understand what really drives you to eat, because hoping that you will one day be motivated enough to make salad instead of ordering pizza isn’t very rational.

Per Monday’s QOTD I would add that when trying to understand what really drives “you” to eat, you should also consider how alike “you” are to the millions and millions of other people who are driven to eat pizza instead of salad.

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Quote of the day

Okay, this HuffPo blog post by journalist/author Venetia Thompson on “the culture of obesity” is going to make wendyrg‘s head explode! But I thought this bit of interest:

I would argue that our addiction to fast food, corruption of the food chain, lack of interest in physical activity and resulting obesity epidemic is a symptom of a far more serious problem: the collective misery caused by our increasingly solipsistic, alienating societies.

This resonates with me. And I really must stop procrastinating and read Bruce Alexander’s Globalization of Addiction, since he makes essentially a very similar point.

Alexander argues that we aren’t really seeing a massive failure in personal responsibility so much as we are “being torn from the close ties to family, culture, and traditional spirituality that constituted the normal fabric of life in pre-modern times” … and the result is that people “adapt to this dislocation by concocting the best substitutes that they can for a sustaining social, cultural and spiritual wholeness.”

Yes, for some this is addiction, but for many others, it’s not as far along on the continuum of problematic behaviors.

Alas, I think Thompson has her finger more on the problem than the solution, which according to her starts with “we have to take responsibility for our bodies again” and “aspiring to be a healthy member of society is what gives us dignity.” Oy.

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Stephan Guyenet asks the question: Has Obesity Research Failed? The short answer is “no” … that “it has produced huge amounts of scientifically robust information, and a number of effective therapies.”

Aye, but here’s the rub. There is still no “magic bullet” as of yet (emphasis mine):

The reason we don’t have a magic bullet is that obesity is a difficult problem. Preventing and treating obesity means fighting the natural tendency of the human body and mind in the context of our current culture. You can tell people to eat less sugar, white flour, added fats, and processed foods in general, but only a minority of people will actually alter their behavior significantly as a result. This is because people don’t eat junk food for its health benefits– they eat it because they like it, it’s cheap, and it’s readily available.

This is why I am frustrated by the well-meaning efforts of folks like Stephan (and partner Dan Pardi) and Armi Legge and James Fell and so on and so forth. It’s not that people don’t know what to do, it’s that they struggle to do so in their environment.

I am am starting to feel strongly that the written word — whether in the form of books or blogs — is not the solution. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s in the form of what to eat or how to avoid overeating, knowing what we’re supposed to do is just not enough.

Update, 6/11: Here’s an interesting comment from Stephan re the potential harm of obesity research (emphasis mine):

I think it’s fair to consider the potential harm caused by obesity researchers, physicians, and public policy experts. There has certainly been a kernel of moral superiority in some of their behavior. Thin people like to think of reasons why they’re thin that make them feel morally superior. In fact, the main fundamental difference between lean and obese people in the US is genetics.

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