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.

Happy father's day!

An early FCB “happy fathers day” to the dads out there!

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.

On her blog Hunt. Gather. Love, Melissa McEwen writes that fat people in public are apparently an excuse for everyone to play expert … including her:

Here were people who ate diets like mine, diets I thought were the solution to being fat, that would help people lose weight and certainly not allow them to gain weight in the first place. And people eating this way, they were fat.

It threatened my whole worldview, which basically went along the lines of “If only people stopped eating X and ate Y instead, they would not be fat.”

What she believes now:

In retrospect it was an enormously arrogant worldview. And one not particularly well-grounded in science, which shows that there is not a single diet that consistently helps people lose weight. …

Some people are able to lose weight with different diets, most people are not. Those who are able to lose weight will struggle to various degrees with keeping the weight off for the rest of their lives. Hostility towards those who are fat is not going to change that.

Amen to that!

Dr. David Katz thinks the movie Fed Up missed a couple of things, including that “being hungry is like being horny, but with no rules” and that we need to distinguish “responsibility from blame.” So far, so good!

As far as the CICO vs sugar debate:

The movie made what I consider the misguided decision to argue with Sir Isaac Newton, giving air time to those who contend that calories don’t really count, and energy balance isn’t meaningful. …

Of course calories and energy balance matter, but just as obviously- so do the sources of that energy. Everyone who has ever eaten knows that some foods fill us up more than others, yet we routinely trot out experts to present this as if it refutes laws of thermodynamics. Everyone who has ever filled up a car or lawnmower knows that there is a certain kind of fuel on which the engine is intended to run. A gallon is always a gallon just the same, but of course a gallon ‘of what’ matters.

The fact that we don’t achieve healthy energy balance does not preclude its relevance.

Read the post (see And So What?) for Katz’s take on what we “can and should do.” It’s a longish list that’s pretty much summed up by “eat wholesome foods in sensible combinations.”

Yoni Freedhoff doesn’t believe in the idea of an “ideal” weight and suggests instead your “best” weight:

Let me say it quite plainly (and forgive me for my language) – as a means to set personal goals BMI is bullshit. Sure it may be useful when considering a population and risks associated with weight overall, but it’s simply not useful to you as an individual as there are all sorts of weight-affecting realities that you simply won’t be able (or willing sometimes) to change.

Like every other area of your life, your goal with weight management or healthy living is to do your best, and whatever weight you reach living the healthiest life you honestly and actually enjoy – well that’s your “best weight.”

Here’s more:

Shannon Lattin has created an awesome infographic for converting US kitchen measurements! Print the image below (click first) or visit Shannon’s shop to buy it as a poster, cabinet sticker, or tea towel.

Kitchen conversion graphic