Thursday, 4 October 2007

When Does Liberal Become Conservative?

This MeMe Roth woman has me seeing red. For those who don't know who she is, she is the president of the National Action Against Obesity organization and a militant extremest against obesity, both for children and adults. This woman makes inaccurate, generalized statements on public television in the United States without presenting any scientific evidence to support her views. She's a dangerous you-know-what and she must be stopped.

Ms. Roth states that you can't be fit and fat. She attacks the overweight population with a vengence, stating that just 10 or 15 extra pounds can put a person at risk for health complications. A 1995 study published in the International Journal of Obesity claimed that cardiovascular health played a bigger role in predicting the health of a person than weight. Also, Roth overlooks all of the thinner people with higher metabolisms that shovel down calories because they don't seems to stick to their lithe frames. A 2006 London-based study concluded that both thin and overweight non-exercising people had similar health risks due to high cholesterol. It's almost worse for the thin people because fat builds up around their organs on the inside and they can't see what it's doing to them.

Furthermore, Roth and her organization push for a ban on certain types of foods, her most recent target being Girl Scout cookies. Banning foods is not the way to go and certainly wouldn't solve the obesity problem. Do you realize how much Samoas would go for on the black market?

Creating good foods is an art. People go to school for the purpose of pleasing the palate. It's not the devil. People who think that a food ban is the answer to all of our problems are naive and don't spend a lot of time thinking, to be honest.

To deny that a problem exists would also be naive, but at this point we've dug ourselves into such a deep hole that it will take a long time to dig our way out. Corporations like McDonalds are guilty of creating this problem, true, but we as a people must change in order for food-based businesses to change. Remember, the corporations are only as strong as their consumers. They make Big Macs and Supersize fries because we WANT them, because we will buy them. If the climate changes and suddenly everyone wants smaller portions and healthier options all around, the corporations will have no choice but to follow consumer demand. We blame the corporations for starting this crisis, but we are guilty of perpetuating it.

Overall, I think the reason that U.S. citizens have become as large as they are is portion distortion. Only in the United States can one walk into a restaurant and come out in five minutes with a one pound burrito. Those Chipotle or Qdoba burritos clock in, at minimum (we're talking a vegetarian bean burrito with no cheese) at 1000 calories. That's almost a full day's worth of calories in one sitting. Half of that would be a large lunch meal, forget about chips.

Diet experts say when eating out to cut the portion in half, but, even at that, sometimes we're still getting way more than our bodies can handle. In some restaurants, the normal portion size for a dish is one quarter of what is served! Combine extra calories with zero activity and you get extra weight, period. We all know that formula.

Education about food choices is the most important way to control obesity. Teaching people how to create delicious healthy meals in little time would be an asset to controlling the problem. Why not provide a nutrition class to kids in grade schools as part of science? What about offering mandatory seminars in hospitals before parents give birth as to the nutrition and health of a child?

I do agree with Ms. Roth that junk food machines should be removed from schools, but why not offer healthy snacks instead? When kids are hungry, kids will grab for things besides candy and chips if that's all there is. I don't believe that children don't desire to be healthy, it's the perception that unhealthy food is tastier than healthy food. That's a perception that starts at home.

Roth says that fat parents produce fat children because of their eating habits. While that may be true in many cases, we have yet to fully understand the concept of genetics. I tend to believe (as some researchers also believe) that if everyone ate the exact same diet and performed the exact same activity day in and day out, that we would still be all different shapes and sizes. Morbid obesity I do think can be controlled, but the tendancy to put on weight might have a solution until we figure out what role genetics plays in weight gain.

It's unrealistic for Roth to say that those people who aren't at their ideal weight should exercise more or eat less. Some people exercise for an hour a day, have cut calories to the minimum and still cannot lose that last 10 lbs of fat. Should people give up another hour of their work lives to lose the weight? Should they become obsessed with weight like Ms. Roth?

Life has to have a balance. There's a happy place between obsessing over every step of exercise and every mouthful of food and living one's life to the fullest. There are solutions, but people like MeMe Roth need to buck their own insecurities and get a life of their own.

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