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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

fatism « Previous | |Next »
February 4, 2011

Food and everything that surrounds it is a crucial matter of personal and public health. Changing sedentary, high-cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar fat people into more active, low-cholesteral, normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar fat people improve their health and wellbeing.

We can see from this on John Birmingham's Why is fat such a fractious issue? in the Brisbane Times in which it is mentioned that obesity skews significantly towards the lower income groups for a whole bunch of reasons.

In an earlier post --A weighty issue----Birmingham writes that from his own painful experience personal responsibility for what you eat and how you burn off any excess energy is, for a lot of the population, one hundred percent of the issue. He then asks:

Is it inevitable as the rate of obesity increases in Western society, that obesity will come to be defined as the norm? I ask that as somebody who has been obese. Not just clinically obese. But morbidly obese. I'm not any more, but only because I got so sick at one stage from carrying that much weight, that I suddenly dropped a couple of kilos and decided to kick on and see if I could get rid of the rest of it. I was very lucky in having both the money and the time to be able to do so. Not everybody does.

He wonders whether or not obesity might well become as politically fraught in the near future as smoking has become over the past decade. Will it get to a point where the word 'fat' is no longer considered appropriate in polite circles, because of the offence and hurt it might cause?

Even though obesity is deadly and crippling and is killing people Birmingham's answer is that there a concerted effort to 'normalise' fat as a condition in the form of the 'human right' to be fat, not to feel bad about it and to contest the argument that obese equates to being unhealthy.

Obesity is a public health issue, so a policy response is appropriate, but there won't be much of one, because of the power of the food industry. The situation is that we sell junk food while telling people not to eat it.

Despite our our diet being unhealthful and unsafe it is highly unlikely that there will be a tax on junk or high processed food food; or that government subsidies to processed food are ended; that Agricultural Departments whose goal is to expanding markets for agricultural products for junk food become an agency devoted to encouraging healthy eating; factory animal feeding operations are discouraged whilst encouragement is given to the development of sustainable animal husbandry; provide food education for children in public schools as part of the national curriculum; mandate truth in labeling.

Even though public health is an accepted role of government, the reaction to the above would be that this is nanny-state paternalism ; that it’s time we “stop harassing people about their weight”; and that we are in the midst of a moral panic.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:07 PM | | Comments (8)


What are the most significant reasons why obesity skews toward lower income groups? Is it equally the case that smoking skews towards the same group?

I am suggesting that solutions to public health issues cannot be addressed by focusing on symptoms, not (social?)causes. I would suggest it is important to look at the exceptions to the generalization

(1) junk food is cheaper than organic food.
(2) there is easy access to junk food than good food at farmer's markets
(3) gyms are expensive
(4) poor education about what constitutes healthy living

Is it natural that some react to the vissisitudes of life by falling into OC type manifestations, like gambling, drinking, over eating etc, or has our mode of existence been so skewed by history that the symptomology relates specifically to our era?
The only way to find that out would be to follow the advice of health experts and embark on a health program that the neolibs shy away from, like vampires from sunshine

Adam Cresswell in The Australian reports on research published in The Lancet that makes country-by-country comparison of trends in body mass, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It found that Australia claims the No 3 spot in the biggest increases in obesity since 1980.

The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) says Australia was on track to have 75 per cent of its populace overweight or obese within 20 years, a problem on a scale that warranted a tax overhaul and a new regime of food industry regulation.

Australians need to eat less and exercise more whilst governments need to to take stronger action to help consumers make healthier choices, through pricing policies and tougher food labelling requirements.

Australians are consuming more and more processed foods at the expense of fruit and vegetables.

Consumers should not be faced with a smokescreen of claims, symbols and images when making food choices at their local supermarket. Instead, they should be provided with nutrition information that is easy to understand at a glance and that can assist them to identify and compare healthy and unhealthy foods.

What is being called the obesity epidemic started around the early 1980's. That saw a steep rise in the percentage of obese Australians and this trend continued unabated through the 1990's.

There's been a string of government committees and industry reports singing from the same song sheet that it is all up to parents to control what goes in their children's mouths. Self control is the key.

At the barest minimum there should be restrictions on junk food ads seen by children on television

The argument that there should be restrictions on junk food ads seen by children on television implies the theory that the rise in obesity since the 1980s has been caused by a ''toxic food environment'' of cheap fatty food, large portions, pervasive food advertising and sedentary lives.

The further implication is that low-fat-is-good-health theory. Obesity is caused by the excessive consumption of fat, and that if we eat less fat we will lose weight and live longer. Fat is the "greasy" killer ie., the saturated fats -- the bad fats.

The "low fat is good health" campaign of the Australian Heart Foundation and the public-health authorities resulted in people eating more starches and refined carbohydrates, because calorie for calorie, these are the cheapest nutrients for the food industry to produce, and they can be sold at the highest profit. It's also what we like to eat.

The shift has been from fatty diets to one of high carbohydrates. The alternative theory is that it's not the fat that makes us fat, but the carbohydrates, and if we eat less carbohydrates we will lose weight and live longer.

The cause of obesity is those refined carbohydrates-- the pasta, rice and bread -- that we are told should be the staple of our healthy low-fat diet--and the sugar in the soft drinks, fruit juices and sports drinks that are fat free and so appear intrinsically healthy.

Anyone using the TV to watch cricket this summer would have been bombarded with ads selling KFC’s or McDonald’s fat-filled fast food.Cricket's major stars are being used to promote unhealthy eating. Cricket Australia, by spruiking junk food for cash, is endorsing KFC.