Big Not Necessarily Better: Why Conservatives Must Fight Obesity

Taking a 'live and let live' approach to the nation's waistline is literally killing us.

In an era of elite condescension towards so much of conservative, at least superficially Christian middle America, God bless Chick Fil-A. Every one of that chain’s restaurants that I’ve visited (at least 20 across the South) has been immaculately clean with courteous and respectful employees and delicious food. Yet as a proud Southerner who loves his fried chicken and sweet tea, I have to admit: we Americans got ourselves a weight problem, y’all.

According to the CDC, more than one third of adults aged 20 and over are obese, and more than two thirds of adults aged 20 and over are overweight. This is not only an adult problem: more than a fifth of teenagers are obese, too. Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and health care costs in the United States, with estimates for costs associated with it close to $200 billion a year. Obesity also affects job absenteeism, costing about $4.3 billion annually. Work productivity suffers, too, which takes away from employers about $500 per obese worker per year. Unsurprisingly, obesity and the legion number of medical conditions associated with it are a cause of premature death.

Health care costs, lower productivity, a drain on the economy, death—one would think conservatives would care about the obesity epidemic. Yet this is often not the case. Many conservative pundits perceive any attempt to arrest rising obesity rates as reflective of the progressive nanny state. Others argue that we shouldn’t blame companies that contribute to obesity, but rather the consumers of their products who fail to take responsibility for their bad decisions. Either way, a libertarian lean that prioritizes rights over the common good obscures how disastrous this problem has become for our nation.

One way to foster conservative concern about America’s weight crisis is to interpret it within a broader paradigm of American vice, that of intemperance, or lack of self-restraint. The United States has evinced a peculiar knack for public campaigns aimed at attacking intemperance in its many forms, often with conservative support. We’ve sought to limit alcoholism and smoking through regulations that limit access, public service campaigns, and taxation. More recently, Americans (including the non-religious) have become increasingly concerned about the deleterious effects of pornography, evidenced in the secular research catalogued in Matt Fradd’s The Porn Myth. Similar resources should be invested in reducing obesity.

Although it’s true that a small minority of Americans are overweight or obese because of genetic conditions, most are that way because of factors within their control, including a lack of temperance. Consider that only 10 percent of Americans were obese in 1950. That number actually came down in preceding generations—no big surprise, given the Great Depression and the larger percentage of the population that was involved in calorie-burning manual labor.

Determining where to fix blame should be the first step in crafting a conservative response to obesity. Certainly we as individuals are worthy of censure inasmuch as we cultivate unhealthy dietary habits and eschew exercise, as Rod Dreher has argued. Yet any business or organization that encourages unhealthy dietary behaviors must also share some level of responsibility. In the same way that a bar is complicit in public drunkenness and alcoholism if it fails to monitor the drinking habits of its patrons, so should restaurants and corporations consider themselves complicit in obesity rates inasmuch as they relentlessly push sugars and trans fats on their customers.

In addition, as Addison del Mastro has argued at TAC, one of the most dominant trends reinforcing American dietary intemperance is what he terms the “agricultural-industrial complex,” the “handful of large, well-connected, and well-protected industrial agricultural firms and food manufacturers” that dominate the industry. For example, the farm subsidy program perpetuated by industrial agriculture and government regulators subsidizes industrially produced corn, soy, and sugar, the dominant ingredients and fillers for highly processed and refined foods manufactured by companies like Kraft, Nestle, and PepsiCo. Federal and local governments are subsidizing junk food manufacturers, including through contracts between food giants and struggling schools. As of 2012, 80 percent of public schools had exclusive contracts with either Coke or Pepsi to provide all drinks on their grounds.

Part of the solution to this national health crisis must be to dismantle this agricultural-industrial behemoth. Another weapon is locally targeted, community-based nutrition and exercise programs. A 2008 study by the Urban Institute, the New York Academy of Medicine, and TFAH found that an investment of $10 per person in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use could save the country more than $16 billion annually over five years. Public ad campaigns, the sort that so effectively discouraged generations of schoolchildren from smoking, could also be an effective tool. Shame has been an effective (if often blunt and overreaching) tool against smoking and sexual harassment. Dreher has personally observed shame’s power in fighting weight gain.

Of course, the solution must start with us, as America’s Founders understood. There is a deep, often puritanical strand of temperance running through our national identity, which began at the Plymouth colony. Yet the drafters of the Constitution and our earliest presidents also argued that virtue—to include temperance—was necessary for the preservation of the Republic. Benjamin Franklin exhorted his fellow citizens to “educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will.” More than a century and a half later, FDR declared, “Self-help and self-control are the essence of the American tradition.”

For too long, conservatives have viewed obesity through the prism of a libertarian ethos of “live and let live.” Yet this epidemic is literally killing us. Among wealthy, industrialized nations, the United States is close to having the highest rates for diabetes and heart disease on earth. Unsurprisingly, U.S. life expectancy is behind almost the entire Western and East Asian world, and is surpassed by Slovenia, among others. Moreover, about one third of U.S. health care expenditures are spent on diseases related to excess sugar consumption.

For fiscal, social, and moral reasons, fighting obesity should be a conservative cause. It has its basis in our most ancient classical traditions, with Aristotle defining temperance as that golden “mean with regard to pleasures.” A robust conservatism seeks to preserve the traditions not only of family, community, and religion, but of health and well-being as well. An obese America would have been incapable of navigating our nation’s tempestuous history. Obesity, like pornography addiction, makes us impotent to confront our present challenges. For the sake of the common good, and the sake of our children, this is deadweight we need to shed.

Casey Chalk is a student at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Theology at Christendom College. He covers religion for TAC.

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48 Responses to Big Not Necessarily Better: Why Conservatives Must Fight Obesity

  1. Scott in MD says:

    Capitalism demands sacrifice. In this case, the sacrifice of our health in order to prop up the balance sheet of the companies named above. And conservatism inc. long ago sold itself to the preservation of corporate profits above all else.

    I don’t disagree with anything you wrote, but the only audience that is going to go along with you will be found at a Bernie Sanders rally, not in the pages of TAC…

  2. tz says:

    Can we ban anything with added sugar from EBT/SNAP payment? That would go a long way.

    The other problem is the food pyramid, groups or whatever that says only calories matter, so eating more grains and sweet fruit and juice and less (satisfying fat that releases leptin) is the way to eat.

  3. Egypt Steve says:

    The Great Trump has declared that we must all eat junk food. I think we had enough healthy food foisted on us by the Islamo-fascist-Kenyan-lover shrew Michelle Obama. Enough said, right? Kale will just sap our precious bodily fluids.

  4. Egypt Steve says:

    Re: “Unsurprisingly, U.S. life expectancy is behind almost the entire Western and East Asian world, and is surpassed by Slovenia, among others.”

    One thing we absolutely MUST NOT conclude from this is that we should adopt universal health care, all other advanced countries. Right? We need to cut taxes further, and eliminate more regulations, to spur health care innovation. That will put us on top in the end.

  5. Fran Macadam says:

    There’s an enzyme in beef, pork and to a lesser but substantial presence in chicken, that most westerners have an immune response to that causes artery disease.

    It’s not likely that the depredations of the industrial agriculture complex will end any sooner than those of the military industrial complex, however.

  6. mrscracker says:

    I think a lack of exercise and movement in general is a significant factor .
    We can spend most of our waking hours sitting. Children have less PE in schools and recess has been cut back or eliminated.
    My grandfather lived to be over 94 years old and was fit and slender. He ate a normal diet including bacon, light bread and desserts but he wasn’t sedentary. Few people of his generation were.
    Chick Fil A is wonderful and I love it too, but it’s not a substitute for home cooking. Restaurants used to be a once in a while treat and so was fried chicken.
    If we lead sedentary lives and habitually eat food that used to be reserved for special occasions, what can we expect?

  7. Joan from Michigan says:

    I’d like to say a few words here about the enormous increase in the use of psychopharmaceutical drugs that have weight gain as a well-documented side effect. I know a woman who, by her own telling, never had a weight problem until a doctor put her on one of those drugs as a treatment for depression. She ballooned from 134 lbs. to 310. Once she was off the drug, she began to lose the weight but then she plateaued at 260. She’s been stuck there ever since. I can’t help wondering how many like her are out there, victims of our preference for treating emotional problems with pills instead of with emotional solutions, that is, with love.

  8. Come on Man! says:

    Yes, the government subsidizes the most unhealthy crops, built a food pyramid that is essentially upside down, teacher’s unions don’t want to work an extra hour to add additional play time at school, yet it is capitalism’s fault that we are so fat?

  9. Frank D says:

    “teacher’s unions don’t want to work an extra hour to add additional play time at school”

    Only a person who knows nothing about being a teacher would say such a blatantly ridiculous statement. Ask any teacher how much free time they get before, during or after school hours. Or how much they spend out of their own pocket to provide class materials to their students. Really.

  10. Matt in AK says:

    Thank you Mr. Chalk,
    As a classical conservative who bikes to work this rings all too true. The reaction I generally get from conservative friends and coworkers when they find out I’m a bike commuter is disconcerting. It’s as though I admitted to having a photo of Mao in my living room. Since when did physical and mental discipline and frugality become hallmarks of the left?
    Another part of the problem is doubtless the connection of auto-centric life to global warming. The left has definitely embraced “active transport” and has used it as a kind of “virtue signaling.” I’ve had to fight with my local bike advocates to strip the non-bike related left-wing social commentary off their web presence. (Not sure it’s all my work, but after haranguing them for it last year, this year they didn’t host a “Pride Ride.”)
    In the end, there’s nothing conservative about being lazy, fat and wasteful.
    Cheers,
    -Matt in AK

  11. Mark B. says:

    In some parts of England, where there are for certain operations and treatments waiting lists in the NHS, doctors are now putting not only smokers, alcoholics and other drug addicts but also obese people at the end of the list. The same thing is starting to happen in my country the Netherlands.
    I think this is a very good thing. I also think airlines should include in their ticket price a person’s weight. And there are a million other possible areas where this should be a factor.
    Shaming is very important, the more the better. We could all take an example in the South-Koreans. When there, I saw some fat children literally spit on by adults on the street. Bravo!
    I do agree with the article that there should be a policy against obesity. I agree that people are pushed to stuff the wrong stuff, by agressive marketing from the big corporations. I think there should be no food desserts, that all people should be able to make a choice for real nutrious food that does not make you fat.
    But I always will tell a truly obese fat person what he/she is: a mindless pig in a world of plenty.

  12. Lert345 says:

    The viral video ‘Sugar The bitter truth’ explains the causes of the obesity epidemic. Watch it on youtube. It is absolutely riveting.

    Normally I take a live and let live approach but if I’m forced to pay into Medicare and Medicaid (and health insurance) and if peoples’ thoughtless eating habits are raising those taxes and premiums, then damn right I should regulate what they’re shoving into their craws.

  13. Come on Man! says:

    “Only a person who knows nothing about being a teacher would say such a blatantly ridiculous statement. Ask any teacher how much free time they get before, during or after school hours. Or how much they spend out of their own pocket to provide class materials to their students. Really.”

    Both of my parents are teachers, and spent little to no time or money outside of school. I also went to public schools for my entire education, and had many teachers who handed out worksheets straight from the textbook, which a student TA graded, and read the paper for most of class. I am sure some teachers spend a lot of time and money outside of work, but they are the exception in my experience rather than the rule.

  14. Anne (the other one) says:

    I agree with everything Fran Macadam said. We have no idea what the hormones given to farm animals and the hormones they produce naturally from living in such inhumane factory farm conditions are doing to our bodies.

    tz says: “Can we ban anything with added sugar from EBT/SNAP payment?” What no more pickles? Depending on the type, pickles can have a high amount of added sugar.

    The problem is fruits and vegetables are too expensive to purchase then have a limited shelf life. In NY, SNAP is $640 a month for a family of four which pretty much limits what anyone can put on the table.

    As for gym classes, it depends on the country: Italians and Germans do not offer gym classes. OTOH, Poles and Danes attend gym classes. I could have done very nicely without gym classes! Small towns and city life requires walking and is the best thing.

    Or we can do what many Europeans do, eat dinner at a table with family. Less worry about weight and more worry about keeping families together and connected.

  15. FL Transplant says:

    It’s interesting to me how we’re a society that worships beauty and athleticism, establishing near-unobtainable standards for appearance (and the stories of the icons being photo-shopped, because their real appearance isn’t good enough, for their magazine covers are legion), and yet most of us won’t take the most basic steps in our own lives to improve ourselves.

    I understand the various arguments for/against specific eating plans–keto, paleo, Atkins/low carb, etc (I follow a fairly rigorous paleo diet myself). But calorie intake/calorie burn plays a huge part as well. Assuming beginning with a steady-state weight, a combined 500 calories a day of reduced consumption/greater exertion will result in the loss of a pound a week.

    When I go the supermarket the paucity of real food, as opposed to the aisles of soda, chips and pretzels, candy and cookies, and crackers always leaves me shaking my head. Add that in to the rest of the store that’s all prepared food full of added sugar, fat, salt and other adulterants, and the amount of “real food” becomes vanishing small–just a couple of aisles, along with the produce section. It all tastes great, and has been designed/engineered to do so. But that doesn’t make it good for those who eat it.

    A simple start, which should fit in with the conservative opposition to government interference in capitalistic markets, would be to end all corn subsidies. The abundance of cheap corn and the products made from it (including beef and pork, cheaply fed on subsidized corn) have distorted the food chain in this country to a degree that few comprehend.

  16. Anthony M says:

    If you’ve been poor in the past 20 years you’re well aware that the food you can actually afford is complete trash. Ramen, instant-mac, cereal, etc. It’s all junk, and thus we have much higher rates of obesity among the lower class.

    And for the commenter blaming teacher’s unions… how far up your rear is your head, exactly? Teachers would love nothing more than to take care of their administrative work during the normal work day while kids played outside, instead of in the evenings after the kids leave.

  17. Patrick D says:

    “Either way, a libertarian lean that prioritizes rights over the common good obscures how disastrous this problem has become for our nation.”

    Of course a libertarian lean would also highlight that the first step in rectifying this complex problem may be that the government stop promoting that unhealthy diet at its core with agricultural subsidies.

    It is not a coincidence that the crops targeted with the most subsidies are also the crops on which ag companies focus most of their efforts to increase yields (pesticides, GMO strains, etc) and create byproducts that typically are nutritionally poor (corn syrup, for example).

  18. Olga says:

    I think shaming people is a bad idea. It is hard to be keep a “normal BMI” in today’s society. However, there are things that can help. Lots of “health” foods are full of sugar, such as yogurt and whole wheat bread. Push for the production of healthier products. Foods with no nutritional value, label as junk food. While most people know that ice cream is a high calorie treat, many may not realize that some breads or yogurts might be just as bad for you.

    Return to teaching Home-Ec in junior high and high school. We are so focused on teaching advanced math, that only a few students need and not the life skills that every student needs. Learning about nutritian and how to cook will help.

    Also, most restaurants serve portion sizes the are twice what they should be. Maybe have restaurants offer “regular” and “large” sizes so that people know if they are eating more than they should.

    Most people work office jobs and don’t get much movement as part of their daily activity. Most people work through their lunch break. Australia gives its citizen’s “exercise hour” and in the middle of the day you will see most of Australia out jogging, swimming or something. For people with jobs and children it can be very hard for them to work in time to work out. It isn’t laziness it is just one more thing to do.

    For the poor, the food they can afford is the food mostly likely to cause weight gain. The poor are more likely to have a job that involved some manual labor, but even being a server or buser doesn’t burn enough calories to make up for a bad diet.

    The problem is complex. It took us awhile to get to this point, but just telling people to “not get fat” is a bit too simply. If it were that simply, no one would be fat.

  19. RINOVirus says:

    The problem is sugar. The average American consumes more than 20 tablespoons of sugar a day. A few decades ago we were fooled into thinking it was fat that caused obesity and heart disease. The western diet is loaded with sugar. There are places around the world like Japan that have seen obesity surge after their diet changed. In some Aboriginal group in Australia there has been an explosion. Read the works of Dr. Robert Lustig, who has been rediscovering the same ideas left behind and forgotten from Dr. John Yudkin. Lustig has proposed that no health care plan we put in place, socialist or otherwise will be able to keep itself from going broke until we solve the obesity problem. I myself have been obese for most of my adult life. A stint in the military didn’t help. I quit sugar and went keto and lost over 150 pounds in two years. Funny how Michelle Obama was railed against for telling kids to eat healthier and to get off the couch once and a while.

  20. Rob G says:

    Obesity of our sort is a side-effect of consumerism. But mainstream conservatives only bewail consumerism as it relates to Christmas (if then). I’ve had arguments with conservatives who won’t even grant that there is such a thing, given the divine origin of advertising and caveat emptor (those are in the Bible, right?)

  21. c graviss says:

    There is one clear, constitutional, conservative (libertarian) solution to this problem. End all food/farm subsidies and tariffs.

  22. don salmon says:

    Ok, I’ll admit it – I’m sympathetic to some (so called) left wing views, like:

    Relying on the government as little as possible and supporting local community, particularly with regard to positive culture (music and art, religious organizations, local public health initiatives that are not run even by the local government but simply by interested citizens), exercise groups organized by neighbors, sharing recipes and other ways of supporting each other in eating better.

    I just started a 6:15 AM aerobics class at the local YWCA (yes they have men there:>)) run by a woman from Colombia who creates a family atmosphere in her class. People support each other without any help from the gummint’ – (lost 12 pounds since April, by the way; blood pressure’s down too)

    I think such left wing (conservative, actually?) ideals, building strong community institutions, family, neighborhood, schools, churches, etc may be one of the most crucial ways to revive our society! (and our world)

    come to think of it, why get the government involved in “protecting the environment” if strengthening community bonds can make us happy with fewer material excesses, and lead us to do things spontaneously which promote clean air, water, etc (and ultimately, promote the common recognition that we “live and move and have our being in Him”)

  23. KSW says:

    We need to make it expensive to be obese. Health insurance costs need to include a surcharge for obesity. Could be a sliding scale using BMI measurements, which could be collected very frequently by the large drug store chains.

    We already surcharge for smoking, so it shouldn’t be a hard sell.

  24. Mike S says:

    Scott in MD: “I don’t disagree with anything you wrote, but the only audience that is going to go along with you will be found at a Bernie Sanders rally, not in the pages of TAC…” That’s not true. You agree; I agree; other readers agree and go along with the author. I proudly declare myself what Rod Dreher has dubbed a Crunchy Con. Why should the credit for doing something intelligent go to the Sanders crowd which invariably speaks and acts before it thinks of the consequences, i.e., the very definition of ‘progressivism’??

  25. mrscracker says:

    Anthony M says:

    “If you’ve been poor in the past 20 years you’re well aware that the food you can actually afford is complete trash. Ramen, instant-mac, cereal, etc. It’s all junk, and thus we have much higher rates of obesity among the lower class.”
    *************
    I like Ramen noodles, but you’re right, they’re not ideal for a steady diet.
    There’s plenty of nutritious, non-junk, low cost foods though like beans, rice, tortillas (2 lbs. sell for $2.19- freshly made at the Mexican grocery), oatmeal, Irish & sweet potatoes, collards, cabbage, chicken & pork. WalMart marks down meat once a week or so & you can pick up some other good buys if you watch for clearance items.
    Grocery salvage stores are amazing. They sell items from units that were damaged in shipping & have to be broken up into lots. Prices are rock bottom.
    I’ve raised 8 children mostly by myself, I’m widowed, so I know how to stretch a dollar. But I haven’t thought of myself as “low class.”
    🙂

  26. Nick Stuart says:

    “Casey Chalk is a student at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Theology at Christendom College. ”

    Get back to us in about 40 years.

    BTW, I’m fat, but a lot of the posters here have revealed themselves to be judgmental a$$hole$. Next year I may be thin, but they will still be a$$hole$.

  27. EarlyBird says:

    I agree 100% But in addition to taking on the massively politically powerful agriculture-industrial complex and Big Junk Food, we’ll be taking on Big Pharma too, which makes billions per year on selling drugs designed to deal with the health problems of obesity. That’s a lot of pressure on politicians to allow 80% of public schools’ drinks to be provided by Pepsi.

    Another problem is that there are so many conservatives who just seem reflexively against any public initiative like the ones to promote better eating.

  28. Myron Hudson says:

    “one of the most dominant trends reinforcing American dietary intemperance is what he terms the “agricultural-industrial complex,” the “handful of large, well-connected, and well-protected industrial agricultural firms and food manufacturers” that dominate the industry.”

    Read the ingredients on store-bought bread, salad dressing and other processed foods to see how much sugar/corn syrup there is – in everything. It’s a shocker. How many of us would deliberately sprinkle sugar onto our salads, or use it as a burger topping? It’s pervasive (and downright gross in my opinion).

    Re food stamps and other food choice drivers: Having been a member of the working poor I know what poverty food is, whether you buy it with food stamps, or with money saved for this month’s doctor bill: High carbohydrate, high fat, and cheap. And, for families with two working parents, prepared to some degree. The reason that SNAP pays for food like that is to prop up those who produce it, not to nourish those who need it.

    It’s more than a little irritating to hear and read calls to deny SNAP recipients the right to buy meat and potatoes with the stamps. Why make it worse, just to shame the poor?

  29. kara says:

    TZ says:
    “Can we ban anything with added sugar from EBT/SNAP payment? That would go a long way.”

    So bread, ketchup, whole wheat pasta (any pasta really), cereal (including so-called “healthy” cereals), yogurt, pasta sauce, canned soups, peanut butter, salad dressing, any “instant” oatmeals or cereals, frozen dinners … all of those should be banned from SNAP because gods forbid that poor people should eat anything other than beans and rice.

    No it wouldn’t go “a long way”. The reason that wealthy people are more likely to be thin is because they can afford to spend more money on fresh fruit and veg, lean meats. It’s because they can afford gym memberships and trainers. It’s because they can afford to spend $600 per month per person on things like Nutrasystem or Jenny Craig. Even further restricting the food that people on SNAP can access is not the answer here.

    Can we stop using obesity as a way to “punish” poor people even more?

  30. Casey Chalk says:

    An apropos anecdote from today that reinforces my article: driving the family back from ATL we stopped at Chick Fil-A in Charlotte, NC. When I asked for a refill on my unsweetened tea, the manager looked surprised and asked, “you did say UNsweetened tea, right?” I said yes. He asked, “have you always drank unsweetened tea?” I pointed to my belly: “only until this happened.” The cultural presumption that one should eat/drink certain things that are grossly unhealthy (8 oz. of the typical Southern sweet tea has more sugar than you should consume in a day) is reflective of our nation’s obesity epidemic. Tea is fine is without loads of sugar. And if you put just one quarter of the sugar typically found in sweet tea, it would still qualify as “sweet.”

  31. Frank Healy says:

    Could it be that the wealthy and well-educated urban blue state elites have more self-discipline and live a more “conservative” existence than the fat, unself-disciplined people in the red states? Let’s look at the divorce rates, the obesity levels, the ability to exercise self-control across the board, shall we?

    Oops!

  32. cka2nd says:

    Come on Man! says: “which a student TA graded, and read the paper for most of class.”

    NYC public school student from the late 60’s through the 1970’s. Middle class neighborhood schools with LOTS of kids bused in from the ghetto (including me and my siblings at first). Outside of a few substitute teachers, a few of them during some tests, and maybe homeroom, I never saw a teacher reading a paper at their desk. And I had some BAD teachers in both junior high school and, surprisingly enough, at NYC’s Stuyvesant High School, but they all tried, even the worst of them. And how many student TA’s did your teachers have? I remember one or two college or grad school TA’s each in elementary school and junior high, but it was in Stuyvesant where the system was abused, with a few naive or stupid teachers entrusting grading to some of my fellow students, who were notorious for fixing grades.

  33. cka2nd says:

    I was at my local independent, foreign and art movie theater recently, the one with the reputation for the best pop corn (goes through me like Sherman through Georgia) in the entire region (“and REAL butter!”), and ordered a “small” diet soda that had to have been at at least 30 ounces large. So, hooray for Michael Bloomberg’s “nanny state” ban on giant-sized drink servings.

  34. Tyro says:

    The problem starts in childhood. If only there were a public figure, like say the First Lady, to bring attention to this issue.

  35. Christine says:

    The lack of temperance with regards to screens is a huge culprit. People of all ages are sedentary for hours on end. It breaks my heart to walk into a room and see my teenagers hunched quietly in chairs looking down at their laps, as if I just entered an assisted-care facility.

  36. Richard says:

    Human biology was developed over millions of years to survive lean times by fasting and take advantage (i.e., gorge)of available food in fat times. Throw in the Snacker-Industrial Complex that has developed in the past 50 years or so, and the obesity plague is the result. Humans were not designed to live in a world where food–especially high-sugar crap food–is available 24/7. This is the basic problem stripped of all political or ideological bent.

    Add to this the stress and uncertainty of modern life; add a dash or two of high-tech health care availability; plus a generous helping of the cult of extreme individualism; and what have you got?

    Nothing too tasty.

  37. EPG says:

    Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” contains a valuable section on the distortions that corn and corn subsidies have on our agricultural (and hence the environment) and on our food supply (and hence our diet).

  38. Paul Clayton says:

    Awful the way people let themselves go. And when you are travelling, if you’re also trying to eat well, it’s almost impossible. Restaurants feed their patrons like hogs, with huge plates, piled high. As if they’re going off to the fields for the day to bale hay. I always end up throwing half of it away. But if we are going to attempt to slim down corn-fed America, we are going to have to defend against the ‘fat-pride’ fanatical fatties. They have turned gluttony into a Constitutional right. So sad. I stay in shape, but I look around and obesity has become the norm. Yes. And if you’re looking for a mate, well, hope you like wide-bodies, ’cause there’s hardly anything else out there. For me, a woman who I cannot fit my arms around is a turnoff. America, America, I know you’re in there, buried in all that fat… come home!

  39. The best way to tackle the obesity epidemic is by making people pay to be fat. And I mean what it costs thin people, as we pay extra for things that are made to accommodate people of all sizes yet we don’t need. Quite often, the better part of them is literally getting a free ride, and far too often at my expense.

    I’m tired of people spilling over onto the airplane seat I paid for. Tired of paying for the extra fuel needed to fly oversized bodies and heavier suitcases. I’m tired of being presented with, and having to pay for, mountains of food I neither want nor need to eat in restaurants. I’m tired of paying for all the bigger things that have to be manufactured to accommodate the overweight, the chairs that have to be bigger and stronger to bear those who cannot control their addiction to eating. I’m fed up with being squeezed in lifts, queues, buses and subway trains. The lists grow longer and longer the longer I think about it.

    But, most of all, when I think of all the trouble my parents and teachers went to educate me not to point at the obese or make fun of them, I’m tired of them pointing me out and telling me I’m too thin. Turns out, when the obese are in a majority they can be just as cruel as the thin.

  40. Radish says:

    A lot of good observations here. Home economics revival would help people eat healthier bc it’s rare to eat as healthy in a restaurant as at home. I am just lucky I will always look ok with my shirt on bc of my genetics/metabolism. Others not so lucky. Maybe if they were alive 500 years ago they would be happy famine survivors but in an era of material plentifulness they have to be disciplined to avoid obesity. I had a data entry job at a blood bank and I routinely entered weights of 300+ lbs for donors, I think the median weight was like 270 and very few were tall enough for that to not be obese.

  41. mrscracker says:

    Casey Chalk ,
    You can ask for sweet tea “50/50”-half sweet, half unsweet. Or if it’s really hardcore sweet tea, just ask them to add a dash of it.
    I can’t drink totally unsweet tea. Besides tasting better, sugar seems to neutralize the tannic acid somehow. Milk does that for hot tea, too.
    You can sweeten tea to the point it’s unhealthy but have you ever checked the amount of sugar in some smoothies? It can be more than what’s in a 72 oz. coke.

  42. mrscracker says:

    Paul Clayton says:

    ” Restaurants feed their patrons like hogs, with huge plates, piled high. As if they’re going off to the fields for the day to bale hay. I always end up throwing half of it away.”
    *********************

    I always take mine home & make another meal or two from it. Waste not, want not.
    If they’re charging reasonable prices & offering generous portions what’s wrong with that?
    Sometimes it seems like the more expensive the restaurant, the smaller the servings. I’d rather get more for my money.
    🙂

  43. Tyro says:

    There’s plenty of nutritious, non-junk, low cost foods though like beans, rice, tortillas (2 lbs. sell for $2.19- freshly made at the Mexican grocery), oatmeal, Irish & sweet potatoes, collards, cabbage, chicken & pork.

    Conservative America tends to stigmatize people who skillfully cook ethnic, spiced food cheaply. It was a running joke in the conservative outrage machine when there were news stories about young millennials stretching their food stamps to make high quality food, and Rod Dreher in particular wagged his finger at occupy Wall Street for creating a high quality food center

  44. dmol says:

    So:
    . yes, it’s sugar. and carbs.
    . no, it’s not exercise. that’s also important for overall health, but you’re not going to burn enough calories through exercise to matter for weight control. (people miscorrelate youth with its greater exercise and thinness; there hasn’t been as much time for fat to accumulate in youth is most of it, growth hormone is the rest…)
    . no, shaming doesn’t work, don’t be a moron. talk to a fat person, you’ll see. they get plenty of shame on an ongoing basis. if anything, it pushes them the wrong way. more shame -> misery, not thinness.
    . yes, it’s *how much you eat*. 3 meals a day is a new concept for humans. 3 meals plus generous snack breaks filled with sugar -> the problem.
    . yes, group meals. new research shows eating together provides group peer pressure to limit portions.
    . no, don’t eat at night. one meal a day will work (if you remove sugar, which drives hunger too much to make reducing food intake work)

    one data point: I lost 40 lbs and kept it off by fasting, going to one meal a day, and cutting down carb. it’s awesome.

    read: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/47/16647

    be careful about monkeying with crop subsidies. farming is a risky business that’s critical to the nation’s health and security. undoubtedly they’re out of whack, but nobody’s going to farm without some level of price support, so you’ll get something grievously worse if you jump to simple minded (unproven) libertarian doctrine.

    corn, of course, is mostly used for syrup, ethanol, and cattle feed… so, it’s not exactly the center of all that’s good and healthy in the world.

    now, we have a major cultural problem with lots of people making money to boot. sin tax on sugar(s) is a start, but you need lots of education (don’t eat in the car it makes you fat!) and some disincentive for junk and fast food vendors as well.

  45. RATMDC says:

    So what’s wrong with a Pride Ride?

  46. mrscracker says:

    Tyro says:

    “Conservative America tends to stigmatize people who skillfully cook ethnic, spiced food cheaply.”
    ***************

    Really? I hadn’t noticed that but where I live might be part of the reason. Everyone here cooks highly spiced food & many are also conservative. They don’t consider it “ethnic” food, though. They think hog intestine filled with rice, hog liver & trimmings, green onions, garlic, & a boatload of cayenne is normal breakfast fare. Minus the liver, it’s actually very good.

    There’s a wealth of good food in Hispanic groceries. We have two over in a nearby town. The produce is much fresher & cheaper than WalMart. Plus, they each have a bakery & café on site.

    I’m a huge fan of brown (pinto) beans & cornbread but tortillas are actually better for you because of the way the corn has been treated (nixtamalization ). Like hominy, it doesn’t lead to niacin deficiency & pellagra the way a diet based on cornmeal can. And I had to copy & paste “Nixtamalization “. I knew how hominy works vs untreated corn , but had no idea how to spell that word.
    🙂

  47. Judith Sylvester says:

    mrscracker:
    “I’ve raised 8 children mostly by myself, I’m widowed, so I know how to stretch a dollar”

    Wow. Congratulations. I’ve read many of your comments but had no idea. That is a true accomplishment.

  48. mrscracker says:

    Dear Judith,
    That’s very kind. Thank you!

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