Vintage Overweight Brochures from Metropolitan Life

Time for Rethinking Obesity?

If you compare ideas about obesity from the 1950s to some of the current thinking about the subject, it’s pretty easy to see that it’s way past time for rethinking obesity.

Key themes of that era still dominate popular thinking today: you’re just eating too much, it’s a simple matter of calories in and calories out, learn to eat sensibly and excess weight will melt away.

Along with archaic ideas of shame and blame for people with obesity, dated ideas are still circulating about obesity treatment that discourage people who could benefit from medical management of this chronic disease. New obesity drugs are mischaracterized as “diet pills,” while surgical treatment of obesity is dismissed as “a dangerous shortcut.”

But things are changing, even if the change is slow. The fourth new drug for obesity in as many years — Saxenda — is in the midst of being introduced without any hype about it being “a medical breakthrough.” The company behind Saxenda, Novo Nordisk, appears to be taking a low-key approach, carefully managing expectations for “very slow ramp-up” because the environment for delivering obesity care is “very immature.”

You can find evidence of this effort at, which lays the groundwork for a more rational, measured, and evidence-based approach to obesity. The website calls for a better, more scientific understanding of the disease.

We hope Novo Nordisk and others will be successful and and attract more competition from the private sector to innovate and improve the health of people living with obesity. It’s time to move on from old ideas that never really worked.

Vintage Overweight Brochures from Metropolitan Life, circa 1950s

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