Shield-Backed Bug

Deflecting Cheap Shots

Last Monday, we wrote about an article in the New York Times chock-full of cheap shots at people who devote their medical careers to caring for people living with obesity. We expected that most people would accept that biased reporting at face value and go right along with their faux scandal.

We were wrong.

The Times found itself publishing a remarkably cogent set of rebukes this weekend. Physician Michael Rothkopf started by scolding the Times for playing to stereotypes:

Lifestyle therapy (diet, exercise, behavior modification), pharmaceuticals approved by the Food and Drug Administration and weight ­loss surgery are proven medical approaches. Implying that they are ineffective or being used solely for the doctor’s financial gain reinforces an unfortunate stereotype and obscures their value.

Beth Knobel, someone who has lived with obesity, continued by saying:

I write to object to the implication in this article that diet­-clinic doctors are somehow all snake­-oil salesmen who just want to make a buck.

The key for me has been having a medical doctor who specializes in weight loss oversee my treatment, a doctor who has the clinical knowledge to treat obesity like a long-term illness.

Pediatrician Howard King wrote about the need for more holistic care:

Medical professionals should focus not just on obesity but also on the whole family, including problems like addiction, depression and family dysfunction. Our crucial task should be nurturing trust in the doctor-­patient relationship as well as increased self-­awareness by physicians.

Endocrinologist Noel Maclaren lamented the irrationality of blaming patients:

Based on several decades of clinical practice and research on insulin, the gatekeeper of metabolism, I believe that 90 percent of Americans who struggle with weight gain have genetic disorders of their metabolism. Therefore, blaming a person who is struggling with excess weight is as irrational as faulting her or him for needing reading glasses.

Dietitian Ann Silver wrote about the benefit of medical nutrition therapy:

People with obesity who continue with nutrition therapy beyond one year have a better chance to learn and change their relationship and behavior toward food. They develop an understanding about how they inappropriately use and eat food.

Seeing the public write more cogently about obesity than the New York Times provides an odd mixture of gratification and frustration. But hey — it seems like progress.

Click here to read the entire collection of letters published on this subject by the Times.

Shield-Backed Bug, photograph © Ton Rulkens / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


July 12, 2015