Blend of Grass and Snow

An Unfortunate Blend of Obesity and Public Health Policies

Ximena Ramos Salas

Ximena Ramos Salas

One of the problems facing public health is the framing of public health policies as obesity prevention strategies. Such policies may be good for broader population health outcomes but may not have an effect on obesity. Another problem facing public health is the failure to recognize that obesity is a complex chronic disease.

No Simple Solutions

As a result, people don’t embrace the reality that solutions will not be simple (e.g., eat less, move more). Nutrition policies are not the sole solution. We need a mix of policies targeting prevention and management areas. Furthermore, the way we define obesity in public health is problematic. Continuing to focus on BMI as a proxy measure for obesity in public health policies is not helpful. It implies a focus on size rather than on health. Solely evaluating nutrition policies based on BMI outcomes could be hiding other benefits. Improvement in overall eating habits at the population level is an example that deserves attention. These policies should be evaluated for what they aim to change – dietary habits, reformulation of foods by industry, and more.

Driving Bias and Stigma

Let’s not use obesity as the hook for these public health policies. Implying that obesity (the disease) can be prevented solely by eating healthy and exercising is a big problem. That’s because it’s driving weight bias and stigma at the population level. Decades of research have shown that stigma is a key determinant of health that affects health and social inequities. We should use a weight bias lens when developing public health policies so that we can avoid unintended consequences.

For further perspective, click herehere, and here.

Today’s guest post comes from our friend Ximena Ramos Salas, Managing Director of the Canadian Obesity Network and a doctoral candidate in public health at the University of Alberta.

Blend of Grass and Snow, photograph © Ted Kyle / flickr

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January 2, 2018

3 Responses to “An Unfortunate Blend of Obesity and Public Health Policies”

  1. January 02, 2018 at 12:38 pm, David Brown said:

    Identifying the determinants of of obesity means getting the science right. The current political and academic climate virtually guarantees that the global obesity epidemic will continue to be a problem. Epidemiologists are pitted against biochemists. Vegetarians and vegans inveigh against animal products. Low-carb enthusiasts demonize grain products and root vegetables. Meanwhile, various scientists and laypersons engaged in self experimentation are demonstrating the wisdom of self experimentation and an auto didactic approach to weight control. Two notable examples are Australian Andrew Taylor and Tennessean Bob Briggs. To be sure, the approaches are different and likely are appropriate for different metabolisms. What they have in common is weight loss and weight control without substantial discomfort. In other words, appetite becomes a non issue making weight control effortless.

    Google Spud Fit to learn about Andrew Taylor’s approach and Butter Bob to learn about Bob Briggs’s approach.

    • January 02, 2018 at 1:09 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, David, for sharing this. My radar is triggered when I read about “making weight control effortless.”

  2. January 02, 2018 at 11:43 pm, Michael said:

    Thanks David and Ted. I think ‘effortless’ weight loss is the kind that does not rely on the application of willpower to resist the elevated hunger caused by normal neuro-endocrine signals in response to weight loss. The idea is to do what’s possible to change the signals rather than rely on endless efforts in resisting their effects.