Randy's Donuts

Obesity, Cluelessness, and Shamefulness

Listen up folks. A donut is not the way to tell the world about the state of obesity in the United States. Nope, not at all. Donuts do not lie at the root of the problem. Neither do french fries. But cluelessness drives people to reduce the complex problem of obesity into a simplistic infographic about donuts. Unfortunately, that’s what unfolded yesterday when the Trust for America’s Health rolled out its annual report, The State of Obesity.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

To its credit, the Trust produced a thoughtful report, filled with good recommendations. It’s come a long way from the days of “F as in Fat” when it was a scolding, sensational media event. This report is matter-of-fact about the uninterrupted rise in obesity. It speaks directly to the important issue of disparities – in race, ethnicity, gender, and geography.

Of course, the report pushes hard on popular anti-obesity measures that might or might not be effective. But it’s also fairly direct about looking for alternatives that “could work” for delivering better outcomes. Even more important, it makes a clear recommendation for better access to pediatric obesity care. This is a first.

The Trust also made the wise decision to pull back on that donut infographic. You won’t find it anywhere in their materials. Sad to say, not everyone got the message. Apparently, it’s just too hard to resist lame jokes at the expense of people with obesity.

Shame Is Not a Strategy for Better Health

Too many people haven’t figured out that shame is harmful to health. Bill Maher presented an extreme case of cluelessness (and malice) on HBO recently. Shame on HBO for giving him a platform.

But perhaps worse was Derek Beres, a person who presents himself as a fitness expert and says that “shame can be utilized most powerfully as a tool for change.” Though he’s careful to say he’s not a fan of bullying, he likes the power of shame.

However, the truth is this. Beres has succeeded in overcoming childhood obesity despite, not because of shame and bullying. The research is quite clear. Shame is an impediment, not an aid, for better health. Especially in obesity. It increases the odds that a child or an adult with obesity will progress to even worse health. James Cordan lays all of this out in the video above. He’s both compelling and accurate in his words.

Promoting shame is shameful. That’s true whether you’re subtle about it with donut jokes or explicit about it with weight-based bullying. It all adds up and gets in the way. We must never accept this hateful, destructive impulse in any form.

Click here for The State of Obesity report and here for more on the destructive power of shame and stigma.

Randy’s Donuts, photograph © Alejandro C / flickr

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September 13, 2019

2 Responses to “Obesity, Cluelessness, and Shamefulness”

  1. September 13, 2019 at 6:48 am, Mary-Jo said:

    Many diseases have been linked to poor dietary choices — colon cancer, CVD, osteoporosis — for example. I’m sick and tired of these tone-deaf images and campaigns that still throw blame shade at people with obesity. Maybe the OAC can develop a system where anything biased or stigmatizing that comes out can be flagged, somehow, to alert that it’s unacceptable.

  2. September 13, 2019 at 9:44 am, Allen Browne said:

    They mention medications and surgical procedures for adults, but not for children. Amazing how the children get left out or are at least treated as though obesity was a different disease in children. The report is progress but 10-30% of the children ( those with the disease of obesity in different ethnic and socio-economic groups) usually need more than a strictly behavioral approach. What they call pediatric weight management is still way behind adult weight management. But progress is progress. At least they admit the environmental changes “could” be useful and at least they use the word “treatment” when mentioning obsesity in children.