Actualities, Adolphe Cremieux

Wild Variance in Views of Obesity and the Pandemic

We all have great skill for seeing what we want to see in just about any situation. It flows from confirmation bias. Often, believing is seeing. Not the other way around. So the wild variance in views of obesity and the pandemic should not surprise us. Recent posts from Jane Brody and Anthony Warner serve to illustrate.

A Wake-Up Call to Personal Responsibility

Brody offers up a very American viewpoint grounded in personal responsibility. “Too many Americans fail to take measures to combat obesity,” she writes. Since she is someone who has made her career selling diet personal health advice, it’s unsurprising that she wants more people to pay attention to her. While she doesn’t blame old people for their vulnerability to COVID, everyone else is fair game:

“But while there’s nothing anyone can do to stop the march of time, several leading risk factors for COVID-19 infections and deaths stem from how many Americans conduct their lives from childhood on and their misguided reliance on medicine to patch up their self-inflicted wounds.”

Yep, we’re getting what we deserve because we’ve done this to ourselves. Then we stupidly rely on medical doctors. She goes on to tell us how well her own virtues have worked for her:

“My consumption of snacks and ice cream is portion-controlled and, along with daily exercise, has enabled me to remain weight-stable despite yearlong pandemic stress and occasional despair.”

Blaming Fat People for Failed Health Policies

Anthony Warner, the Angry Chef, has a wildly different view of the pandemic and obesity. He states it plainly:

“As our Governments and public health bodies attempt to deflect blame away from their significant failings over the past 12 months, fat people are going to increasingly be in the firing line. Much like they have been blamed for our crumbling, underfunded health service, they are now being held responsible for our Covid toll. This is completely unjustified, both statistically and morally. But unless we can unpack our assumptions about why some people gain weight, it will never cease.”

Unlike Brody, Warner acknowledges obesity is a highly heritable condition – not a “self-inflicted wound.”

Objectivity Impaired, Curiosity Needed

With a recent editorial in the International Journal of Obesity, Jennie Brand-Miller brings excellent perspective to these disparate views. She points out an important difference between the COVID and obesity pandemics:

“We definitely know what causes COVID-19, but we still cannot pinpoint why obesity and overweight have become so common in the space of just 30 years. Instead, we are inordinately focused on the underlying mechanism of positive energy balance – too much food, the wrong type of food, and too little energy expenditure.”

Blinded by 50-year-old dogma, we’ve lost objectivity about obesity. We need fresh thinking that will only come if we bring more curiosity to the subject.

Click here for Brody’s commentary, here for Warner’s, and here for Brand-Miller’s.

Actualities, Adolphe Cremieux; illustration by Honore Daumier / WikiArt

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March 30, 2021

2 Responses to “Wild Variance in Views of Obesity and the Pandemic”

  1. March 30, 2021 at 10:09 am, David Brown said:

    Excerpt from the Introduction to Food for Nought by Ross Hume Hall (1976): “Nourishment, has undergone a startling transformation … A highly individual system of growing and marketing food has been transformed into a gigantic, highly integrated service system in which the object is not to nourish or even to feed, but to force an ever-increasing consumption of fabricated products … Man can never be more than what he eats, and one would expect that a phenomenon with such profound effects on health and wellbeing as a radically changed system of supplying nourishment would be thoroughly documented and assessed by the scientific community. Such is not the case … Failure to monitor and to appreciate the results of rapidly moving technology produces a brutal effect … ”

    It also produces a lot of confusion.

    • March 31, 2021 at 4:09 am, Ted said:

      David, this subject continues to stimulate much debate. But the argument you’re advancing does not have broad scientific endorsement.