Comfortable Opinions, Uncomfortable Thinking

The Vexations of the ThinkerSixty years ago, President John F. Kennedy warned the graduating class at Yale that too often “We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” Public discourse on the subject of obesity right now is certainly bringing that thought into vivid view. Over and over again, we hear supposed experts expressing their comfortable opinions without the uncomfortable challenge of thinking about them.

We hear from HAES activists who don’t want to think about advanced medical care for obesity. Folks who are committed to eating disorders are reluctant to think about the possibilities for sound medical care for youth with their health at risk from obesity at the same time that health professionals pay attention to risks for eating disorders. Celebrity health coaches can’t seem to adapt to the idea that medical care for obesity can make better habits of eating and physical activity possible for people.

In short, the science of obesity is presenting us with much better options for treating this chronic disease. But folks who are comfortable with their opinions that obesity is a behavioral problem find themselves most uncomfortable with thinking that it might actually be a physiologic problem.

Nonsensical Responses

That discomfort brings us an abundant supply of nonsensical responses to medical breakthroughs for obesity. Celebrity fitness coach Jillian Michaels has made a career out of urging people to lose weight by following her advice to lose weight. Her claim to fame comes from work on the Biggest Loser – a reality show that exploited struggles with obesity for entertainment. Follow-up research showed that most of these people gained the weight they lost on the show after it was over.

Seemingly unaware of the flaws in her approach, Michaels is boasting about urging people to stop taking semaglutide for obesity:

“I have taken at least eight family friends’ parents off of this drug.

“Once they get off of the drug, it does the rebound effect. So you’re not gaining anything. You get off the drug in a year and go all the way back. You’ve not learned anything. You’ve not built any physical strength or endurance. You haven’t learned how to eat healthy.”

In other words, Michaels, who is not a doctor, is telling people to stop taking a drug that might be working because it won’t keep working after they stop taking it. Thank goodness she is not overseeing our medications for high blood pressure.

Knowledge Brings Change, Change Is Uncomfortable

Change is uncomfortable, and for people who don’t understand it, it can even be terrifying. That’s OK though, because plenty of people do think about the evolving science of obesity. They find benefits from advanced care as it becomes available.

They enjoy the lasting comfort of opinions formed by the uncomfortable process of thinking about the flaws in old clichés that no longer hold up to scrutiny.

Click here and here to read more about the discomfort of thought.

The Vexations of the Thinker, painting by Giorgio de Chirico / WikiArt

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February 19, 2023

2 Responses to “Comfortable Opinions, Uncomfortable Thinking”

  1. February 19, 2023 at 8:41 am, John DiTraglia said:

    Did you go to Yale 60 years ago?
    I have been trying to understand the HAES point of view and my resolution is that they want to teach acceptance without judgement of whatever God dumps on you. Maybe you only have one arm. maybe you are autistic. Accept yourself and do the best you can.

    • February 19, 2023 at 8:49 am, Ted said:

      Nope, no Yale in my timeline. In 1962, I was a graduate of Kiddie College in Ashland, KY.

      Regarding the acceptance thing, I believe that’s a fair assessment. Where I have issues is when HAES advocates dismiss folks who want and need care for obesity. They have a good information and perspective to offer, but mixing in misinformation hurts the cause.