Burning of a Heretic

Heretics and Derelicts Dispute Conventional Wisdom on Obesity

Healthy eating and active living. For decades now, programs to prevent obesity have followed the conventional wisdom that pursuing these two ideals will solve the problem. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation pledged a billion dollars to prevent childhood obesity by following this template:

“By 2025, we want to ensure that children in America grow up at a healthy weight, no matter who they are or where they live. We have made substantial progress, but there is far more to do and we can’t stop now. This commitment is part of the Foundation’s effort to build a Culture of Health in every community across the country. We all have a role to play in our homes, schools, and neighborhoods to ensure that all kids have healthy food and safe places to play.”

That was then (2015) and this is now: “our targeted commitment to preventing childhood
obesity will wind down in 2025.” Prevalence of childhood obesity is higher than ever and the other diseases that result from it are rising in youth – type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and cancer.

The conventional wisdom that obesity is all about the food and physical activity remains entrenched, but heretics and derelicts are calling it into question.

“Like Blaming Water for Drowning”

Writing in Real Clear Science, Edward Archer calls himself a heretic. He says food is not the bad actor causing obesity to rise. “Blaming food for obesity is like blaming water for drowning.”

But he concludes this thinking will persist. Fear of bad foods opens the door for profitable marketing campaigns for healthy food and healthy eating. FDA is obligingly working on a “healthy” logo to support these promotions. Healthy eating and active living researchers earn billions of dollars in funding from these agendas.

Marginalized as Derelicts

The stubborn commitment to healthy eating and active living as the righteous answer has a practical implication. Folks who have obesity get dismissed as derelicts who have fallen away from the path to redemption. A few, with sufficient wealth and privilege, can gain access to remarkable new obesity treatments.

But right now, limited supplies and high prices keep those options out of reach. Health insurers make sure of it by demanding that patients enroll in intensive lifestyle programs first. It amounts to a ritual for proving merit.

A Paradigm for Failure

This is a paradigm for failure. Assuming that obesity is a problem of bad food and bad behaviors has led to colossal failures in obesity prevention. It assigns blame to people and denies them access to care that could restore their health.

It is a sad mistake.

Click here for more on Archer’s heresy.

Burning of a Heretic, painting by Il Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni) / WikiArt

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April 21, 2024