Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Obesity Public Policy Requires a Foundation

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on April 27, 2011 at 1:36 pm

There I was, noodling around in Science Daily, trying to take a break from contemplating why Dr. Sharma and his friends have lost their minds, when I happened upon this article on how discrimination makes you fat, which is no less depressing.  Sigh. The researchers excluded people who perceived themselves as victims of fat discrimination, nevertheless, we know that fat carries as much stigma and suffers as much discrimination as any other “negative” attribute, even among health professionals who should know better.  What is one to conclude?  Being fat, which leads to discrimination, will make you fatter.  Oh, that cortisol.  How we love it!

Now, what drives fat discrimination?

Oh, damn, here I am again, thinking about Dr. Sharma losing his mind.  

If you haven’t been following his blog lately, this election cycle in Canada has somehow prompted Dr. Sharma to use his authority to advance hysteria, which feeds discrimination (and will make us fatter), though that isn’t his intent.  He and his partners in politics are bamboozled, in fact, that some of us have suggested they are employing “scare tactics,” since their treatments (in practice) are nuanced.  And yet, how will these words from the Canadian Obesity Network call to action ring in the ears of people who are inclined to discriminate and stigmatize?

“Obesity is the nation’s top contributor to disease, death, loss of productivity and costs to our health systems,” says Dr. Arya M. Sharma,  . . . “One in 10 premature deaths among Canadian adults aged 20–64 years is directly attributable to excess weight, and 60% of adults and 25% of kids are overweight or obese.”

Huh?  Confusing causation with association is the tactic of weight-loss profiteers and other fatphobes.  That statement is followed by hysterical statements about the multimillion-dollar costs of obesity based on studies that are far from flawless.

Obviously, Dr. Sharma and crew are hoping to drum up a sense of urgency, but that’s not at issue.  Everyone’s panties are bunched over obesity.  The call to action itself makes the point that “37% of Canadian adults and 35% of youths identified obesity as the number-one health issue affecting Read the rest of this entry »


Back When I was “Inspirational”

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on April 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Yesterday, Barbara Berkeley posted an essay on the value of embracing exercise.  In it she encourages all of us (and inspires those of willing spirit) to keep trying to fall in love with physical exertion.  Good advice.  Her drug of choice is tennis.  Once upon a time, mine was running. 

Barbara’s essay prompted me to do a word search for “running” in some pages I’d written.  I was hoping for something inspirational that I could update for this blog.  Instead, I happened upon a discomfiting draft of an essay that dated to 2006 or thereabouts.   The context tells me it was a time when Oprah was trim and bragging about doing 300 sit-ups a day.  I was gloriously in love with running, and never suspected my joints would put an end to that affair.  I didn’t know whether I actually qualified as “high” when I ran, but I knew that I loved to run (or, more accurately based on speed, “jog”), I craved it, and often while running I lost track of time and place.  I ended up back at home at a time that would indicate I’d trod my usual course, but not remembering specifics.  Here’s what I wrote about the process: 

When I jog, I find myself writing essays or creating fiction plots that I will later take down, mumbling long passages of dialog and playing multiple characters.  Sometimes I mentally stage and win arguments with PTA moms who disagree with my fundraising ideas, or I refurbish my house.  Some days I engage in conversations, musical duets or more intimate liaisons with movie stars or musicians. (On rare occasions I think about liaisons with my husband.)  I discuss the future of the planet with scientists, politicians or other newsmakers.  I negotiate peace accords in troubled countries where I don’t speak the language, but I charm my fellow delegates by feeding them their favorite native desserts prepared by my expert chef.  I talk through my interpreter of a peaceful co-existence, and we all strategize about reducing the world’s horrible stockpile of weapons one by one.  Then I exchange my bulletproof brassiere for a standard Maidenform and go talk to Oprah about it on her show.  (I know Jim Lehrer would be more appropriate, but this is my fantasy.) Read the rest of this entry »

Obesity Public Policy: Let’s Just Call it Confusitarian

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on April 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Thank you to Anonymous blog reader KX for submitting the following two-part essay for my consideration.  Amitai Etzioni on Obesity Public Policy Part One  and Part Two.   Do not be intimidated, my gentle readers.  In PDF form, part one, before notes, is only three-and-a-half pages and part two is two-and-a-half.

I read the essay(s) before reading the author’s bio (silly, ignorant me), but as I read I could tell that he’s an outsider to our issue.  He clearly doesn’t understand or divide out the players the way we might, or as I have.  He has absorbed our issue as any intelligent, disinterested person might and then proposed public policy recommendations in keeping with his particular theory and area of expertise. 

Amitai Etzioni is a respected public policy scholar who has been a senior advisor to the white house and held university professorships at some of this country’s most prestigious institutions (Columbia, Harvard, George Washington).  He’s been president of the American Sociological Association and the International Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics.  In 1990, he founded the Communitarian Network, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to “shoring up the moral, social and political foundations of society.”  (The group also calls itself nonpartisan, but Etzioni’s jabs at Libertarianism would seem to betray that claim.)  He’s the author of more than 30 books, none on obesity from what I can tell.

In other words, he is the “guru” of a respected theory/platform, “responsive communitarianism,” and in this two-part essay, he applies his theory to obesity public policy.  It is worth a look from us, because it is most certainly getting a look from powers that can influence our lives.

The first half of part one is very hard reading.  He lays a foundation of assumptions:  Fat is BAAAAD!  Fat is expensive.  Fat kills.  His sources are ones that we in the fray have refuted or countered with alternative sources many times over. Read the rest of this entry »

Word Play: Addiction v. Compulsion

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on April 8, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I thought my most recent post would be a “quickie.”  Here’s something interesting in Science Daily on food addiction linking ghrelin to excessive sugar consumption.  I expected a few responses.  “That’s nice, and resonates with me because blah blah.”  Or, “Fine, but that’s not my issue.” 

We all go home. 

What I learned instead is that the word “addiction” is not even recognized in certain professional circles (those who treat substance abuse, e.g.) and that many find the word “compulsion” less judgmental and more useful in treating people who engage in excessive behaviors. 

For some reason, in our discussion, we were compelled to raise the topic of “sex addiction,” and I, for grins, visited this site analyzing the Tiger Woods debacle:  Sex Addiction:  What Tiger Woods’ Story Forces us to Confront.  

Here are the first two paragraphs:

From Tiger Woods to Lifetime movies, there has been no small amount of conjecture about the slippery concept known as ‘sex addiction.”  But does such a condition really exist?  Finding out requires sweeping aside the presumption, dismissiveness, and shame that clouds the subject.

The phenomenon didn’t have a name until 1983 when psychologist Patrick Carnes published the influential book, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction. Prior to that, the behavior was described as “hyper-sexual arousal.” In short, the term “sex addiction” is used to describe a pattern of frequent, progressive, and often secret sexual behavior, even when the behavior jeopardizes a person’s time, employment, financial stability, relationships, and reputation. While often conflated with adultery, sex addiction does not necessarily mean cheating—or even intercourse. Rather, it can manifest as a dependency on pornography, masturbation, phone or Internet sex, and other related behavior.

Now, that opening reads sensibly enough to these eyes, trained by our “developed” culture to accept certain logical leaps.  However, it was easy to see that we, indeed, may have a problem (practical and/or semantic) when we “translate” it to a comparable analysis of the less understood/accepted concept of “food addiction.” Read the rest of this entry »

Bingeing. Mini-bingeing. Is it Addiction?

In Weight-Loss Maintenance on April 6, 2011 at 11:55 am

I appreciate science that debunks the notion that we eat and gain weight because we are emotionally out of control and we just need to buck up and make better decisions:  Push away from the table.  Drop the fork.  Hit the gym.  Ignore the fridge.  Science tells us it’s not that simple; food may be a complicated “addiction.”

Many of my blog world friends are talking about food addiction:  Here’s the most recent post on that topic from Beth, the Weight Maven, who has many well thought-out posts on the concept.  Barbara at RTR, is also using the “A” word.   

I struggle with the notion of calling eating that leads to fatness “addiction.”  It is likely inaccurate for many people.  Moreover, it doesn’t prevent fatphobic lay people from pigeon-holing and demonizing fat people.  (Do NOT go to My Fat Spouse and run a search on “food addiction”; just trust that you will be disappointed.)  On the other hand, the word seems to help doctors get beyond the notion that their patients merely need to “get serious” and be “compliant.”

In Science Daily, there’s a nice summary of a study out of Sweden, that links a gene variant, that affects the signalling system for the neuropeptide ghrelin, to cravings for sugar and alcohol (and, by leap, then, to binge eating and alcohol addiction).  Here’s the actual study.      

In simpler words, the study links ghrelin to sugar-seeking (and alcohol-seeking) behaviors, by way of a genetic variant.  Sugar seeking, sadly, is not my issue, darn it (and this blog is about me, after all).  I have said before that I am painfully aware that my internal chemistry has changed since my radical weight loss, which makes maintenance of that loss a hell of a lot harder than popular celebrities like Jillian Michaels would have us believe.   And, given past research that links voluntary radical weight-loss to a 24% average increase in Ghrelin throughout the day, I have blamed Ghrelin.  I may be wrong.    Read the rest of this entry »