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 Canadians.” The problem is not a lack of urgency but a lack of understanding – people aren’t on the same page regarding what to do about obesity. That’s the reason it’s not in the public debate, and rightly so. Politicians’ positions, at this time, are unlikely to be measured, educated or prudent. If they do pledge public $upport for addressing obesity, Dr. Sharma and crew may not be the parties who profit.
This campaign for “attention” is frighteningly premature. Armed with hysteria and lacking good, clear direction, the best one might hope for is an Eat-Less-Move-More corporate sponsored campaign along the lines of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move.” At worst, however, we may see certain politicians adopt a simplistic vote-getting “tough on fat” or “war on obesity” campaign, in the spirit of “tough on crime” or “war on drugs.” These campaigns, in the states, have been driven largely by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a pro-corporate, limited government think tank composed of legislators and corporate executives who draft model legislation to benefit “the free market.” Maybe in Canada, unlike the US, companies like Allergan are NOT setting the standards for when weight-loss surgery is appropriate. And maybe in Canada corporations don’t write legislation through their membership in think tanks such as ALEC and don’t buy politicians through campaign contributions the way they do down here. Maybe this campaign for “attention” is harmless and no opportunistic corporation will jump in and hijack it. I can hope.
I’ll be the first one to debunk the idea that you can’t solve problems by throwing money at them (often, that’s the ONLY way to solve certain problems), but you must have a clear target. The onus is on Dr. Sharma, Dr. Freedhoff, the two Obesity Panacea guys and other bona fide experts who “get” nuance to come up with a clear vision statement (free of hysteria), and that’s going to take time and patience. COACH is trying. This is good, but it needs to gel into a clear plan of action, and then politicians can be encouraged to adopt it. In the meantime, asking for political “attention” now, on hysterical grounds, is like calling on the politicians of the 1800s to respond to the epidemic of “bad humors.” We are likely to get simple solutions, like bloodletting, that don’t advance our health. I found it interesting in this article from the Museum of Quackery that other popular ancient “cures,” lumped in with bloodletting, were “purging, starving and vomiting.” Wow. Anorexia, dieting, bulimia. Do people ever change?
Are we taking bets? Will our Canadian blogger friends find and reclaim their minds once this damned election is over on May 3rd? Please reassure me.
(Sorry, gang. It looks like my “allow comments” button got unchecked for some reason for a day. Corrected! Thanks NewMe, for the alert!)