Obesity’s not the problem, it’s the result

This panel showed up recently in my favorite comic strip Pearls Before Swine.  Two Days later, this one popped up.

It’s pretty easy to see where Stephen Pastis is going with this.

First of all, he lampoons self-help books and the hunger (pun intended) for notoriety.  Then he gets to the crux of the problem – discipline.  Obesity’s just one of the results of a lack of discipline.  The discipline concept is further amplified by Rat’s desire to create a top-selling book by just writing three words.  But then, how many do you need?

I’m not intending to diminish the serious issue of obesity, nor do I feel Pastis is.  The ideas here being that if discipline and personal responsibility are exercised, many cases of obesity could be avoided.  (Yes, exercise there is an intended double entendre as well.)

Sometimes nature and genetics are responsible for weight gain, but the farmer, the food preparation and manufacturing industries and the government are not.  We make the choice of what – and how much – goes into our mouths.

Farmers grow food to meet human needs.  The food industry, like any other industry, creates products that the public demonstrates they want to purchase.  Government is government.  It can be held responsible for many things, but not what or how much you stuff in your gut.

Individuals, and society as a whole, need to stop scapegoating and accept personal responsibility to end this “epidemic.”

Michael Pollan and I seldom share the same opinions, but on this we agree with Rat – eat less.


About raybowman

church of Christ elder, farmer, grandad, agriculture writer and broadcaster

Posted on October 1, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Ray, you’ve hit it on the head. And discipline is hard. Love Stephan Pastis attitude too.

  2. People who think obesity is just a matter of self control (discipline) and that obese people are people who just lack willpower are ignorant. They are as ignorant as the people who just tell people with clinical depression to “just snap out of it.”

    Humans are hardwired to seek and consume high energy foods; it’s a survival trait built into the species. In the last fifty years or so, such high energy foods have become very available in Western societies. Processing that removes fiber and nutrients in favor of shelf stability or ease of preparation have made it easy for us to consume enough calories to meet our energy needs without much effort. You can get enough calories in one breakfast value meal from MacDonald’s to satisfy your daily energy requirements, but not the rest of the nutrients your body needs. Some foods appear to actually interfere with the body’s ability to regulate its biochemical signals that regulate hunger and satiety. Lack of sleep, something prevalent in this society, has also been demonstrated to mess with the hormones that control hunger and satiety. TVs and computers and the evolving changes in the way children are permitted to engage in social activities has produced a generation of children who spend most of their time sitting.

    But, hey, go ahead and poke fun at the fat people. Everyone does it, so it must be okay, right?

  3. Well said. I don’t think there was ‘making fun of fat people’ at all. There are some cases of medical issues that cause obesity but there’s more that it’s just people seeing food as a comfort. “I deserve this…” or “I earned this…” when a sundae or other treat is consumed. Once in a while isn’t a problem for most – but daily it sure is. There is plenty of information on nutritional issues, but no one can make people change choices unless they want to.

  4. Marguerite, I could kiss you. If it was that simple, then there wouldn’t be an epidemic at all. As someone who’s weighed more than 360 lbs, I can say from personal experience that there are WAY more things involved that just eating less. I finally recognize now that I was addicted to the unhealthy foods I ate day in and day out. And I truly mean addicted. No less addicted than someone hooked on alcohol, cocaine, gambling or anything else. The overly processed foods I ate, heavy on simple carbs, gave me the same euphoric feeling as any drug. Whenever I would try to cut them out of my diet, I would have the same withdrawl symptoms: severe headaches, mood swings, physical pains (not the least of which was strong hunger), depression, the list goes on. And being that big brings on depression in its own way. I was ashamed to be that size. But I turned to food to ease my pain. Imagine being embarrased to be seen at a buffet, yet there’s no other place you’d rather be. Do you realize what kind of mind-f**k that is? Obese people already have it hard enough with society dumping on them about everything from airline ticket prices and seats to being blamed for higher insurance costs. To oversimplify their (our) struggle is the ultimate insult. Unless you’ve been this big or have had to deal with a serious addiction problem, you really should try to keep the self-righteousness down.

  5. There are lots of things that may make it easier for us to over consume, but they are not MAKING us over consume. Some food are high-calorie, low nutrient — don’t waste your money on them. TV and computers make it easier to get entertainment without moving — do less of them. We still have the power to choose to eat or not eat, to excercise or not excercise. I don’t see it as an issue of self-discipline so much as an issue of responsibility for our actions. If I gain ten pounds and say, “It’s because Big Macs exist, they made me fat.” That’s wrong. I should be saying, “It’s because I choose to eat Big Macs a lot.” I have every right to decide that the convenience of eating a Big Mac for lunch (rather than the time it would take to make from scratch or the extra cost of a salad) outweighs the ten pounds I have gained. That is not a self-discipline issue, it is a personal choice decided by my personal priorities and my particular life situation at that time. For most people weight is not their number one priority — it’s their kids, their job, etc.

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