Saturday, April 17, 2010

Feministe post and Alternet article

Last fall's post by Lisa Jervis on Feministe, beautifully sums up the steps that the food movement (still) needs to take.

More recently, Jill Richardson - of La Vida Locavore - captured Linda Bacon's case for health at every size in her article on Alternet. Jill gets right to the point:

All in all, while inspiring individuals to improve their diet and exercise habits in order to promote public health is laudable, the number one issue we should address on a societal level to decrease the rate of chronic diseases like diabetes is poverty. Lower-income people are more prone to obesity as well as the health problems associated with weight gain. Major risk factors for obesity and disease are in place for each of us before we are born: our parents' income level, educational level and ethnicity, to name a few.


The best way to accomplish Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver's goals is to address social injustice and to reduce poverty in America. Why aren't either of them talking about that?

op-ed on the stigma of being overweight

As Harriet Brown writes, weight stigma can diminish employment opportunities, lead to direct interpersonal discrimination, and impact mental and physical health. Research on doctors' attitudes shows how deep-seated our prejudices are:

More than half of the 620 primary care doctors questioned for one study described obese patients as “awkward, unattractive, ugly, and unlikely to comply with treatment.” (This last is significant, because doctors who think patients won’t follow their instructions treat and prescribe for them differently.)

...and the negative effects this can have on patients:

Even if doctors don’t directly express weight-based judgments, their biases can hurt patients. One recent study shows that the higher a patient’s body mass, the less respect doctors express for that patient. And the less respect a doctor has for a patient, says Dr. Mary Huizinga, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the less time the doctor spends with the patient and the less information he or she offers.

Other studies are flipping the assumption that because overweight and obesity are often associated with mental and physical illness, obesity itself causes these illness. In fact, controlled studies show, the stigma attached to weight may be a more significant cause of illness.

Dr. Peter A. Muennig, an assistant professor of health policy at Columbia, says stigma can do more than keep fat people from the doctor: it can actually make them sick. “Stigma and prejudice are intensely stressful,” he explained. “Stress puts the body on full alert, which gets the blood pressure up, the sugar up, everything you need to fight or flee the predator.”

Over time, such chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and other medical ills, many of them (surprise!) associated with obesity. In studies, Dr. Muennig has found that women who say they feel they are too heavy suffer more mental and physical illness than women who say they feel fine about their size — no matter what they weigh. [emphasis added]

Read the full op-ed for more.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

multiple perspectives from the Times

Can medical professionals emphasize health and healthy living rather than weight?

Five writers examine how public health initiatives can promote good habits without also reinforcing size discrimination in Room for Debate.

"A focus on health would emphasize adding positive behaviors rather than fixating on weight loss. It would support people in incorporating fruit and vegetables in their diet, or taking a 10- or 20-minute walk every day, or learning relaxation breathing to help manage stress. These small steps are important and achievable, while long-term weight loss, for most people, is not."
- Harriet Brown

a look at the data

Michelle Obama has pledged to improve the quality of school lunches, educate parents about healthy diets, and improve access to grocery stores in poor and rural areas. But first she has to reframe the obesity epidemic in terms of America's children. At every campaign stop, the first lady repeats the same facts and figures: Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last three decades; nearly one in three children is now overweight or obese; and the youngest generation is on track, for the first time in the nation's history, to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

As the war on child obesity escalates, we can expect to hear these statements repeated over and over again, spreading from one politician to another, through opinion columns and television newscasts. Before that happens, let's take a quick look at what the campaign rhetoric really means.

...the full article by Daniel Engber