The Political Correctness of Obesity

Obesity is no respecter of persons. Any person can become overweight regardless of their race, their gender, their background, their socioeconomic status, or the country they live in.

Political Corectness and Obesity

Sure, obesity rates are higher in certain countries and among certain groups, but the truth is that any person can become overweight. And any person can lose weight.

However, not everyone can keep the weight off. I read an interesting article last year that I kept meaning to write about. The article interviewed Traci Mann, director of an eating lab at the University of Minnesota. Mann indicated that research studies overwhelming indicate that although almost anyone can lose weight, a very small minority keep the weight off. 

Mann indicated that although many researchers know this, they do not want to talk about it. A colleague of Mann, Tim Caulfield says,

. . .fellow obesity academics tend to tiptoe around the truth. “You go to these meetings and you talk to researchers, you get a sense there is almost a political correctness around it, that we don’t want this message to get out there,” he said.

“You’ll be in a room with very knowledgeable individuals, and everyone in the room will know what the data says and still the message doesn’t seem to get out.”

In part, that’s because it’s such a harsh message. “You have to be careful about the stigmatizing nature of that kind of image,” Caulfield says. “That’s one of the reasons why this myth of weight loss lives on.”

Political correctness may dictate that the difficulties of weight maintenance not be addressed but I have never been one to not speak my mind whether it be letting parents know not to feed their kids junk or telling the truth about exercise not equaling weight loss. 

Weight maintenance is difficult, but it is not impossible. Weight loss is difficult, but neither is it impossible.

We should never be afraid to spread the message that although it is difficult, the war is winnable. Research studies may show that few people keep their weight off after a year but there are some people who do and it is not just people who have gastric bypass surgery.

Political correctness can stand in the way of progress. However, instead of not talking about the problem, let’s discuss why weight loss/maintenance is so difficult and how our lifestyle contributes to the difficulty.

1) Foods have become chemicalized.  

The proportion of food to non-food in standard grocery stories is at least 50/50, and probably tilts higher toward the non-food category. Processed foods, unless organics, are almost always full of ingredients you cannot pronounce, have GMO’s, and contain excessive sodium and/or sugar. Food labels should not read like a high school chemistry experiment gone wrong. Let’s be unpolitically correct and add our voice to organizations who are fighting for fair labeling and a cessation of chemicalizing our foods.

2) Our lifestyles are sedentary.

It’s the elephant in the room. Our modern lives are full of conveniences. Phones that no longer hang on the wall and require us to get up and answer them, computers that allow us to experience the world without moving off the couch, televisions that inform and entertain, and jobs that require us to drive long distances only to sit down all day once we get there. Conveniences are great, but they do contribute to our sedentary lifestyle, which in turn contributes to our obesity.

3) Acceptance is rising.

Acceptance of obesity is rising. As more than 60 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese, it becomes the new normal. The way the majority of Americans look is what people will start to expect as normal and good. The more acceptance there is, the less incentive for some people to make a change.

4) Pharmaceuticals and surgery are available. 

Pharmaceutical companies do not just have pills for diabetes, heart disease, or other conditions. They also have, and are continually trying to develop, pills for weight loss. The problem is that those pills have been riddled with side effects causing many weight loss pills to be pulled from the market.

Additionally, surgery to correct obesity is relatively common. I don’t know about you, but I can think of at least ten people in real life that I know who had some type of weight loss surgery. It’s not an easy path, but it is an option that was not common years ago.

5) We want a quick fix. 

We all tend to want a quick fix. I wanted to magically be 100 pounds lighter when I was over 300 pounds but that’s not reality. It is not politically correct to tell the truth about the slow, often laborious process of weight loss because no one wants to hear it.

Political correctness when it comes to weight loss gets us nowhere. We all need to acknowledge the role that our food companies, our medical professionals, our complacency, and even our desire to have it magically fixed play in the difficulty of weight loss and weight maintenance.

We cannot live in a world with blinders on, so instead of not acknowledging the problem, let’s put the problem out in the light and think how each one of us can overcome and be victorious. It may not be easy, but you can lose weight and keep it off in spite of modern day issues.

Does political correctness play a role in obesity and the difficulty in weight loss? Should we take a look at all the root causes of obesity? Diane

14 thoughts on “The Political Correctness of Obesity

  1. Martha G says:

    I think all of these are factors in both gaining weight and difficulty in keeping it off. For me, however, the most important was ditching the mentality that I was going on a diet to lose weight. With that approach historically I viewed this as something temporary where I couldn’t eat “good” food and had to exercise. Looked forward to getting the weight off and going back to the way I used to eat.

    This time I approached the whole thing as getting healthy and staying healthy. Gradually changing the way I eat and moved. Now down 80 pounds (and I’ve been at or under goal since April 2013) I focus on eating real foods, less of it, and MORE PLANTS!. Exercise ever day and love it.

    For the first time in my life I’m confident that this way of eating and moving is here for life.

  2. Steve says:

    I think we should place more importance on #2. We’re just too darn sedentary, sitting on our butts all day long. We eat way too much food for our activity levels. It’s fine if we’re out there doing manual labor, but we’re not. Losing weight is freaking hard as can be, especially with so much information out there on the right way or wrong way to lose fat. Foods we can’t eat, exercises we gotta do, it’s enough to drive somebody crazy.

    It ain’t just about eating less and moving more or counting calories and weighing all your food. Sure, that stuff works for a little bit but it only gets you so far and then once you stop that diet you just gain it all back (and usually extra weight!). My wife and I lost right around 115 pounds (between the 2 of us) in just under 3 months and it’s all about a life change. Starving yourself, doing cardio till you drop and popping diet pills don’t work and it never will.

  3. Janis says:

    I think it plays a role in it in some ways — I’d edit the comment that “almost anyone can lose weight, a very small minority keep the weight off.” I’d say that although almost anyone can lose weight, a very small minority know what needs to be done to keep the weight off.

    And unfortunately, the tip-toeing around prevents people from learning what they need to know. Although that’s a chicken and egg problem, really. Do we tip-toe around because people actively resist learning what they need to know, or do we not know what needs to be done and hence tip-toe around the facts?

    When the chips are down, it’s an addiction issue. The truly frightening part is that most addictive substances are highly regulated: tobacco, alcohol, recreational drugs, etc. Crap food is just as deadly, and freely available for children. Even toddlers.

    I’ve heard it said (and I have no reason to think it’s not completely correct) that addicts are basically frozen at the mental age at which they became addicted. Someone who found pot and coke at the age of 15 is forever a 15 year old until they stop abusing. Then, even if they are 50, they have 35 years of growth to make up all at once, and that is a lot to ask of someone.

    What happens when the person first became an addict at the age of eight? Or younger? 🙁

    I think this is a huge part of why people always say that the best predictor of whether you can successfully maintain a loss is that you were not obese as a child.

    • Allie says:

      In response to Janis’s first paragraph statement: I’d say that although almost anyone can lose weight, a very small minority know what needs to be done to keep the weight off….
      YES! I would be ever so very grateful to find out from someone, anyone who actually knows and/or has lived through it to tell me HOW TO LOSE AND KEEP IT OFF AFTER MENOPAUSE. I have lost 70 pounds before menopause and kept it off for 11 years. Now I have been in menopause for 3 years and the game has changed, the rules have changed and I don’t even know for sure what the game is regarding menopause and fat loss and weight maintenance. HELP! Nothing that worked before works now. NOTHING. But yet I have seen menopausal women maintain their weight and a few have lost – are they starving themselves?!

      • Diane Carbonell says:

        Menopause weight loss is possible, but it is hard. That’s what I’ve found in coaching clients and talking to bunches of people. For those women who are successful it often requires extra exercise, a reduction in simple carbohydrates, a relatively low calorie diet, and an increase in protein intake. I’m sorry that you are experiencing this firsthand. What have you tried?

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I agree that tip-toeing around the problem doesn’t help. I have known a few people who were overweight as children who have lost weight and maintained it. I was not overweight as a child – perhaps that helped me in my maintenance.

      I am so burdened for children that are overweight and I really believe parents need to realize it matters how much their kids weigh. Part of that is education because honestly – there is a lot of misinformation out there.

      • Janis says:

        Tip-toeing seems to be the flip side of the attitude that if there is a tiny percentage of people who succeed, then it’s like winning the lottery whether you are in that tiny percentage: up to random chance. It’s not. If there is a small group of people who manage it, then what needs to be done is to find those people, see what they do, and do it.

        I think the problem is that a lot of those people say things that no one wants to hear — it’s hard work, it never stops, and in a lot of cases, you must swear off of your addictive foods forever. You’ve managed to make moderation work, but even you had to swear off certain things for a long time and have said that there are still certain things that you just won’t have.

        So it’s not a matter of chance whether one can lose or not; it’s that people are too often actively choosing not to do what works. Knowing what needs to be done and avoiding it kind of requires tip-toeing. *sigh* 🙁

  4. Janis says:

    I also have to take serious issue with this comment from the article: “We have evolved not to lose weight.”

    Look at the human hips, knees, and ankles. We have not evolved to weigh what many of us weight now.

    Look at the human pancreas. We have not evolved to eat the garbage that we’re up to our eyebrows in in this culture.

    I will grant that we have not evolved to handle our current food environment, but not that we haven’t evolved to maintain a fit weight. We most definitely evolved to maintain a fit weight in the food milieu in which we spent a hundred thousand years. The problem is, as of a few decades ago, we’re not in that milieu anymore.

  5. Nancy B. Kennedy says:

    Allie, I sympathize with you about weight maintenance! Especially when you say that what worked before doesn’t work any longer. I maintained my weight loss almost effortlessly for about five years, but, increasingly, it’s become a struggle. You can’t keep your calorie count low enough to prevent weight gain and unless you have nothing else to do in life, you can’t spend all day in the gym. Diane, maybe you could write a series about weight maintenance and how that worked for you. You even had three children while you were maintaining! Have you had to make any changes in your plan over the years to stay within your weight range? Do we just have to accept that we can’t stay at our goal weight as we age? I wish I could give myself some slack now and again, but I can’t let up for a second, or the pounds creep back on. It’s important to me not to gain, so I work hard at it, but it’s frustrating.

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