Tag Archives: obesity

When Corporate America Hides the Truth

We’ve known for several years that tobacco companies cached the truth from us and hid the knowledge that tobacco use endangers our health by promoting cancers, heart disease, etcetera. Small wonder that the biggest market for US tobacco is now China, where Freedom of Information Acts are nonexistent and thus the dangers of tobacco are as unknown as they were in America in the 1920s. A New York Times article posits that one-third of all young men in China will die of tobacco-related diseases. The Times suggests that the Chinese government will be slow to halt the epidemic rise of smoking: “Antismoking efforts in China face a difficult political situation: The central government has a monopoly through the Chinese National Tobacco Corporation, and more than 7 percent of government revenue comes from it.”

Meanwhile, in the US, tobacco use continues to decline, due to the spread of the truth.

The Coca-Cola Company, meanwhile, has allegedly been paying for faux science to show its products (full of sugar and sugar substitutes) are not contributors to American obesity. Instead, their paid “scientists” insist, it’s all down to lack of exercise… when current studies suggest the exact opposite: that we eat ourselves into overweight and we can fast our way out of it, eliminating many cases of diabetes and cancer, and improving heart health.

So who are the latest corporate liars? Turns out they’ve been major oil companies.

Remember how for years – oops, decades – the companies that refine the fuel you use in your car pooh-poohed climate change? How they laughed, how they got angry, how they acted with disdain? How they funded their own faux studies to “prove” that burning carbon products had no effect on climate? How they characterized climate change activists as crazy loons?

It appears that all this time, they were foxing us.

The Times, again, reporting: “Had Exxon been upfront at the time about the dangers of the greenhouse gases we were spewing into the atmosphere, we might have begun decades ago to develop a less carbon-intensive energy path to avert the worst impacts of a changing climate. Amazingly, politicians are still debating the reality of this threat, thanks in no small part to industry disinformation.”

“As early as 1977, one of Exxon’s senior scientists warned a gathering of oilmen of a ‘general scientific agreement’ that the burning of fossil fuels was influencing the climate. A year later, he had updated his assessment, warning that ‘present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.’”

The late 1970s. Forty years ago. Forty years that could have been put to better use to develop technologies that avoid the use of fossil fuels… but were instead wasted.

Is there any US corporation willing to put the truth front and center? How about when it impacts others’ health? When it impacts their own employees’ health, and that of their children and grandchildren?

Apparently not.


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The Spiritual Side to Fat-Paring


No caption needed, really


Once upon a time in America, pastors, priests, rabbis spoke against what are commonly referred to as the seven deadly sins: lust, avarice, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride (translation: intense sexual desire; insatiable craving for wealth; excessive eating/drinking; excessive desire for possessions; laziness; fierce anger or resentment; longing to own something possessed by or achieved by another; inordinate opinion of one’s own superiority).


Those sermons don’t often happen these days, and that’s a shame. Especially with regard to excessive eating and drinking, which – apart from causing all manner of medical ailments ranging from shortness of breath and impotence right up to the big C – has knock-on financial effects out the wazoo. In the UK – I’m not kidding with this one – hospitals are paying a premium for extra-wide fridges to store their extra-fat dead bodies before they must be hydraulically lifted on their way to the funeral home. Most of those bodies are chilled not because of old age, in case you thought obesity lengthened life.


If hospitals must pay through the nose for cold storage, it’s obvious they won’t have money for health-promoting programs like monthly well-baby visits. Thus fat adults are harming the health of small children by using up medical resources, even after the adults are no longer alive. My friends, that is a sin.


That the US leads the world in adult obesity is well-known. Few American church leaders are willing to chastise their congregation – as, Biblically, they are tasked to do – for the sin of gluttony. In fact, churches have been described as a feeding ground for obesity. In a 2006 scholarly article, the researchers found that overweight or obesity was more common in church attendees. Although they explained the result by referring to “multiple sociodemographic variables”, the simple fact remains that the preachers of these churches failed to remind their fat members, loudly and often, that eating much and exercising little is spiritually wrong.


Religions are not created equal. Some church-minded people (Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons, for example) prioritize weight management. Some religious communities have high rates of obesity (Baptist, 30%), while other have very low rates (Jews, 1%; Hindus and Buddhists, less than that). A 2012 study found that religious media use (watching televised religious programming, or listening to it on radio) was very highly correlated to obesity – since those people do not even rise up to go to church.


If everyone faithfully monitored their body changes, we would not need cautions from religious leaders – or Weight Watchers, for that matter. Many of us think obese people must be well aware of their condition. Not so! According to a recent survey, 55% of Americans do not perceive themselves as overweight or obese. Yet two-thirds (66%) of us carry way too much fat.


That’s a lot of self-deception.


The situation is not improved by the American healthcare “system” (really, a market), which recently ranked last among 11 developed nations. That’s right, dead last. We’re the Mississippi of the wealthy-nation world. Not a promising designation, is it?


So where are the spiritual people encouraging their flocks to care for their bodies as well as their souls? Largely, they’ve been silent. Partly, that’s because they, too, are toting a pantry around their waists. They’re somewhat embarrassed to talk about what is blindingly obvious. Often, they’ve washed their hands of the matter. “Not my job,” they say.


Ah, but it is. Gluttony, see, that’s missing the mark. It’s a mistake.


There’s a little light at the end of the tunnel. The huge Saddleback Church pastored by Rick Warren has begun an exercise and fitness program using the Daniel Plan. Co-authored by Warren with the help of several physicians, the plan came about when he realized he needed to let go of 90 pounds. Ninety whole pounds. He did it, too. But that came after confessing to his congregation that he had made eating errors for years (and sat around in meetings too much – another plug for the stand-up meeting), and asked for their support in his upcoming struggle.


While it was an unusual act on his part, it was not particularly brave, not on a par with facing down a snarling dog or rescuing a fellow driver from a crashed car that may blow up at any second.


In other words, any overweight or obese person of the cloth can do it.


They can also tell their congregations, look, enough is enough. What we’re doing (me and you and you and you) is unhealthy. It’s therefore acting against God. Think you’re a good Baptist/Catholic/fill-in-the-blank? Show me. Show us. There are so many ways to let go of unnecessary weight, but doing it with at least one other person is essential. We all need someone to encourage us, help us correct ourselves, call us on our bullshit.


Over the first year on the Daniel Plan, the Saddleback Church members collectively lost 250,000 pounds.


Go ahead, people behind the altar. Take that step.



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From the Mouths of Children



I have been trying to find the piece of reportage. The one I viewed the other day on a national morning news show, where a hard-working American mom worked to budget for her children’s weekly meals. The reporter toured her kitchen, accompanied the woman to the grocery, watched her figure out the food budget.


I cannot find the tape online. Unfortunately.


Because what was never talked about, what was never questioned in the concerned woman’s struggle to feed her children on a tight budget, was the size of their father, who lives with them.


He was large. Very large. High on the BMI scale, with a girth that cried out for coaches from “The Biggest Loser”.


Let’s be very clear. The man needs to get slimmer simply in order to preserve his own health. If he continues on this path, chances are he will not see his children grow up. If he does live that long, he is almost certain to develop diabetes, cancer, heart problems, or the trifecta, which will affect his ability to be present and active in his kids’ lives.


More to the point at this time, he needs to get slimmer in order to preserve the money that feeds his extra poundage, and use it instead for his kids’ meals.


If money is tight and Dad is fat, then Dad’s taking food from his children’s mouths.


No one mentioned that. Dad was in the picture, walking with the kids, helping get them to school. Whether his wife had made the connection was unknown. The reporter totally avoided the topic.


Why? Too controversial? Too offensive? Too let’s-pretend-there-is-no-problem-here?


Look, when people complain about not having enough resources to feed or clothe or house or buy school supplies for their children, I listen. I give to food banks and Goodwill, contribute backpacks and pencil boxes, advocate for affordable housing, because all kids deserve to be protected and nurtured, especially when their parents do not bring in much money. Many of my neighbors and friends do the same. One of the reasons I admire Denmark is because the Danes – those peaceful ex-Vikings – have made a collaborative decision that none of their citizens will fall economically past a certain threshold. Now, that’s a society.


Yet there’s a series of questions that neither side of the US political aisle entertains, and that is whether the same children whose parents apply for aid have parents who indulge their own wants over their children’s needs, whose activities steal financial resources from the family, money that should be used to benefit the children.


Here’s a partial list of parent-indulgent behaviors, many of which are observable, and others could be easily ascertained through interviews with neighbors or co-workers:


Drinking alcohol

Using drugs

Tobacco use

Gambling and lottery tickets

Soft drinks/sodas

Game electronics/big-screen TVs

Viewing cost-attached porn

For-fee manicures/pedicures/haircolor/styling/wigs

Unnecessary trips (of any type)

Fast food

Going out to movies

Cable TV

Prepared foods that cost more than simple meals made at home

Infidelity (often costly because people spend money on appearance, meals, entertainment, hotels)


Good parents show their love for their children by placing their own desires below their children’s needs. In the same way, they prove they are responsible adults.


The next time you see a plea for money for children’s needs, you might want to ask the organization requesting your support how it goes about selecting which families to help. Do they check on the parents’ self-indulgence? Do they educate parents on self-restraint, helping them form support groups (it works for people letting go of excess weight!), and pointing out that a dollar saved on self-indulgence is a dollar to buy the food for their child’s dinner or pencils for schoolwork?


In this, I am neither on the right nor the left. This is a course that has not yet been taken, but is one that – especially considering the work the worried mother above is doing to feed her children healthily on a small budget, while their father’s excess weight demands extra food to maintain – all political parties ought to examine.


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