Just because you’re thin doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthyPosted: May 21, 2012
Over the past week, I have been watching the HBO documentary The Weight of the Nation. Overall, it was a very interesting overview of the rising obesity problem in America. However, while stressing the complex nature of treating obesity, they kept offering the same old tired, simplistic advice–“calories in, calories out” and “eat less, move more.” Additionally, when talking about foods like breakfast cereal, there was a lot of talk about how to make these “choices” healthier for kids. The fact is that cereals of all kinds (yes, even diet cereals) turn into large amounts of sugar in the body–about 20 teaspoons of sugar per 2 cup serving–and have no place in the diet of an obese person trying to lose weight.
So after viewing this episode, I decided to post a comment on the Weight of a Nation Facebook page. Here is what I wrote and a comment I received.
Now this guy, because he is thin and has always been thin, thinks he is the picture of health. I see this all of the time. We assume that because someone is thin they are the picture of health. As with Richard, he is walking around, eating what sounds like a diet extremely high in processed food and sugar, thinking he is healthy and will always be healthy as long as he stays thin. Until he starts having joint pain, chronic inflammation, constant heartburn, or any number of other conditions resulting from high-sugar diets, he will continue to be misled into thinking that being thin is the only marker of health and vitality. Richard and his diet remind me of something I used to say a lot, “America. A land where even the thin people are fat.”
Richard’s comment also reveals another ugly truth about how many thin people think about overweight people–that fundamentally being fat is about being weak willed and it is a character flaw. That he can eat “until he is more than full” and still keep his thin frame makes him better than all of us who can’t without packing on pounds. He is just like the annoying, skinny girl in high school who would exclaim, “I eat and eat and I never seem to be able to gain weight!” Ugh.
I still highly recommend the documentary. It had a lot of good information, and at least it is trying to change the conversation around obesity to be more constructive. However, with all of the experts and all of the data presented, I wonder how they keep getting it so wrong. Obesity is a biochemical problem, and not one of thermodynamics (calories in, calories out). There is such a huge difference between these two approaches–one promotes health and weight loss, while the other is a frustrating numbers game in which people always lose.