Friday, January 8, 2010

Re-evaluating Obesity

I saw an open heart surgery a few weeks ago. And I never want to see another one in my life.

What the food industry has done to us is very disturbing. It's messed with people's minds and mouths. It's made our country and much of the world obese. And we can't stand for it any more.

CBS gets this message: they aired Where Americans Stand on Obesity yesterday and pointed out that the American Dietetic Association is sponsored by companies such as Coca Cola, PepsiCo, and Mars.

But luckily, the Hunger & Environmental Nutrition (HEN) Dietetic Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association also gets this message. We have an ADA Corporate Relations Sponsors Review Task Force and are developing a survey that will go out to HEN members (and other registered dietitians eventually) to obtain data we can present to ADA so that this organization can start to change its practices.

This is one of the things that has to happen if we are ever to solve the obesity crisis in this country. Another thing we have to do is reexamine our practices, see if they're aligned with our morals, and most importantly rethink the questions we're asking so that we can learn from our mistakes (as Jim Wallis argues in his new book Rediscovering Values on Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street: A Moral Compass for the New Economy). And don't ever forget, everything's related: the rise in obesity and chronic disease is related to the economy - it has drastically increased the amount of money being spent in our sickcare system...billions of dollars are being spent treating chronic diseases. What did centenarians do centuries ago?? Not spend billions of dollars on a sickcare system, that's for sure.

Let's start with a few new questions, then. First off: What guidelines should we be using to determine the food we put into our bodies? In Michael Pollan's new book Food Rules, he lays out 64 simply put guidelines for what foods to eat, such as "don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food," "avoid foods you see advertised on television," and "don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk." For the reader who wants a bit more detail, check out Marion Nestle's book What to Eat.

Here's another question: What's the root cause of the obesity epidemic? My answer: agricultural policy. Corn and soy subsidies and a Farm Bill limitation on growing fruits and vegetables, supported by no other than the specialty crop growers who don't want the prices of fruits and vegetables to go down because then they will lose money. That's why I wrote an independent study paper for Marion Nestle last semester on the corn and soy subsidies. (Which, by the way, I'm going to revise and revise until it's good enough to be taken seriously by people with power. So if you want to contribute to the conversation, by all means share your thoughts with me.)

Let's do this. Growing our own food is so much better than open heart surgeries.


Dr. Susan Rubin said...

The root cause of obesity? Capitalism.

Thats how we ended up with subsidies in the farm bill.

Our health care system is based on capitalism. Disease is profitable, health is not. We pay our healers when we are sick, we don't pay healers to stay well.

School food is required to break even or to turn a profit.

None of these things will change until we change our values. Right here in the US, we honor the almighty buck before everything else.

Jess said...

This is really powerful.

I work as an RD for a Head Start program; I'm constantly trying to get staff and families to change their ways and become healthy role models for their children; however, when the schools cannot offer anything but chicken nuggets and hamburgers as entree items and people believe that something called the drive-thru diet will actually help them lose weight, we will not see a change. I second the comment about capitalism.

Kelly said...

I haven't read Jim Wallis' book yet that I mentioned, but I heard him speak on Thursday evening at Riverside Church in NYC. So far I've gathered that he discusses using the positive aspects of capitalism for the betterment of society ("don't throw out the baby with the bathwater"). I think it is really intriguing. Once I read the book I'll have a better idea of how to relate his points to public health. But for now, we can focus on agricultural policy & the Farm Bill.

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Maria Bella said...

Kelly, great work!!! You know that we are your biggest fans. There are times when I go without reading your entries for a while and then spend a few hours catching up :=). This time around I am actually printing out a few pages for my clients. If you don't mind, I may even give them out at a few health fairs that I am doing soon.

Kelly said...

Maria, Glad to hear you enjoy my posts, although I have been really bad about keeping up with this blog! It hasn't exactly been a priority, with my new job, finishing grad school, and volunteer work I cannot seem to escape (not to mention I still have to study for & take the RD exam). However you can certainly share with your clients! A much more up-to-date source of information is my twitter stream, - I try to post articles that I believe are worth sharing.