Fighting the fat of the land

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, June 3, 2014 8:40pm
  • Opinion

We just fester with prejudice. As deep-seated as racial and sexual biases are, at least we’re dealing with them, and most of us understand that they’re wrong. But when it comes to our intolerance of weight, we don’t give a second thought. Our body bigotry is so ingrained that we consider it completely acceptable to make fun of fat people and to consider those who are overweight to be lesser people. What’s really ridiculous is that the contempt is aimed at an awful lot of us.

A brand-new study tallies the rate of obesity in the United States at nearly a third of the population, over 87 million Americans. Not only do all of us suffer terrible hits to our self-esteem (yes, I’ve struggled with weight my entire life, which is why I have such strong feelings about the issue), but there are the physical dangers of that excess poundage: diabetes, heart problems, cancer, the list goes on. Obesity itself is a disease, often brought on by an addiction not just to food but, more insidiously, to the toxic concoctions the processors prepare and constantly advertise. Their products are loaded with salt, sugar, fat and other ingredients that are designed to hook us, with little attention paid to the public health consequences.

Any attempts to intervene are crushed by the conglomerates that make massive profits by pushing their narcotic morsels on us. They particularly target our children. Woe be to the political figure who tries to intervene. Just ask Michelle Obama.

One would think that the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign and its stated goal of helping our young people get fit would not be all that controversial. Of course, anything with the Obama name attached to it will be controversial; the Republicans and the wealthy selfish interests will see to that. But if we lived in a logical world, an ideal place to begin with good nutrition would be the school cafeteria. What would make more sense than replacing unhealthy fare with healthy? No deep-fried stuff, no empty calories. Instead, offer up tasty, nutritious choices.

But the manufacturers and purveyors of the bad stuff don’t like that. So they’ve enlisted their GOP buddies in Congress to take “Let’s Move” and stop it dead in its tracks.

Educators — some of them, anyway — have been recruited to complain that the kiddies just won’t eat their veggies and fruits. They want pizza with tomato sauce to be declared a vegetable. Their resistance is amplified in Washington by school-nutrition associations who claim laudable purpose until you look closely and discover that a bulk of their financing comes from industry. That’s all the House Republicans need. So now they’re trying to pass legislation that would allow local districts to get a waiver from requirements that they serve healthy meals. Pardon the pun, but that would gut the campaign.

Wouldn’t a better idea be for them to work harder to come up with taste-pleasing and creative ways to offer selections that students like even though they’re good for them?

To her credit, Ms. Obama is fighting back — or, in this case, writing back. There she was on The New York Times op-ed page telling us that “Our kids deserve so much more than this.” She was referring to the usual game that our politicians play where the well-being of citizens is completely ignored.

Obesity is right up there with cigarette smoking when it comes to habits that can kill us, habits that are incredibly difficult to break. Certainly, one has to admire Chris Christie’s willingness to struggle with his obesity, and cheer him on.

Clearly, though, the better way would be to develop healthy eating routines in our children, which, along with encouraging exercise is what “Let’s Move” is about. The question is, Will it survive the Washington swamp? You know the answer: Fat chance.

 

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.

The Final Redistricting Map approved for the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna area is seen on Nov. 9, 2021. (Map via akredistrict.org)
Alaska Voices: The Alaska Redistricting Board’s last-minute gerrymandering failed Alaska

Our Constitution outlines rules for a redistricting process designed to uphold public trust.