Can we disgust people into healthier living?

A couple weeks ago my colleague Meghann Lloyd sent me an interesting link to this article in the Globe and Mail, describing a possible new Australian anti-obesity campaign “similar to the displays on cigarette packages that are designed to gross people out“. From the Globe:

The ads would show damaged organs, people drinking body fat, or eating packets of sugar in an effort to shock people into eating more healthfully.

“There is no doubt that obesity is going to overtake smoking as the major killer for Australians,” the [Australian Medical] association’s president Dr. Andrew Pesce told the Herald. “We have been campaigning against smoking for 30 years and are starting to see smoking rates decrease. Obesity is our next target.”

The ads would be modelled after a campaign introduced by New York City health department in 2009. That department has since churned out gross-out ads like this one depicting a man drinking human fat poured out of a can of pop, and this one showing a man downing packets of sugar, with the tagline: “You’d never eat 16 packs of sugar. Why would you drink 16 packs of sugar?”

For those who are curious, here are the above-mentioned ads from the previous campaign in New York, upon which the current Australian campaign is being modeled (email subscribers can view the videos on our website).

Video:  Drinking Fat

Video: Drinking Sugar

These campaigns in Australia and NY are not alone.  For example, this video (embedded below) is being heavily promoted here in Ontario, and features a child’s face transposed onto the body of an adult with obesity.

And then there is this one from a previous Australian campaign which compares feeding your kid a hamburger with injecting them with heroin.  Seriously.

I have a number of concerns with these types of videos.  First of all, they tend to use fear-messages, and I’m skeptical about how useful that is as a public-health strategy.  I’ve been discussing it with a number of colleagues recently, and the consensus seems to be that fear-messages cause people to tune out more often than not (this is my personal reaction most of the time as well).  Of the four videos I’ve posted, I like the “eating sugar” video from New York the most, since it is both funny and informative, and steers clear of the fear-mongering aspect.  The final two, however, are plainly meant to terrify parents into action, and I just don’t see that being terribly effective.

Another issue with this type of ad (especially the last two) is that they seem to place all of the blame for obesity on parents/individuals.  This is a problem because we know that obesity is not solely the cause of the parent or individual – societal factors like socio-economic status, the built environment (e.g. whether a community is conducive to active transportation, or has access to healthy, nutrient dense foods) and even junk food ads on TV are all likely playing an extremely important role.  Keep in mind that even animal populations have seen rapid weight gains in recent years, suggesting the recent increases in childhood obesity are not simply the result of an epidemic of irresponsible parents.

Finally, obese individuals are already discriminated against, and these ads (particularly the Ontario ad) seem to promote the idea that there is something inherently wrong with obese individuals, even if they are otherwise healthy. For example, the Ontario ad implicitly suggests that simply being obese (with or without health complications) is a terrifying prospect.   Note the language used in the last line of the add “and maybe I won’t suffer from high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes, or this [points to body]“.  That type of wording seems problematic, to say the least.

This is of course an extremely complicated issue.  I’ve spoken with several individuals who are overweight or obese who find it depressing to see headline after headline linking excess weight with all manner of health problems, and I’m sure that some of the posts on this blog have the same effect.  I’m not sure that it’s possible to make a public service announcement about obesity without having a similar impact.  Although I’m not sure that we really should be making ads about obesity anyway – why not focus solely on the healthy behaviours that we are trying to promote?  Adopting a healthy lifestyle can have an important health impact regardless of its impact on body weight, and this is ultimately far more controllable than weight anyway.  This isn’t going to cure the obesity epidemic in and of itself, but I do think that educating the public is an important part of any concerted effort to improve the health of our society.  In the end, I’m in favour of PSA’s that promote healthy active living, I’m just not sure if intentionally disgusting or vilifying parents is an effective way to do it.

Hat tips to Meghann Lloyd and Maria Fernanda Nunez for pointing out the above videos.

Travis

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42 Responses to Can we disgust people into healthier living?

  1. k.sol says:

    “Although I’m not sure that we really should be making ads about obesity anyway – why not focus solely on the healthy behaviours that we are trying to promote? Adopting a healthy lifestyle can have an important health impact regardless of its impact on body weight, and this is ultimately far more controllable than weight anyway. ”

    Yes, yes, YES! Equating health with weight alone has caused all manner of ills — eating disorders, yoyo dieting and fat shaming among them. It hasn’t worked. Healthy behaviors at every size is what should be the focus — not the “right” BMI range.

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  2. Scicurious says:

    AUGH AUGH AUGH AUGH!!!

    I saw the drinking body fat one while I was eating LUNCH!!!

    Whyyyyyy. OMG that was terrible. So I guess that was effective then…

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  3. Dirk Hanson says:

    There’s not a lot of hard evidence that grisly cigarette packages deter smokers, but soon the U.S. will have them, too. I share your skepticism about icky obesity ads. Some recent research supports the notion that viewing positive images of smoking/drinking can cause imitative behaviors, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it reliably works in reverse, as aversive therapy. If it did, then little Alex would not have been giving us that sly wink at the end of “Clockwork Orange.”

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  4. Habitant says:

    …I understand and agree with many things in your post. Namely, obesity is not just an issue of an individual and it is has incredibly multifaceted range of determinants including such things as built environments and after yesterday`s weight bias discrimination symposium, I would try to avoid worsening this issue ext ext. However, these ads are addressing the `individual` and yes, I would agree, IDEALLY we would promote healthy active living with no diets and eating healthy enough with a smile on our face and enjoying the physical activity that we do.

    BUT if these advertisements were purely positive and promoted positive lifestyles, what would they entail? Would we send people to the Canada Food Guide or Physical Activity Guidelines? …We are both aware of the problems with the former and the later is more your area but I feel as though that those who are already physically active are in no need of these guidelines and those that are not are generally aware that they should do more….

    So let us brainstorm… how to make a PSA that promotes healthy active living without vilifying BUT remaining useful and not merely sending people to a set of guidelines?

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    • Travis says:

      @ Habitant

      Terrific questions. Personally I like ads that are humorous but informative, and I find that the sugar packets ad from NY fits that description. Although it still focuses on what *not* to do, which seems an odd strategy when you get right down to it.

      One idea I’ve heard people suggest is to try to make healthy active living more socially desireable. It’s not my area of expertise, but I’ve been told that making smoking seem ‘uncool’ is a more effective strategy for preventing teen smoking than scary imagery on the packaging. Making physical activity socially desireable seems like a good way to promote the healthy lifestyle while minimizing the negative aspects of PSA, assuming that it is well-done.

      I agree that sending people to a set of guidelines isn’t going to be a very effective call to action. In general I am of the belief that guidelines are more for health care practitioners and those of us doing population surveillance, rather than necessarily being useful for the average person in the community. Guidelines are not synonymous with public health messaging, in my opinion. As for the other issues related to the new PA Guidelines, I’m planning a detailed post on the issue once they are officially released later this month.

      One of the problems with these PSAs in general is that healthy active living isn’t necessarily easy (especially for those who need it the most), and the programs that these people need may not be there, or may be insufficient. And so I think PSAs will always fall flat until we have better support for people once they choose to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

      Travis

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      • Penny says:

        Yes! We often fall into the tendency of defining what is healthy by instead defining what it is not. I’m currently co-teaching a class (with Diane Finegood) in which we require the students to write weekly blog posts that address the question “What is Healthy?” by finding or taking pictures and discussing how the pictures illustrate health (wrt to obesity).

        A key aspect of their discussions is to identify ways to challenge conventional norms or misconceptions about obesity or the system that gives rise to obesity, provide ideas of nudges that support healthy behaviour, or suggest future actions to improve or change health. While it’s only the first week into the five week project, already we’ve got some inspiring ideas and good critical thinking.

        http://blogs.sfu.ca/courses/spring2011/kin417-808/?p=446

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        • Travis says:

          That sounds like an awesome project, Penny. Thanks for the link, I’m interested to hear how the next 4 weeks go!

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    • float says:

      When I turn on the TV I get fed a ton of commercials promoting healthy livestyle products for all ages (microbiotic yoghurt, cholesterol reducing margarine). These ads work at least based on the huge profits these products make. So let’s just remix those ads and replace useless healthy consumer product with useful incentive. E.g. instead of the middle aged guy joking Because of yoghurt I will satisfy your wives when you’re gone due to your unhealthy lifestyles let him say I go to work by bike every day with the money i save on gas and my enhanced stamina I will even get them before you get your first heart attack.

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  5. Sim says:

    I think my main issue with these adds is that they perpetuate the myth that all overweight people are sitting on their butts stuffing their faces with sugar and fat. This is simply not true. It has been proven time and time again that fear is a very poor motivator, but these add companies (and society in general) don’t seem to be able to come up with anything else. As an australian when I saw that add with the heroin overtones I felt physically ill at how low our country had sunk.

    There was an interesting show on over here in Australia, possibly the first approach I’ve seen that makes SENSE!! here’s the link http://www.sbs.com.au/documentary/program/houseoffoodobsessives
    Imagine! – treating people as human beings with emotions and brains and not selfish lazy eating machines! (although there are still biases evident at least it’s a step in the right direction!)

    Funny thing is apparently stress levels are much better indicators for many of the conditions that the obese suffer from, and advertisements like this do nothing if not increase stress levels!

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  6. Smeddley says:

    No one would eat packets of sugar? Really?

    Two words: pixie stix

    As far as shocking people into doing something, it might have a very short-term effect, but probably not very substantial. In my own experience (which I know does not extend to everyone!) I found that one episode of Hoarders makes me clean my house, but by the third or fourth I’ve become desensitized. Plus, if they’re commercials, I would fast forward over them when watching things on my DVR or not see them during live TV because I was switching out the laundry, etc.

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  7. Scottie says:

    I agree with Travis’s sentiment and would prefer to see messages promoting healthy lifestyles rather than using fear to try and generate change. Personally at least, I’ve found myself most motivated when I’ve learned about something that will work to help me to achieve my goals.

    Also, do you think that making people feel bad about their eating without giving enough education about healthier options leaves them more susceptible to due dubious health claims made by food and supplement companies? It seems to me in my daily life, the majority of “health” messages I see come from advertising.

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  8. Janis says:

    The biggest failure I see with these sorts of things is that they aren’t going to actually disgust anyone. They’ll bother some people, but for the most part, we are a community of creatures who pay money to go to a movie theater and willingly watch far more disgusting things. These videos will just make people — especially pre-teen kids who are at risk — go, “Coooooool … ” and “Awesome, look at that guy’s face man … ” They won’t achieve a thing. I’ve seen anti-drug ads that try to do the same thing and fail — use heroin-chic looking models to say “drugs are bad.” Won’t work.

    I’m not sure there is any way that a television spot can’t work to promote the very thing they are looking to eradicate. I seriously think that the “grammar” of television itself will work to promote anything. Like I said, people pay money to go watch movies that show people’s faces melting off and being raped to death with knives, and we think these silly little things will have an effect? And moreover that people don’t like the disgusting and offensive?

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  9. Barry Rueger says:

    Several years ago I was talking with some young employees about smoking, the risks, the addiction potential and such. I wound up expressing frustration that people who know all of these things still light up. “Why,” I asked, “Do teenagers still start smoking?”

    One young kid smiled and chirped in with “Easy, smoking is cool!

    He was being funny, but the point is central to any discussion of health, diet, or choice of drugs. You do, eat, or smoke what your friends do, eat, or smoke.

    At any age.

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    • @Barry – good point. Much of the recent work showing that most health behaviours are ‘transmitted’ through social networks certainly agree with your sentiment.

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    • So true! I always point out to my clients that it’s not about what you are doing, it’s what it does for you. With smoking, it’s usually security and acceptance (at least to start). With obesity, I’ve discovered food is usually a way to feel comfort, safety and security. It would be interesting to research whether fear-based ads actually increase food intake in the obese – I have a feeling they might.

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  10. Jennifer says:

    It’s so screamingly obvious that these ads won’t work that I can’t believe anybody would actually spend money on them. Especially since the problem isn’t really glugging down bottles of fat!

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  11. George D says:

    I don’t know about food – there are a bunch of issues at play here which makes this highly problematic. Current Australian TV advertising takes a different tack – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dL4lN6GKi4

    But I do think that such a thing, particularly combined with a social shame function, would be particularly useful in reviving the lost practice of handwashing. In developing countries handwashing is still shockingly underpracticed, and in developed countries a large percentage fail to wash, and more fail to wash properly and regularly. A huge burden of disease. AusAID funds community based shame/education programs in Indonesia, to great effect. I could see negative advertising being useful in the developed world too.

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  12. Quinlan says:

    All I can see these adds doing is piling even more stigma onto people with obesity, equating their condition with the most disgusting habits/lifestyles even when a heck of a lot of fat people don’t live extreme lifestyles and do make genuine efforts to live a healthy life but remain at least overweight even with a moderate lifestyle.

    …and the thing about stigma, is that if anything it makes people LESS healthy, more stressed and less likely to engage in healthy habits, ultimately these kind of campaigns could actually result in people being fatter and more unhealthy .

    A lot of research has already shown that many fat people internalise stigma and shaming, so rather than seeing eating sugar and fat as disgusting, they will see themselves as disgusting and will avoid things that bring attention to their body size like exercising in public or seeking medical treatment.

    Not only these campaigns but the whole medical field need to start thinking about obesity as independent of habits. If people are engaging in unhealthy habits focus on the habits not the condition! It’s like if homosexuals have a higher risk of STIs you don’t say “stop being gay!” you say “have safe sex!”. That way gays don’t get heaped with stigma and your message might help other groups with health risks.

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    • @Quinlan

      This statement of yours sums it up perfectly:

      “If people are engaging in unhealthy habits focus on the habits not the condition! ”

      You are exactly right! We’ve been saying this ever since we started blogging – many of the subjects in our own research became significantly healthier in all parameters DESPITE minimal or no change in body weight. And yet the focus remains solely on body weight.

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  13. WRG says:

    I think Quinlan sums it up nicely. There is no value in shaming people. None whatsoever. Sadly, that’s the prevalent approach both in the weight blogosphere and certainly on TV. One viewing of Biggest Loser was enough to make my head explode.

    The short answer to your question is NO.

    P.S. Sorry you didn’t get to Science On-Line. My husband (with our older son) and I asked him to say hi to you from me, a frequent reader. He gave the message to Peter, though.

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  14. Thomas says:

    While focusing on the obesity might be a bad idea, I am wondering why everybody is so forgiving about obesity? you think that the majority of obese people are healthy and fit (i.e. they recover from surgery equally fast or even faster than thin, fit, athletic people)? I doubt it. You can’t be athletic and fit with 300 pounds (except for probably a few outliers).

    “why not focus solely on the healthy behaviours that we are trying to promote?”

    because nobody gives a f—? same reason nobody cares where meat comes from. if obese people would have to take responsibility for their action (which at the moment they don’t have to do), the situation might be different. Therefore i think you can get a handle on obesity by enforcing personal responsibility.

    travis, i don’t know if you read peter’s personal blog (about his journey to LA) but while he was in peru he exclaimed that he didn’t see all that many obese people there. guess that goes against your environmental claim…

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    • Travis says:

      Thomas,

      Not sure I understand your argument. People who live in Peru are exposed to a very different social and built environment than those of us in North America – so how do their lower obesity rates go against the idea that obesity rates are influenced by environmental factors? Or are you referring to simply the ecological environment? I’ve presented data myself at conferences suggesting that as developing societies become more like our own, their physical activity levels drop, and obesity levels rise – which is consistent with my earlier statements, and with the lower obesity rates in nations like Peru.

      I would argue that right now obese individuals are constantly being told to take more “personal responsibility” for their weight, with little or no positive impact on public health. Again, I’m not discounting that individual decisions play a role, but you have to actively ignore a lot of research if you choose to believe that external factors are irrelevant. If it were all about personal responsibility, then one would have to assume that the obesity epidemic is due primarily to an epidemic of personal irresponsibility in the past 40 years – an idea that doesn’t hold-up under intense scrutiny.

      Also, if you can refrain from dropping f-bombs when they are not absolutely necessary that would be greatly appreciated. Our blog is read by both students and policy makers, and we’d hate to lose readers or have our site blocked simply because people can’t think of a more appropriate phrasing. I have edited out the word for that reason.

      Travis

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      • Thomas says:

        I took up the environmental argument because i find it weird. the reasoning is weird. so a junk food ad is responsible for obese people (among other things)? you understand obese people and their choice to eat heavily and way too much because of a junk food ad? Problem i have with this is…. wouldn’t you be ok with me shooting your mother if gun ads shot people? and if not, why?

        “I would argue that right now obese individuals are constantly being told to take more “personal responsibility” for their weight, ”

        Link? I am not in Canada. But i can’t seem to think of anything that would take action against obese/fat/unfit people in my country to be honest. airlines still can’t charge obese people more than their thinner travellers.

        “if you can refrain from dropping f-bombs”

        sure, although that softness might be a cause of why we still have unfit/obese folks amongst us ;)

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    • Quinlan says:

      Thomas, one problem I can see with your example is that most people with obesity (if they are of average height) are about 90 lbs lighter than your example if they are men and for women it’s about 125lbs lighter.

      So you’re example is very extreme, if you take more typical weights for obese people like 205lbs for the average height man and 175lbs for the average height women it’s not as hard to imagine these people being potentially quite fit and healthy or recovering well from surgery.

      Have you heard of the obesity paradox by the way?

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      • Thomas says:

        Yes, a 205lbs man can be fit but i am not sure if he would be. do you have some data on that?

        “Have you heard of the obesity paradox by the way?”

        Yes, though i am not sure what good it does in this context, if you mean that obese people recover quicker from illnesses that occur more often amongst obese people?

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    • WRG says:

      Forgiving about obesity? Ha! Walk a mile in an overweight person’s shoes and you’ll see just how “forgiving” this society is.

      I suggest everyone read the Rudd Center’s report on weight bias:
      http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/bias/WeightBiasPolicyRuddReport.pdf

      Forgiving is the last word I would use.

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    • Alexie says:

      The difference the environment and economics makes is extraordinary. I live in a small town in Germany. I don’t have a car, because there’s nowhere to garage it, so I walk everywhere. If I bought a car, the cost of putting it somewhere every night would be huge. Most people ride bikes over short/medium distances. The junk food supply is on the edge of town, which would be a 40 minute walk – I’m not that motivated by the stuff.

      Within two minutes of my house is a butcher, a baker, several greengrocers, and a farmer’s market. If I want mince, the butcher will select a piece of meat and grind it in front of me. It is easier and cheaper to buy ingredients and cook with them, than it is to seek out packaged food. The packaged food is quite tasteless, as compared to what’s available in the Anglophone world; I suspect this is because of Germany’s fierce labelling laws. Something must be what it says on the tin. So applesauce is just apples. No artificial ingredients. It’s hard to make packaged foods tasty without lots of fat and salt.

      Overall, I am economically better off if I eat healthily and walk everywhere.

      In the Anglophone countries, on the other hand, it is easier and cheaper to buy pre-prepared foods. If I buy mince in a supermarket, it may well have been treated to keep it fresh longer, as may the fruit and vegetables. Labelling laws mean things aren’t always what they say they are – a simple ham sandwich might not be ham on bread, but mechanically recovered meat combined with flavouring from a laboratory.

      Result? Since coming here, I have learned to be a pretty good cook, and my formerly very overweight boyfriend has lost plenty of weight, without trying to.

      Economics and environment count.

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  15. Rick says:

    I’m not your “typical” blog contributor. But this article caught my attention because it is so near a dear to my heart, as I too have suffered for all of my 53 years through varying levels of obesity despite years and years of diets & exercise. Through it all, I have NEVER been able to achieve a weight or BMI that the doctors or weight charts would consider “normal”. Am I fat? No, I don’t think so, but at 5′ 10″ and 193 lbs, I probably am according to the charts. So I understand all too well the problem of which we speak.

    Unfortunately, what I hear too often in these types of discussions are unnecessary emotions that range from angry disgust on one hand to condescending pity on the other. So, what I would suggest is this.

    For those of you who find yourselves on the disgusted extreme of the spectrum, give it up. Your advice is neither wanted nor appreciated. We who suffer daily from obesity, whatever the root cause (which by the way is most often NOT the result of simple irresponsibility), do not need your condescendingly judgmental attitude. It isn’t motivational and it certainly isn’t helpful, so we’d as soon you kept your opinions to yourselves. And for those of you who fall on the pity end of the spetrum, thanks, but no thanks. We don’t view ourselves as pitiful so save your empathy. Most of us already know the status of our situation and its likely results, so feeling sorry for us probably is not a whole lot more helpful (albeit mroe well intentioned) than the shame being dished out by the “fatty haters”.

    To the bulk of you who are genuinely concerned and just trying to help, I say thanks, but I think you’re missing a key point here. The root cause of the obesity problem for a great many people is not just a physiological condition that they’ve brought on through conscious actions, but rather a cause and affect situation fed by a negative state of mind. So if you simply treat it as a behavioral problem (overeating/ not exercising) alone, you miss the underlying physcholgical issues that gave rise to the behaviors in the first place.

    That said this is not a problem that can be fixed with commercials, platitudes and campaign slogans. So with all due respect you’re all going to have to dig a little deeper than marketing a new ad campaign or building an organic supermarket in the middle of a “food desert” in order to make a dent in the obesity problem. You have to treat the person, not the problem. Obesity, at its core, is a very personal problem. Each of us have our own triggers that cause our binge or habitual eating, and each of us are motivated differently. So I thin the country would do well to stop looking for the mystical silver bullet that will end obesity and let doctors handle their patients’ dietary needs one-on-one.

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    • @Rick – Thank you for sharing your thoughts. For a long time I was also largely ignorant of the psychological aspects that can lead to obesity among many people. A couple of years ago I visited a bariatric clinic run by a close friend of mine and sat in on some of his consultations with patients. I was absolutely amazed at how frequently the apparent cause of their behaviour which lead to excess weight originated from some emotional or psychological issue from their past.

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      • Rhodia says:

        For me also my morbid obesity (BMI 37) was due in significant measure to emotional/psychological issues focused on food, weight, and body image. I developed binge eating disorder as a result of obsessive dieting and calorie counting.

        Now, thank God, I am free of obsessive dieting and binge eating, as well as obesity. I am still a little bit overweight (BMI 25.7) but I am healthy and active.

        But the point being, the treatment for an obese person with binge eating disorder would need to be different from an obese person for whom the pounds just crept up over the years as he got busier and had less time for exercise and healthy food choices.

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      • Janis says:

        I have to be a bit skeptical about this … From what I’ve seen just of people in general, I might instead say, “I’m amazed at how frequently they claimed that the apparent cause of their behavior was something in their past.” It’s just very simple and easy — and encouraged in certain settings — to say that any given problem a person has is all down to have been laughed at once when they were three. I’m just not sure that those judgments of “I overeat because my mother didn’t love me” are entirely trustworthy. They may be connected in a given person’s mind, but that doesn’t mean they really are causally related … or that if that person has an engrained tendency to react to stress by overeating, that they won’t simply use the next stressor as the reason for their overeating. (Or any other addiction.)

        If their mother didn’t love them, they use their addiction. If their mother loved them, then their bad school experience is the reason. If their mother loved them and they enjoyed school, it’s a first-time heartbreak. If their mother loved them, they enjoyed school, and married their first sweetheart happily, it’s college stress. If not that, work stress. In any case, the specific stressor isn’t the root cause of the problem, it’s the fact that that tripwire exists in the first place. Because let’s face it, life WILL hit your tripwires eventually.

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        • Rick says:

          @ Janis

          Well, I’m pretty sure that nothing I said implied that I believed that obesity was merely the result of chronic excuse-seekers blaming the most convenient scapegoat for their culinary “mis-behaviors”. What I did say, and I do firmly believe, is that obesity is the result of more than just a bunch of lazy, fat people sitting around the TV making excuses for their potato chip addiction. You would do well to look beyond the all-too-easy explanation and your personal biases if you really want to find a solution to the problem of overweight people. I know a great many who try desperately and repeatedly to lose weight only to find themselves eventually back in the same place.

          There is, whether you choose to believe it or not, a real psychological aspect to over-eating and weight gain… like any other addiction. In fact I will argue that it’s probably easier to quit smoking than to lose a significant amount of weight (and I’ve done both).

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          • Janis says:

            “Well, I’m pretty sure that nothing I said implied that I believed that obesity was merely the result of chronic excuse-seekers blaming the most convenient scapegoat for their culinary “mis-behaviors”.”

            Well that’s good because neither did I.

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  16. Michele says:

    What if as a society we quit making beer and soda the most readily available drinks in sporting arenas–bring the water to the forefront and lower the price. Offer low-fat string cheese and pretzels along side Nachos. Figure out how to fill vending machines with apples and carrots and celery. Surely you can replace a bag of high-fat chips with a bag of slivered almonds or no-sugar added (and no sugar-substitute added) dried cranberries or box of raisins in a vending machine. Let’s put some of the onus back on the folks who are wholesaling the food.

    Even as a medical writer and scientist, knowing what I know, I get really tired of the fear-mongering on health, especially that of pharmaceutical companies or large health institutions that push screening. In those two cases I feel like the fear mongering is motivated by financial gain from the parties involved, and that annoys me (drug companies want to sell drugs; health institutions know that patients who get screened for everything imaginable usually have insurance). I tend to rebel against that.

    Michele

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    • WRG says:

      Michele,

      Some interesting ideas, but just a little note: cranberries without some sort of sweetener (whether natural or artificial) are totally inedible. They are sour beyond belief. We made some wonderful home-made cranberry sauce over the holidays and actually tasted the cranberries before adding the sugar. No one could stomach them. Believe me–and we’re not big eaters of sugary snacks in this household.

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    • Rick says:

      Michelle, you’re thinking about the edibles at the ball park/ stadium as if they were all fungible and interchangible (hmmm, shold I have a hot dog and a beer or water and a tofu salad?). Sports fans don’t simply grab the most readily available food commodity and liquid refreshment. It’s just not that simple. All we’d accomplish if we were to try to make beer, soda, hot dogs, nachos and the like less accessable at the stadium is to frustrate the patrons (who go there to have a cold beer and watch their favorite sport), put vendors out of business, and perhaps make the paying customers stay home.

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  18. Rhodia says:

    I’d prefer to ads that focus on encouraging healthy behaviours, rather than ads that try to “shame” people into abandoning unhealthy behaviours.

    How about an ad that promotes cycling as transportation?

    How about an ad that promotes eating Ontario produce? (or whatever province you happen to be in) This would encourage the eating of vegetables and fruits as well as promote local agriculture. The ad could change depending on what’s in season at the moment.

    How about an ad that promotes the city’s recreation facilities, including free ones like trails and bike paths?

    How about an ad that promotes eating a variety of different colours of fruits and vegetables? They could make it look really luscious and appealing.

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