The Obesity Task Force

Today is Obesity Task Force Day on the Hill and I have been trying to discern whether the obese will be able to use this task force to do tasks we need done (I, for instance, could use some help with weeding) or if the task force will give me tasks to accomplish. I have become the person who makes fun of the obesity task force.

I joke, because, of course because it’s kind of funny to watch well-meaning people pretend like it’s not about finding you disgusting and wanting to ensure no further people like you exist in the state, that really, it’s about health.

I mean, please. If it was about health, why didn’t they call it the Healthy Tennesseans Task Force?

Well-meaning people never like it when you point out that you understand that they hate you. No, no, we don’t hate you, we just find you disgusting we think you need to “be healthy.”

Well, I’m not going to be healthy (or less disgusting looking). I’ve got some shit going on with my body (which, if you read here you know) and it is what it is. Since some of the shit going on with my body is an incredibly common thing they estimate one in ten women has, whether she knows it or not, I imagine a lot of the women and girls you look at and feel disgusted by are concerned for their health are also experiencing the same thing.

I can’t tell you how incredibly angry it still makes me that I saw doctors my whole life who were all, “You’re too fat.” “You’re lying about what you’re eating and how much exercise you’re getting.” “You must loose weight.” and it wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that a doctor said, “Hmm, if even part of what you’re saying is true, something is not right here. Let’s investigate.”

And, lo and behold. I was/am stuck with this ongoing crap I will have to medicate myself about for the rest of my life. But which I have always had. It was always there, just waiting to be discovered.

Do I still wish I were going to wake up one day and weigh 155 pounds? Not as much as I did, but yeah. Sometimes.

But here’s the thing. I don’t want to devote my life to it–I don’t want to devote my life to shit that has, my whole life, made me miserable. Maybe that makes me a weak person to admit that in public, but that’s the truth. I have been on the “if only I try harder, then [that person will love me/I'll be thin and beautiful/all my dreams will come true]” merry-go-round my whole damn life.

And fuck it if I’m going to sit here and have some state task force dress it up like, if I don’t try harder, I’m failing the people of Tennessee.

People of Tennessee, I’m playing in the garden. I’m taking my dog to the park. I’m lounging in the hammock, talking to my friends and watching the cats hunt. I pay my bills on time. I pay my taxes. I’m not giving meth to your children. I’m living a good life, that makes me happy; I’m not failing you.

There’s nothing about me to be afraid of. It’s not actually unpleasant to be fat (nor is it pleasant). It’s just having a body.

I know you mean well, Obesity Task Force, but I also get that you hate and are disgusted by me.

I have gotten that message my whole life (ironically enough, even back when I weighed 155 pounds).

And I’m here to tell you that drumming into a fat person that you are disgusted by her are concerned about her “health,” may indeed make her desperately wish she were not fat, but it has done NOTHING to make us a less fat society.

I looked at the Tennessee Obesity Task Force page. And these are their targeted areas:

  1. Increased physical activity.
  2. Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  3. Decreased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  4. Increased breastfeeding initiation and duration.
  5. Reduced consumption of high-energy-dense foods.
  6. Decreased screen (TV/Video) time.

Notice there’s nothing about improving neighborhood safety so that kids can play outside or walk to school. Nothing about addressing levels of pollution and the rise of asthma in our population. Nothing about early screening and treatment of endocrine disorders. Nothing about addressing whether people can get timely health care for conditions that, if left untreated, could make it harder for them to be mobile.

It’s all about how, if people are fat, it’s because they are fucking up.

And yet, it’s somehow impolite for fat people to react with hostility to the hostile message we’re being met with, because people mean well.

I know I’ve told this story a million times, but I think of it often, how a history professor we had told us about how all the “good” women of Chicago who were benefactors of Hull House would go into the tenements and hold classes teaching the women in the slums how to cook eggs properly and how to properly keep their apartments clean. And this program went on for a while until one of the immigrant women said, “It’s not that I don’t know how to cook eggs; I’ve got no money for eggs. It’s not that I don’t know how to clean my home; our only window opens onto the vent for the coal-fired furnace.”

And here we are, a hundred years later, and the Obesity Task Force has discerned a problem and is going to come in and teach us all how to eat and move around.

Well, the poor people whose lives you’ve diagnosed from the outside are going to discern the same strain of clueless bullshit from you guys.

And I’m writing this post so that when it happens I can sit back and say, “I told you so.”

But I’m a bitch like that.

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49 thoughts on “The Obesity Task Force

  1. And as per usual, there’s nothing in there about fixing student breakfasts and lunches so that they actually are healthy. That, plus what you suggest, would require actually spending money and/or pissing off the people in special interests (energy polluters, agribusiness, health insurance companies) who have the legislature in their pocket.

  2. I don’t know what to say…

    Is this how black people felt when the government was passing Jim Crow legislation?

    Is this how Japanese Americans felt in January of 1942?

    Is this how gay people felt before Stonewall? And now, as they watch weddings?

  3. How ironic is it that there’s an Obesity Task Force when a good many Tennesseans can barely afford food to eat and are or almost starving.

    I’m sure all the epidemically unemployed Tennesseans on the verge of losing homes and whatnot and the poor (and hungry) ones really, really appreciate the money and resources being spent on an “Obesity Task Force” in this state, yup.

  4. Coble, I think there’s a few interesting intersections here, between both race and class.

    I have no desire to google everybody on the Task Force but I’ve spot checked about 20 of them now (there are 142) and I have yet to find an actual, honest to god obese person on the task force.

    It’s hard to tell from pictures, of course, so some of them may fit the BMI definition of obese, but no one on that task force that I’ve seen looks like me and I sure as hell don’t see anyone who looks fatter.

    I feel like I owe it to Tennesseans to keep looking, but it honestly is making me feel a little shaky, because it becomes more and more obvious that they’re doing this thing to us without including us.

    Note to the obesity task force: when your group doesn’t include any members of the community you’re tasking yourself to “solve”… I can’t even believe i have to spell this out. But at the least, it signals a deep, deep, deep problem with your approach, if not your whole philosophy.

  5. Aunt B.,

    As a Conservative, I applaud your standing up to government meddling in what ought to be the classic example of self-regarding behavior.

    But I am told by people whom I respect that obesity is a major component of rising health care costs. People who can control their weight by diet and exercise (like I should) but don’t are increasing the costs of our whole health care system.

    It just seems ironic that someone is trying to control peoples’ bodies and it isn’t Conservatives.

  6. I’d be careful to throw out this particular baby with his bathwater based on what appears a very hastily assembled website, thin on substance, and a poorly chosen name. Many of their stated goals encompass areas complained about by you and GoldnI above, including most saliently the trend of childhood obesity. It sounds to me like they have not yet reached conclusions on how to achieve their goals, and would perhaps be helped by constructive input from the two of you. Adults may control their nutrition and care, but children do not and at present the food delivery system is biased against proper nutrition for children leading to very serious preventable outcomes including childhood obesity and early onset juvenile diabetes. If there are folks in the state serious about working on reversing that trend, I think it would be a mistake to discourage them by taking offense at what is, in the end, just a poor choice of words. On this, we may have to take our lumps and/or politely request a name change and wish them God’s speed.

  7. Well, then, I’ll look forward to your Pith post. At first blush it’s hard to fault anyone in Tennessee trying to do something about the biases against childhood nutrition.

  8. Mark, I’m not saying you shouldn’t respect those people but the link between obesity and poor health is not well-documented. Most simply, too many people are mistaking cause for effect with regard to obesity and some diseases that appear to track with it. That’s bad science that won’t heal or save money.

    At best, treating obesity as a problem distracts from better indicators of health and wellness. At worst, it otherizes, demonizes, and hurts fat people (and those that love or respect them).

    I recommend starting with Paul Campos and Kate Harding and then follow some of their footnotes and references. A slightly closer look at “the facts” would show that these Obesity Task Forces are not just bad because they are governmental intrusion, but they prevent the possibility of addressing real health concerns by spreading myths and lies, and by wasting time and money.

  9. Professor,

    I appreciate the info. I am with Aunt B. on this anyway.

    But your point about the questionable research does raise the question of why, if the data is as you say, that so many influential groups want to make public policy that is based on errors?

  10. Well, come now, Mark. You know this. People are assholes and they will run over other folks if their assholish natures aren’t kept in check, either by common decency or religion or whathaveyou.

    Disgust is a strong emotion and when people feel disgusted by something other people do or are, they will rush to conclusions that support their visceral disgust.

    I mean, I’ve had people fight with me about whether I’m fat, with me saying “I am fat” and them saying, “No, don’t say that. You’re not fat.” as if they can’t see what’s in front of them. But what they mean is “I like you and you don’t disgust me. Please don’t describe yourself in a way I find disgusting.”

  11. It wasn’t much fun being a fat kid in the 80s, but at least no-one wanted to eradicate me. I feel terribly sorry for fat kids now, even though “overweight” and “obese” people (scare quotes are to indicate the inherent problems with those categorisations) are now the majority.

    Are those aims good? Sure. And how are they going to achieve them? There really is a place for government to increase the health of the population – subdising good quality food in poor and/or remote communities, safe public spaces, reliable public transport, universal healthcare – but those aims are just so much hot air, and lining up to punish those who are non-compliant.

  12. Mark, to follow up on Aunt B’s response, that’s why some people are calling this just another moral panic. It’s happened before and it will happen again.

    Another response would be to follow the money and you might start to see where the errors in interpretation start. (see the weight loss industry and big pharma just to start) Then people just pick up on it and run with things they claim are true but don’t actually have the evidence and haven’t looked at the research.

    I don’t think doctors (and policy makers or task force members) even know the research but are now just citing “common knowledge.” I am still amazed with the gyn a number of years ago who, in response to my very honest answers as to my habits, outright ignored the positive facts about my frequent physical activities (as well as good blood pressure and cholesterol levels) as well as the truth about my frequent drinking and recreational drug use, and also the number of sexual partners I had. He only wanted to discuss my weight, as if that really were where real health risks were in my life.

  13. Mark—and anybody else who is misguided by current anti-fat ‘information’.

    1. Correlation does NOT equal causation. A lot of people who like NASCAR live in Tennessee. That doesn’t mean that living in Tennessee CAUSES you to like NASCAR.

    Likewise, there is no study proving that obesity CAUSES heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc.

    Yes, there are a lot of fat people with these diseases. But I tend to subscribe to the theory that we don’t know everything about everything yet. And therefore I believe there is what we’d call the Z gene; the same gene that causes a person to be predisposed to overweight is the same gene that causes a person to be predisposed to those other things. I know too many fat people who don’t have diabetes, etc. My fat grandfather lived to be 85.

    2. Obesity is NOT simply a matter of “eat less and move more.” If it were the diet industry would not be the cash cow (ha!) that it is. Temporary weight reduction CAN be caused by ELMM, but long-term weight loss & maintenance of more than 15% of body fat currently cannot be achieved without drastic and/or invasive procedures.

    3. Obesity keeps getting defined down. What was morbidly obese 20 years ago and what is morbidly obese now are vastly different.

    I’ve been fat ever since puberty. I’ve done ELMM and two dozen other diets out there in the first 34 years of my 40 years of living. I have since found out that much of my weight problem can be attributed to a faulty immune system that affects my metabolism.

    Not that I should have to disclose my private medical information to anyone.

    and most importantly…

    4. THERE ARE A MILLION DIFFERENT KINDS OF FAT.

    People who are not fat don’t understand that there are scores of reasons for people who are fat to be fat and scores of things keeping fat people fat. These ‘solutions’ and ‘task forces’–peopled by thin people–remind me of those explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries who came to the New World and did more harm than good. They thought the White Man’s ways were better and failed to realise there were multiple active and thriving cultures here. Cultures they wiped out through ignorance and self-righteousness.

    5. So what if obesity causes health care costs to go up? That’s the most idiotic argument I’ve ever heard.

    a) If obesity is an abnormal physical situation then it is like an illness. And of course illness makes health care costs to up. That’s what health care costs are for. To pay for sickness.

    b) If obesity is a type of normal physical situation, akin to blondeness then no amount of Task Forces can change it.

    c) If, like me, you believe Obesity to be a mixture of b and c, you’re still wasting your time looking to Task Forces to “cure” it.

    Obesity is the easy answer. It’s simpler than Tort Reform and Term limits (two more viable methods of lowering health care costs.) It also tends to affect the lower classes more, and is therefore sexier to those in oligarchical power.

    Don’t give me “it’s okay for the government to meddle if it protects my pocketbook.” That is hogwash. It’s intellectual dishonesty and inconsistancy coming from any ‘conservative’ and you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

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  15. “Notice there’s nothing about improving neighborhood safety so that kids can play outside or walk to school.”

    Ugh, yes. I had a guy in the shop recently that was whining about how fat kids are today. His main point was that kids nowadays don’t go outside to play. Not wanting to contradict him too much (he was, after all, spending a good chunk of money, heh), I pointed out that many neighborhoods are simply too unsafe to send your kids outside to play in.

    His solution? “Well, the parents that live in neighborhoods that are unsafe need to move. That’s practically child abuse.” I sat there dumbfounded at his ability to comfortably assume that every single person who has children ought to be able to afford a neighborhood that’s safe enough to send their kids out to play in. Otherwise, they’re practically abusing their children.

    I mean, think about it- okay, I live in a somewhat dangerous neighborhood, crime-wise. But my parents live in a really nice neighboorhood that I’d feel comfortable leaving my car doors and probably even my house doors unlocked. But I wouldn’t send them outside there to play unsupervised either, because there is a pair of boxers in the neighboorhood that keeps escaping their fence, and while I doubt they’d eat my kids, they don’t know their strength and go around knocking people down all the time.

    And if my mom and dad’s neighboorhood is unsafe, then I have no idea where one would go (or just how much money that would take) to find safety. :/

  16. I keep thinking about ulcers. For generations we assumed that ulcers were, what, caused by excess stomach acid and stress? And that treatment involved a lot of milk or something? Then that guy comes along and finds out they’re caused by a bacterium and BAM, no more ulcers.

    We’re still in the first phase when it comes to obesity. Everyone thinks they know the causes and the solutions, but they really really don’t.

    The scary thing to me is that I don’t see new, objective research being done as long as people are convinced that they already have the answers. And they don’t.

  17. You put the government in charge of your healthcare.
    Don’t be surprised that the government is now in charge of your healthcare.

    All citizens will now report to morning calestetics, or pay the appropriate tax penalty.

  18. While not overweight myself, I’ve thought a lot about the issues because my mother is obese. All my life I’ve seen her health suffer because of it. Now she is 80 years old and barely able to get up from a chair. Osteoarthritis has destroyed both her knees and one of her hips. She cannot do any of the things she used to love to do, like gardening, shopping, taking walks outside. She is in constant pain. The doctors tell her that losing weight would help alleviate her joint pain, but she says she can’t lose weight. However, every time I go to her house, I find her pantry is full of cookies, candy and chips.

    I love my mom, but when I look at her now, all I can think of is, “I don’t want to end up like that some day.” So I exercise even when I don’t feel like it and I thank God I’m able to. I try to eat in moderation (even though that’s never easy for anyone).

    I’m not a mean person and I’m not “disgusted” by overweight people. But I think it’s crazy to ignore the fact that being extremely heavy is bad for you. Maybe this “obesity task force” has made some bone-headed moves, but I think they are sincere in their desire to make positive changes that will help people get to healthier weights.

    What’s really bone-headed is this kind of response:

    ” So what if obesity causes health care costs to go up? That’s the most idiotic argument I’ve ever heard.

    a) If obesity is an abnormal physical situation then it is like an illness. And of course illness makes health care costs to up. That’s what health care costs are for. To pay for sickness.”

    What? Yes, the cost of my mom’s health care is high. She suffers from many “co-morbidities” of being obese. Treating those conditions is costing the Medicare system a lot of money, and is not even doing her that much good–she’s still sick and in pain all the time. The point is, I want her to get well. Losing weight would in effect “cure” many of her other conditions. Wouldn’t that be great? If finding ways to make losing weight easier is what the “obesity task force” is trying to do, then I’m all for it. I too hope they will avoid policies and sermons that further stigmatize the obese. But ignoring the negative health effects of obesity is not going to help anyone.

  19. Professor,

    I don’t have Exador’s eloquence but, to be clear, I don’t support this approach exactly because it is typical of how well-meaning people have tried to put government into all sorts of places where it doesn’t belong.

    In this case, the weight loss industry and big pharma do not seem to be the source of the problem to the extent that it is the nanny-staters. Please forgive me if I do find it funny that one of the most liberal blogs around is the source of so much, dare I say, Conservative argument.

    Coble,

    I am not supporting the argument for the task force. I am simply observing that for one of a liberal persuasion, the logic of reducing obesity for public policy reasons is consistent with other governmental intrusions on the basis of ‘general welfare.’

    .

  20. Vvixen, your mother has already outlived her life expectancy at birth. She’s pretty ahead of life expectancy for her age cohort at every stage of life, and on target now. (Look here for some fascinating numbers.) So I’m not sure about that “unhealthy” thing. I mean, my mother, may she rest in peace, spent the last couple of decades of her 84 years skinny as a rail, and she was riddled with osteoarthritis (bedridden, in fact) and on blood-pressure medication the whole time. Your mother’s problems may be correlated with age, not obesity. Which isn’t to say that she ought to be eating junk, but to say that the junk may not be to blame for her problems.

  21. that’s all fine, Mark. We do share many conclusions (on this post and previous one). Yet, because people come to the same conclusion doesn’t mean they follow the same reasoning. Maybe this matters more to me because I am a philosopher, and because I teach logic, but the reasoning matters too, not just the conclusion.

    But what is interesting to me in all kinds of situations is seeing that the lines aren’t drawn perfectly straight such that people always line up on one side or the other. That you are surprised that a liberal would agree with a conservative on some issue here or there says more about you than about what it means to be liberal or conservative.

    And it even less surprises me when a) the component of conservatism you most favor is libertarian (see the root word) and b) Aunt B is to the left of the Democrats and so has some very precise standards for what the government should protect and what it should leave alone (and why sometimes the government must act to protect space for people to be left alone).

  22. Dear nm,

    Thanks for the link to the life expectancy tables. They showed me what I already knew: yes, my mom is really OLD! Duh! And lot of her health problems are the same ones many people just assume are a normal part of aging.

    But there’s a lot of research that indicates those “diseases of aging” may actually be caused by obesity and lack of activity.

    For example, here’s a study about how exercise appears to delay the aging process: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/28/AR2008012801873.html
    There’s more where that came from. Thousands of studies indicate that exercise and healthy weight benefit aging adults.

    My mom would like to exercise, but obesity and disability make it difficult for her to just walk across a room.

    I come from a very long-lived family. All the relatives on my mother’s side lived into their late 80′s or 90′s. But none of them were as heavy as my mother is. None of them had her level of physical disability. That may not be enough to prove cause and effect to you, but it’s enough to motivate me to go to the gym and pass up on seconds! I don’t want to end up suffering like my mom is when I inevitably live to a ripe old age.

    I’m not pushing any kind of agenda. I’m just putting my mother’s story out there as a cautionary tale. You are free to take it any way you like.

  23. Sure, it’s not having an agenda to suggest that B is “I think it’s crazy to ignor[ing] the fact that being extremely heavy is bad for you.” Not at all.

    Look, I get behind a campaign for people to eat healthy food, including ending what are in effect gov’t price supports for corn products. And I think everyone ought to exercise appropriately for that person’s age and overall health, and I think that public awareness of the benefits of even moderate exercise ought to be raised and that people need to be taught ways to exercise that don’t mean the expense of health clubs and machinery. And yet I manage to talk about those issues without needing to say “ooooooooh, fatsos!” It’s not difficult, which always makes me suspect that people who can’t manage it just fundamentally don’t want to, and really do want to point fingers.

  24. Professor,

    “because people come to the same conclusion doesn’t mean they follow the same reasoning.”

    In this case I think the issue is less the ‘reasoning’ and more the underlying principles and how one balances them.

    How do you distinguish between saying that society (or ‘the State’ or the ‘Government’) has the right to prohibit you from smoking or eating trans fats or requiring you to buy health insurance but does not have the right to ‘encourage’ you to avoid obesity?

    One could argue that there is no scientific basis for linking obesity to greater health care costs. I am fine with that but since there are no small number of people who disagree (or just like to tell others how to live), it is not certain to triumph.

    On could argue that it is an unacceptable expansion of the power of society. Again, fine with me, but no small number of people would dispute that encouraging people to be wary of obesity is less intrusive than outright prohibitions on what one eats or smokes.

    So one is left feeling that there is no serious philosophical distinction but more of a “I am all for regulating your life but don’t even think of judging, much less regulating, mine.”

    Now I know that isn’t true of Aunt B. But on a larger scale, it does seem that this is a problem for those who want the society to play a larger role in our daily lives.

    I note that this same argument applies to social conservatives who tend to use the ‘general welfare’ to justify restricting the personal freedoms of people.

    This in no way makes me a libertarian since I find that there is no absolute freedom and a need for limits on what society can control. The debate ought to be about the proper balance.

  25. Mark, Id like to respond more directly but I just don’t understand what you are saying. I don’t know what the distinction between reasoning and underlying principles is or why it matters here. I’m not sure who is arguing that the state doesn’t have the right to form an Obesity Task Force (and when you move to state powers I think things make more sense, but rights of the government is a weird concept). And I don’t know why one has to think that there exists absolute freedom to make libertarian arguments. I do not think the question is the proper balance between the government and the citizens. I think the proper question is about the legitimate and worthwhile domains or contexts for government powers and protections and those for citizen freedoms.

  26. O.K., I have read the blogs and I have to step in. I have a degree in exercise physiology and have studied the obesity problem for over 30 years now. Obviously none of you have studied this, done research and read the research for the last 30 years, or you would not be making such uneducated statements. The facts are overwhelming that obesity has risen from less than 10% of the population in 1970, to over 30% of the US population and that is undisputed. If that is all genetics, than someone is passing some bad genes along. But again, the true obese diseases, i.e. prader-wil, albright and bardet-biedl effect less than 2% of the population in America and that does not add up to 30% obesity rate in our country. I could bore you with a review of the literature that does indeed connects obesity to greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, some cancers and hypertension, just to name a few, but all of you do an excellent job of pointing out the largest factor attributed to obesity and that is a low self esteem.
    The Tennessee Obesity Task force has developed over 150 goals and objectives to address every issue you have brought up in these blogs, Including “complete streets”, “safe routes to school”, “physician’s and obese patients”, etc. and if given half a chance, they may actually help you to become healhier both physically and mentally. If you would just give the task force some time and respect, they may actually do some good for you, your community and the state of Tennessee. Furthermore, a large number of members have had weight issues in their lifetime, including someone that recently participated on the Biggest Loser television show.
    So next time you begin to speak of things you do not know, please do your homework and some better research.

  27. I honestly had no idea there was the anti-obesity equivalent of dick waving, but it kind of tickles me to find out that there is. And here it is on my blog!

    Yes, rdkknd1, you have a big brain. And an advance degree. So do a lot of folks here. Y’all still haven’t been able to make more than a small percentage of honest to god obese people into the size you want them to be and keep them there for the rest of their lives. No matter how willing the obese people are to subject themselves to your social engineering.

    And y’all redefined obese down less than a decade ago, or did you think we all forgot that? So, really, a comparison between the obesity rates 30 years ago and now is always going to be faulty if you don’t take into account that y’all made the pool of people who count as obese much larger (thus, amazingly, leading to more obese people).

    And, on top of that, “weight issues” is not obesity. Someone who can stand to lose 20, 30, or 40 pounds and who thus would be considered “normal” is not in the same league as someone who could lose 20, 30, or 40 pounds and still be obese. That’s so not even the same thing that it’s laughable that people bring it up like it’s equivalent. It’s like me saying I know what it’s like to be a dude because when I was a baby and had no hair, people mistook me for a boy all the time.

    And last, the fact that you tout there being a participant in the Biggest Loser on the Task Force is hilarious. What will this participant teach us? How to hide our trips to the hospital, when we’re pissing blood because it wouldn’t look good for television? How to artfully arrange our bodies as to not show the puking from working out eight hours a day? How to disguise the fact that we’re not drinking water? How to get conveniently ignored by the very people who are teaching you this “healthy” lifestyle when you go back to your real life and gain the weight back?

    I mean, please, do you think folks haven’t heard about what goes on on that show?

    Ha ha ha, well, folks. There it is. Here’s the kind of person who thinks people like him or her should get to be in charge of my mental and physical health.

    Because I want to turn my life over to a patronizing asshole who thinks his or her degree trumps my body and who thinks I’m so fucked up that I need well-meaning outsiders to come in and tell me how to run my life.

  28. I’m sorry, I just have to repeat this. These folks want to be able to act like hostile assholes towards me and they expect me to be grateful because they’re concerned about my health.

    It’s stunning.

  29. If you would just give the task force some time and respect

    That’s a two-way street, isn’t it? Those pix B linked to weren’t exactly respectful.

  30. Applause, Aunt B., for that rant and for the follow up zinger.

    “The Biggest Loser” proves our point. The only people who’ve managed to keep off the weight they lost on that show are people who turned weight maintenance into their PROFESSION — who became athletic trainers, working out for several hours a day. The rest of the competitors have regained the weight, proving that even superhuman weight loss efforts do. not. work. long. term.

    Y’know, I keep wondering, these folks think we’re choosing to stay fat out of laziness or cussedness or whatever… Do they really not realize how lousy they’re trying to make our lives? Damn, if I could choose to be thin just to not have to read another of these bozos rant about calories-out-calories-in-eat-less-move-more, I would do it! If I could do something reasonable and never again listen to my mother whine about how pretty I was twenty years ago (when she was also telling me I was a whale), I would do it! A simple action that would let me buy average sized clothes? I’d do it!

    I’ve tried all the plans. I’ve done all the diets and exercises. If ANY of them really worked, I’d know it. Hell, Oprah would know it too.

    Really folks, if fat people could become and stay thin, WE ALL WOULD HAVE DONE IT ALREADY.

  31. I don’t have a degree. I HAVE read every Bariatric study ever published. So have many others.

    You can throw around phrases like “suggests a link between” and “greater predisposition” all you like.

    But you and your 30 years and I and my 22 years BOTH know full well there is NO SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BODY MASS AND ANY OF THESE DISEASES.

    It’s all just medical theory at this point. Sort of like leeching.

  32. Professor,

    “I think the proper question is about the legitimate and worthwhile domains or contexts for government powers and protections and those for citizen freedoms.”

    I think we are in fundamental agreement about the central issue. Perhaps the specific shorthands we use with our more regular associates just differ.

    Having said that, let me make my point using your framing.

    Is obesity a legitimate domain for government or does it fall within the realm of citizen freedoms?

    I think reasonable people can disagree on the question although I side with Aunt B. because I believe that sometimes just because some action or result (like reducing obesity) might benefit the larger society, the price in reductions of individual freedom does not justify that cost.

    For me the deeper issue is that as “the legitimate and worthwhile domains or contexts for government powers” have been expanded, it becomes harder and harder to defend those “citizen freedoms.” The obesity task force is just one more example of the gradual spread of government power at the expense of individuals.

    Were I to respond to rdkknnd1, I might simply ask where in the name of Alexander Hamilton the power of government to involve itself in my health, much less my diet, is found in the Constitution. Did we slip in a new amendment while I was traveling last week?

    What I find ironic though is that such opposition comes from those who have traditionally advocated for expanding the legitimate domain of government. Once one concedes the legitimacy of government to force you to purchase health insurance, on what grounds do you oppose government efforts to ensure that you do not act in ways that will increase your use of health care?

    For years some of us (on both the Left and Right) have allowed the legitimate domain of government to grow and grow into areas where it had never been because they liked the results. Now that the Devil has turned around, where do they hide, the freedom of individuals being flat, so to speak.

  33. The circular logic around here reminds me of AA

    If you lose the weight and keep it off, then you’re really just kidding yourself and fighting an uphill battle against your “natural state”, proven by you ever gaining the weight back, unless you don’t, because your natural state is with the weight off.

  34. I side with Aunt B. because I believe that sometimes just because some action or result (like reducing obesity) might benefit the larger society, the price in reductions of individual freedom does not justify that cost.

    Mark, where exactly are you reading B to be suggesting that reducing obesity benefits the larger society, because I’m not seeing that at all.

    Look, I understand your schtick here and on posts past is to try to find some imaginary hypocrisy in liberalism, but you’re answering your own conundrum when you say, “The debate ought to be about the proper balance.” There are few people (even among libertarians) who believe the government should never do anything ever, and possibly even fewer (even among socialists) who believe the that government should do and control everything.

  35. Dolphin,

    That is my reason for supporting her position. If I understand her position about controlling her body, I would agree with that too.

    My issue isn’t hypocrisy but inconsistency. And both liberals and conservatives are guilty to be sure. The libertarians come closest to consistency although the farthest from reality.

    Please tell me the philosophical principle or constitutional right that justifies government forcing me to buy health insurance but does not allow the government to ‘encourage’ me to lose weight.

    This is not idle speculation. Do you really think that the do-gooders out there are going to stop with task forces to do public education on obesity? Or that taking coke and candy machines out of schools is the last legislative step in controlling individual health choices? Of course not.

    So please tell me on what principles you are willing to stand for the domain of the individual because it doesn’t take a libertarian to see that the domain of the individual seems to be shrinking.

  36. Ahhh, the good old days when the government stayed out of people’s business included telling you who you could and couldn’t marry(no black/white) and who you could have sex with up until real recently. And probably more…

    I’m wondering where the money trail is with the Obesity Task Force. I know it’s usually there somewhere. But it might just be the sheer joy of power to be bossy.

  37. Please tell me the philosophical principle or constitutional right that justifies government forcing me to buy health insurance but does not allow the government to ‘encourage’ me to lose weight.

    To be sure, I don’t support the government forcing anyone to buy health insurance. It’s the single biggest qualm I have about the recently passed bill, but to me at least it’s very clear the difference between the government ensuring everybody has access to health care versus the government trying to get everyone to look a certain way. If it were the Brown Hair Taskforce out to make us all dye our hair blonde, would the difference still be so hard for you to see?

  38. There were other ways to ensure access to health care for those who want it. And I am fine with people who have no dependents not having health insurance if they don’t want it. When the papers start running the stories of people who spent their insurance premiums on a trip to Cancun dying for lack of care, more people will get insured.

    Access does not mean mandate. And part of the right to privacy is the right to die for lack of choosing to buy health insurance or to lose 50 pounds.

    If private citizens and companies want to start a non-profit to educate people about the dangers and costs of obesity or being a brunette, good for them. But that is not the business of government.

  39. So if I’m reading you right Mark, what you’re essentially saying is that I’m a hypocrite for a contradiction in what you think I should believe as a liberal versus my actual stated beliefs and positions. Nice.

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