Andy Berke, If I Have a Heart Attack, It’s Your Fault

Ha, I could totally use my cow to squirt milk at Andy Berke, who is sending me emails all about what fat slobs we are and how we’re ruining Tennessee with our fat slobbitude. And lately, he’s even asking me to knock the cake out of fat kids’ hands.

Berke, life is hard enough for kids as it is. They don’t need some strange lady with a cow she uses to squirt people who displease her stealing their desserts. Think about the trauma such a scene would cause.

Berke says

In the long run, all of us spend more money to treat people with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other health problems caused by being overweight. At a time when kids should be more active and in better physical shape than at any time in their lives, they are heading down a dangerous health path.

Interestingly enough, these attitudes–that fat people are ruining it for everybody–may actually be physically harmful to fat people.

Heavy people may face discrimination in medical settings, too. The authors of the review, Rebecca Puhl and Chelsea Heuer, cite numerous surveys of anti-fat attitudes among health care workers, who tend to see obese patients as ugly, lazy, weak-willed, and lacking in motivation to improve their health. Doctors describe treating fatties as a waste of time, and the staff at teaching hospitals appear to single them out for derogatory jokes. Unsurprisingly, many obese people avoid seeing their primary care providers altogether, and those who do are less likely to be screened for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers. (That’s true even among those with health insurance and college degrees.)

These data points suggest a rather simple approach to America’s obesity problem: Stop hating. If we weren’t such unrepentant body bigots, fat people might earn more money, stay in school, and receive better medical care in hospitals and doctor’s offices. All that would go a long way toward mitigating the health effects of excess weight—and its putative costs. But there’s an even better reason to think that America’s glutton intolerance is a threat to public health and the federal budget. Recent epidemiological research implies that the shame of being obese poses its own medical risk. Mental anguish harms the body; weight stigma can break your heart.

Also interesting is this phrasing Berke uses, “all of us” spend more money on obesity related conditions.  And yet, most of us are obese (two-thirds, according to the Slate article these last two paragraphs are from).  So it’s a little disingenuous to act like the money we spend on health care costs related to obesity are being wasted by us on someone other than us.

I’m trying to keep this light-hearted because I really like Berke, the subject is difficult, and I find Berke and Burks’ position to be cruel and calling someone who is on your side on their bigotry isn’t actually that fun.

But I would ask Berke and Burks to consider how obscene it is that at least 300,000 children in this state are at risk of hunger. There are roughly 1,600,000 kids under the age of 18 in this state, which means that roughly 400,000 of them are obese.

So, when you decided to take up a cause to “help” kids, you could have helped roughly the same number of kids (and let’s not forget that many of these kids are in both groups) either by oversimplifying the obesity issue into “they just eat too much” or by feeding kids who need it.

And you continue to choose to focus on how we can all “help” kids by increasing our scrutiny of what they do with they do with their bodies, which will surely make them feel terrible about their bodies, but has not been shown to actually make most people thinner.

I’m going to assume you just haven’t thought through how cruel this is.

21 thoughts on “Andy Berke, If I Have a Heart Attack, It’s Your Fault

  1. But Aunt B, this is exactly the logic that underlies mandating people to buy health insurance. President Obama has said as much. Senator Berke is simply being faithful to the argument that diet is one more activity that will no longer be private as health care is nationalized.

    Of course the simple answer is to have obesity declared a disability so that the afflicted can be allowed to be exempted from rules on diet.

    Alternatively, one might have obesity declared a ‘culture.’ Then the health police might be stymied by the imperative to respect alternative cultural values.

  2. That’s one of the reasons I’m opposed to mandating that people buy health insurance. Everything about how it’s conceived seems punitive, as if the American people are just being assholes and refusing to get with the program.

    This does make me wonder what happens when people who follow the government’s dietary standards still don’t lose weight or lose weight but gain it back? Would they be able to sue?

    Ha. That will be rich.

  3. I think the reason for the focus on obesity is that 1) its the cool thing to do…all the media attention is on the nation’s increasing girth and 2) its cheaper. Pass a few feel good measures about refocusing lunch menus and eliminating soda/junk food…addressing childhood hunger requires spending more to feed the kids directly or give subsidies to their parents.

    Regardless, I think his heart is in the right place, even if its using a broadswoard where a scalpal is more applicable.

  4. Aunt B.,

    I am reminded of the Richard Burton version of ‘1984’ with the proles doing their exercises in front of the view screens.

    Single-payer national health care would be no different. The pressure to control costs combined with the imperative of ‘socially responsible eating’ would led to a future America filled with salt-free and sugar-free tea-sipping vegetarians. Talk about your dystopias.

    Personally, they can have my beef and whisky when they pry them from my cold dead hands.

  5. Have you heard the interview on NPR this morning with Safeway’s CEO? He essentially lays it on thick about promoting a healthy population and then reverts to a freedom of choice argument when asked if he would also support wellness by doing things like not putting the sugariest cereal at a child’s eye level in his stores.

    I also enjoyed the part where he all but said he knows what is better for your health that the America Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, and others.

  6. I always wonder why folks who are against “single payer national health care” don’t look at countries that have single payer insurance or national health care (not the same thing) and notice that all the horrors they’re talking about don’t happen in those places. Or why, if they have looked and noticed, they think that USians are so much more messed up than people in those countries that we would introduce the horrors on our own.

    That said, if Andy Berke is so concerned about the little fatties children, he ought to be advocating for restoration of recess in schools that have eliminated it in order to teach to the NCLB tests, for more physically demanding phys ed classes, more comprehensive health classes in earlier grades, and stuff like that.

  7. Fat people are taxpayers too? And pay health insurance premiums? Given the obesity numbers, obese people are (so’s to speak) pulling their weight financially.

    nm, speakers who wave the red flag about single payer insurance probably believe that people in the US have a exceptional cruel streak bred of our unique imperial history that makes us believe we have a right to get into each other’s bidness and compel subjection among the poor, the dark-skinned, and the “deviant.” Maybe they have a point.

  8. Um, Bridgett, but by that standard the British and French should have systems that are pretty miserable, and the Belgians — ugh! Not to mention the system that one would expect in Germany right now. Yeah, we’re messed up. So are they. And yet they manage to have health systems that work a tad better than ours does right now, and without the injustices one might expect, using this reasoning.

  9. Mark, I think you overestimate the government’s ability do regulate anything people do. Heck they can’t even get above 85% seatbelt compliance and that saves lives. More likely is that there will become a booming illegal market for steak and we’ll see powerful meat-gangs rise up to fill the need.

    And we’ll all give our kids a few bucks to run on the treadmill during our allotted time.

  10. nm,

    If you look carefully, I think you will see growing calls for greater restrictions on diet in England. Thanks to their cultural traditions, the French are likely to avoid this sort of nonsense.

    Also the English and the French lack an imperial judiciary that loves to impose policy on people. If the Left would get behind the appointment of judges who want to carry out the law rather thn make it, I would be far less worried about where this food jihad will lead.


    What is most unique about our “imperial history’ is how conflicted we have been over imperialism. Remember the opposition to the War with Mexico or the unwillingness of the nation to allow Southern expansion into Cuba and other areas? Perhps you mean our massive territorial gains after WWII?

    Actually, what I fear is that the ultimate goal of many advoctes of a national health care system is to use food as a tool for their ideas about not just health care but the environment, the economy and other areas of our lives.

  11. Mark, if you look carefully I think you’ll see that your “growing calls for greater restrictions on diet in England” translates into “awareness of some of the health implications of the contemporary English diet” rather than “attempts to legislate or restrict diet.” There is a fine old English tradition going back a number of centuries of decrying what hoi polloi eat and imbibe, but no corresponding legislation of barley sugar, gin, oysters, salt herring, or what have you.

    As for your ignorance of European conflicts over imperialism, I’m going to suggest you pick up a textbook or something.

  12. nm,

    I am not as trusting of the Left in England as you are. The desire for Blair to go out as popular as possible and the weakness of the Brown government have weakened the ability of Labour to go to extremes. And such actions require the support of Parliament, not just a rogue federal judge as in America.

    Where did I comment on “European conflicts over imperialism?”

    I commented on bridgett’s mentioning of “our unique imperial history.”

    Please reread.

  13. I reread, thanks; you may need to reread yourself. I’m pointing out that being “conflicted over” imperialism (your words, which I understand to mean “experiencing internal/domestic conflicts about imperialism and about whether or how to pursue it”) is not at all unique to the US. If you’re as unaware of that fact as you seem to be, you may need to do some studying.

  14. nm,

    Anti-imperialism has been imbedded in American political thought from our founding. It has shaped political debates since the Washington Administration. Anti-imperialism in Englnd and France came along later in their political histories, reflecting the maturing of Ideas that America held from the first.

    By itself, that makes American ‘imperialism’ unique. Then there is the fact that, at our moment of greatest power in 1945, we packed up almost all our troops and came home. Had the Soviets bumped off Stalin and sought to cooperate, the world would have been spared the need for much of what you would call ‘imperialism’ in the ‘post-war’ era.

  15. All arguing about imperialism and sphi aside, am I the only one a bit sick about open prejudice in Congress?

  16. Coble,

    Sorry. But Congress is beyond help while nm has promise if she could just get beyond her leftist indocrtination.


    Instead of trying to sound like a school teacher who is annoyed that one of her students corrected a mistake, you might try providing evidence. I am waiting to hear about the vast anti-imperialist movement under the Hanoverians. Or why the inheritors of the traditions of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity ended up building a colonial empire.

  17. Mark, the inheritors of the traditions of Liberty, etc,. ended up building a colonial empire for the same reasons that the inheritors of the traditions of Life, etc., also embraced slavery and the idea of Manifest Destiny and built the immense colonial empire called the United States. For anti-imperialist ideas under the Hanoverians, you might want to consult Adam Smith and some of his Anglophone contemporaries. Are we conflicted? You betcha. So are others. And this conflict, in the west, can be traced back to the conflicts among Athenians, documented by Thucydides, concerning their own imperial projects. It’s not unique to us.

    Now, as Coble has pointed out, this is a major derailment, so I’m done. Unless you’d like some specific textbook recommendations, which I’m happy to provide.

  18. I didn’t mean u shouldn’t carry on. I just meant I had nothing constructive to add on those topics. But your lively debate is interesting.

  19. Mark, the inheritors of the traditions of Liberty, etc,. ended up building a colonial empire for the same reasons that the inheritors of the traditions of Life, etc., also embraced slavery and the idea of Manifest Destiny and built the immense colonial empire called the United States. For anti-imperialist ideas under the Hanoverians, you might want to consult Adam Smith and some of his Anglophone contemporaries. Are we conflicted? You betcha. So are others. And this conflict, in the west, can be traced back to the conflicts among Athenians, documented by Thucydides, concerning their own imperial projects. It’s not unique to us.

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