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Junk Food Is Satan's tool to make us fat


Hobbes
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Very interesting indeed, Katherine. Thanks for that link, which leads to some refreshingly independent thinking. I'm going to read the whole series tonight.

The overt anti-Americanism in many discussions of obesity is rather pathetic. In any nation where famine isn't an issue, there will be percentages of people who are underweight, "normal" weight, overweight, obese, and morbidly obese. Obesity is not an American problem, it is a human problem. America has a higher percentage of obese citizens than, say, Australia, but not by much. I'll be interested to see what will happen to the rhetoric when Australia surpasses the US in obesity -- something that should happen very soon if current trends continue. Maybe the US will be blamed anyway.

From our friends at the BBC:

Obesity

Country % Men % Women

Finland  19  19

Russia 10.8  27.9

England 17  20

Germany 17.2  19.3

Czech Republic 16.3  20.2

Scotland 15.9  17.3

Belgium 12.1  18.4

Spain 11.5  15.2

Sweden 10  11.9

France 9.6  10.5

Denmark 10  9

Netherlands 8.4  8.3

Italy 6.5  6.3

USA 19.5  25

Australia 18  18

sure, the avant garde will always be blamed.:wink:

but, fat guy - what you take for anti-americanism is really in my case a mix of being worried about some trends in modern societies in general (more cars, scattered families, overindustrialized food) and a critique of the back side of the archetypical american stubborn individualism.

i haven't read all the series yet, but the idea that birth weight problems are caused mainly by dieting is in all probability silly. rather, it's probably caused by smoking, drugs, alcohol, stress AND malnutrition (which MAY be caused in some cases by dieting, but also by bad habits like eating too much fast food...) etcetera. and it's true that the female ideal has changed, but not so much in favour of skinniness as in favour of slender youth. perhaps this is caused by men's fear of the modern independent mature woman? or perhaps it's a reaction to the general obesity? or the fitness trend (it's easier to run 10 miles without having to carry round a lot of healthy fat)?

by the way, did anybody notice the russian figures? how is that to be explained?

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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"by the way, did anybody notice the russian figures? how is that to be explained?"

Diet, same as anywhere else. Russia has got to be the carbohydrate capital of the world.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Russia has got to be the carbohydrate capital of the world.

sure, but - the difference between men and women? that the men drink vodka instead of eating potatoes?

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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but, fat guy - what you take for anti-americanism is really in my case a mix of being worried about some trends in modern societies in general (more cars, scattered families, overindustrialized food) and a critique of the back side of the archetypical american stubborn individualism.

So Americans are fat because they're stubborn individualists? When you give yourself over to collectivism you weigh less? That certainly didn't seem to work for Russian women, who managed to be fat in a communist dictatorship with a severly limited food supply and negligible personal ownership of automobiles. Is there any correlation whatsoever between nationwide individualism-and-modernity and obesity levels on the list above? Are Germans individualistic and modern while Italians aren't? Are Finns more modern and individualistic than Danes? I wouldn't know, but I have my doubts. Are republicans fatter than democrats, conservatives fatter than liberals, and libertarians fatter than socialists? Something like 22 percent of Americans are obese and that's what's called a minority. You can't attribute the behavior of obese people to the 78 percent of Americans who aren't obese or to America at large (no pun intended) anymore than you can attribute the behavior of Germany's 18 percent to all other Germans or Germany at large, and within the obese segment of the population there are multiple causes. The most you can say is that there's something about America that makes its population more obese by 4 percentage points over Germany's. And if those 4 points are attributable to "some trends in modern societies in general (more cars, scattered families, overindustrialized food)" and "the back side of the archetypical american stubborn individualism" I'll eat my hat. More likely it has to do with the size of the most economically impoverished group in each society. I'll bet middle class Europeans in several countries are actually more likely to be obese than middle class Americans. But that won't stop sanctimonious, sneering European intellectuals, journalists, and others -- even the obese ones -- from exploiting the obesity discussion, and any discussion that has anything to do with McDonald's, as a stand-in for their anti-Americanism.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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i think the biggest (and strangest) suggestion is that the advocates for doing something about the obesity problem are in favour of "dieting". I think, to the extent that any consensus is possible on this diverse subject, the key is always moderation. or appropriate consumption. i don't think any sane person would expect a crash diet to be good in any way whatsoever. but gradually changing your eating habits to eliminate obvious over consumption, shifting to more "healthy" foodstuffs can only be beneficial. and, hey, lets take a more eGullet view of things, wouldn't it be wonderful if instead of mcDonalds (and all its variants) on every street corner, there were fast food joints serving fresh oysters, slow braised lamb chucks, grilled fish etc all at prices benefitting from mass production/consumption.

It would be cool if we had tasty, healthful food on every corner, but one of the points of the article is that it's not what you eat that matters. Eating a really healthy diet is obviously better for you, but doesn't seem to impact what you weigh.

Another point is that hefty people are eating the same amounts as slender people, and for most of them, their weights are stable. In other words, moderating your intake would only be useful if you were currently eating more calories than you were expending, and gaining weight. If what you mean by "moderating" the diet means a person will expend more than they intake, resulting in weight loss, then that's a diet. Maybe not a crash diet, but one that will result, over a period of time, in constant hunger, and ultimately in failure, if permanent weight loss is the goal.

The recommendation I see everywhere, and mostly from medical sources, is that people who weigh more than the charts (or the fashion mags) say they ought to should diet to get down to that ideal. Implied would be that they should stay on that diet for the rest of their lives, if that's what is necessary to stay there, since there is no reason to believe that anyone ever came off a diet and remained at their new, fashionable weight. Also implied is that if you haven't done this, it's because you've chosen to be fat (lazy, gluttonous, etc), and the people who are thin have decided to be virtuous, rather than just being lucky enough to have a setpoint that puts them in the fashionable range. So we'd be back talking about fat as a moral issue.

Dieting is the only medically recommended "treatment" that has only a 1-3% success rate. Would you even bother to go through with a procedure that had so little chance of success?

My opinion is that another reason why people nowadays are getting fatter (aside from all the discussion in the article) is that food is so readily available, and it's ready to eat when you're ready to eat it. Americans have led the way, but it is becoming more so all over the world. If we had to scavenge for food like hunter-gatherers used to, we couldn't drop coins in a machine or pick up a jumbo drink full of empty calories. And we'd probably stop right away when we had enough, if having more meant going out into the woods for three hours with a sharp stick, too.

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I don't know a single obese person -- and I get e-mail from hundreds a year -- who hasn't specifically been told by his or her doctor (and usually multiple doctors) to go on a diet.

In addition, I'm not sure dieting can be said to have a 1-3% success rate if you adjust for the "side effect" that a certain percentage of people who diet -- probably a lot more than 1-3% -- will gain to a higher rebound weight.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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my point about diets was that there are diets and diets. any new regime that involves radically changing what you eat to all fat and no carbs, or wheatgrass sorbet or cat food or whatever, is, i think we all agree, pointless and possibly bad for you. going on a diet that simply means paying more attention to what you eat, not indulging your every whim whenever it strikes you, leaving some food on your plate occassioanly. seems to me wholly sensible. but then i come from a welsh puritannical background.

And, FWIW, my doctor always tells me to take more exercise rather than go on a diet. needless to say i don't!

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And, FWIW, my doctor always tells me to take more exercise rather than go on a diet. needless to say i don't!

Are you obese?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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fat guy, the stubborn individualism i was talking about was in the context of your discussing personal responsibility. all other things equal, it must be easier for a state to take action against harmful societal structures and big corporations that can be largely blamed for the "obesity epidemic", if that society does not see the individual as absolutely and solely responsible for himself. had you been reading a little more cautiously, you would have noticed that i, too, wondered about the russians.

so, no need for the tirade.

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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QUOTE (enthusiast @ Jul 23 2003, 09:57 AM)

And, FWIW, my doctor always tells me to take more exercise rather than go on a diet. needless to say i don't! 

Are you obese?

marginal. i am undeniably overweight and enjoy my food (and wine which is probably more significant) too much to do anything about it. but i'm stable so i'm not panicking now. and that's enough personal info!

and i don't think any of this is particualrly anti-american (except i guess the fast food aspect of things). obesity is definitely a global issue. even in developing countries there are some worrying signs.

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it must be easier for a state to take action against harmful societal structures and big corporations that can be largely blamed for the "obesity epidemic", if that society does not see the individual as absolutely and solely responsible for himself

It's easier for a society that deemphasizes individual responsibility to blame those structures and corporations in the first place.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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i am undeniably overweight

If you're just a little bit overweight, you don't have as much of a chance of getting a diet lecture from your doctor. If you're obese, you can bank on getting that lecture. Not moderate lifestyle modification. Dieting. That's the official recommendation of every medical group I know of.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Is there any evidence whatsoever that people are more aware, on account of frivolous litigation, that junk food is bad for you if you eat too much of it? Is that even the message this litigation sends, or is the message, rather, "It's not your fault. Don't worry, we'll use the courts as a surrogate for personal responsibility"?

What frivolous litigation? How many of these lawsuits have been filed? Has even a single one of them resulted in a jury verdict?

And in response to what message is being sent, Kraft Foods announced that it is going to make changes in order to address the issue. Click

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So there are none and they're helping. That's amazing! But let me get this straight: are you arguing for or against these lawsuits?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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So there are none and they're helping. That's amazing! But let me get this straight: are you arguing for or against these lawsuits?

I, personally, would not take one of these lawsuits. I do believe that the fast food industry manufactures a product that, when used as intended, causes harm. However, in Kentucky we have comparative fault, and because it is foreseeable to the consumer that the product will cause said harm (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc) the consumer would bear a large portion, if not all, of the fault. The only way I would consider taking one of these cases, is if I could prove that a fast food corporation was advertizing its food as healthy and lowfat (think Subway) but actually knew that its products were laden with fat and calories and were likely to cause consumers to be at risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Then, because it would not be foreseeable to the consumer to cause said harm, the consumer would most likely not be apoortioned a large percentage, if any, of the fault. As it stands, no one thinks a Big Mac and fries is healthy and certainly would most likely not be successful in a lawsuit alleging that they harmed their health by eating them. I suspect that most other plaintiff's lawyers are thinking along the same lines as I am, and that is why these lawsuits are NOT being filed.

What bothers me is that, even though they have yet to materialize as any actual "frivolous litigation", they already have everyone jumping on the anti-plaintiff lawyer/personal responsibility bandwagon. Its not surprising to me that it is the champions of tort reform that are making sure that this story stays in the news cycle. People keep hearing about and actually believe such lawsuits are being filed in every courthouse in the country. Wag the dog.

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Its not surprising to me that it is the champions of tort reform that are making sure that this story stays in the news cycle.

I see, so John Banzhaf is a champion of tort reform? Is that why he's promoting himself and his anti-obesity litigation campaign on the CBS Evening News ( http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/08/08/...ain518023.shtml ), on National Public Radio ( http://banzhaf.net/docs/npr.html ), and via a recent obesity litigation summit and strategy session in Boston ( http://www.phaionline.org/conference/affidavit.html )? I'm sure he'd much rather be out of the public eye, but those pesky tort-reform champions keep pulling him back.

What bothers me is that, even though they have yet to materialize as any actual "frivolous litigation", they already have everyone jumping on the anti-plaintiff lawyer/personal responsibility bandwagon.

But there has been actual "frivolous litigation." Or does the lawsuit filed in New York by Sam Hirsch against McDonald's not count? Does the action filed against Nabisco by Stephen Joseph not count? Just because they weren't successful (one was dismissed, the other withdrawn) doesn't mean they weren't frivolous litigation. And they are part of a larger plan that one doesn't need to hear about from tort-reform advocates.

"There is no one lawsuit that will solve the obesity problem that has become an epidemic," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy association.

"It's going to take a whole lot of lawsuits to make a difference in public policy that will affect the dietary habits of the thousands that suffer obesity-related disease," he said.

http://www.washtimes.com/national/20030622...22522-5268r.htm
I understand that the Legal Strategies Workshop portion of the First Annual Conference on Legal Approaches to the Obesity Epidemic (the “Workshop”) is intended to encourage and support litigation against the food industry and that information acquired at this Workshop is to be considered confidential in keeping with these interests.
http://www.phaionline.org/conference/affidavit.html

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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My experiences (not isolated - I go this response from several different people when I asked about food quality).

Them: have you tried the Cheesecake factory? That place is great!

Me: How is the food?

Them: The portions are HUGE!!!

Me: Yeah.... that's cool but how is the food?

Them: They have sooooo many things on the menu - it's incredible!

Me: Okay.... I understand that but how is the food? Is the quality good?

Them: Oh..... it's okay.

The Outback Steakhouse dialogue is more or less identical. I just wish more places would offer a "small dinner" that was 2/3 the price of a standard entree but had only 1/2 the quantity. It would work just fine with me. There was a spot in Ithaca NY when I was living there that offered such an option. They labeled it as American and European portion sizes on the menu. They ahd wonderful Northern italian food but regrettably did not last more than a few years.

My solution has been one suggested by a friend who eats out regularly (i.e. she never cooks - either east leftovers, take-out or dines out). In an effort to control her weight she began cutting the entree and sides in half when she received her plate and aksing to have the remainder wrapped to take home. She freezes all of them and alwasy has something tasty in the freezer to nuke and eat when she gets home after a long day.

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Come on, Ron. When we discussed this in January of 2002, when Fox News aired a report predicting anti-obesity litigation, you sneered:

Foxnews has no journalistic integrity.  Did anyone notice that nowhere in the article does it state that any lawyer in America is currently pursuing such a case.

Foxnews totally invented this scenario and then asked some bozos to comment on it.

Their follow up story will be about the possibility of suing John Denver and Tommy's pot dealer.

I think that you can get more reliable hard news from E! Entertainment Network.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST&f=2&t=3467

The topic is rather long, so it bears re-reading, but the crux of my point there, repeated a few times, was:

I ask you, will you be surprised when a class action suit as described in the Fox News piece actually gets filed? If so, I suggest we wait and see. If it hasn't happened in a couple of years, we'll see who was right.

You, reluctantly:

Some idiot may attempt such a suit someday, but unlike the McDonald's case, he/she will not have much with which to work.

Me:

Ron, there are not only individual idiots out there, but also well-organized and funded interest groups that pursue litigation for political purposes. You describe the legal theories that prevailed against big tobacco and breast implants as though they were obvious. In fact, they were the end results of hundreds if not thousands of experimental lawsuits in most every state, pursuing every legal theory imaginable and some unimaginable ones as well. Those particular theories you cite happen to be the ones that won. They are neither the most compelling theories nor are they even sensible unto themselves. The breast implant claims in particular were based on junk science that has been thoroughly discredited. But the courts don't demand real science -- only "experts." (When I read Fast Food Nation, the first thing I thought was that Schlosser has a great career as an expert witness ahead of him.) The fast food industry is too deep a pocket for the plaintiff's bar to ignore. Eventually, somebody will have success with such a lawsuit. Perhaps the prevailing plaintiff will be able to hang his hat on misrepresentations made by a company as to healthfulness. Perhaps there are food additives that can be found to be addictive. Perhaps there will be child plaintiffs, who will be found to be victims of advertising. Perhaps the foot in the door will come from a health code transgression. Once the discovery fishing expedition begins, various corporate documents will be unearthed and presented in the most unfavorable possible light, because the average juror is easily offended by the fact that corporations want to make money. Plaintiffs will coordinate and strategize. In hindsight, we will be told, "It wasn't that the food was unhealthy per se, it was that the company concealed the truth . . ." or some such nonsense. I consider a series of major lawsuits against junk food companies to be inevitable.

This was interspersed with your straight-faced defense of the McDonald's hot-coffee lawsuit, one of the most patently stupid pieces of litigation in the history of humankind.

Soon after, the fast-food/obesity lawsuit in New York was filed. Your comment at that time:

I was wondering how long it would take for this to get on egullet. Looks like the Fat Guy's prediction came true.

Did anyone see the interview with one of the plaintiffs and the plaintiff's lawyer this morning. It was hilarious, and thats not just because of the ridiculous hairpiece worn by the attorney.

As I have stated before, I am an attorney and I practice civil litigation on behalf of plaintiffs. However, I would not take a case like this in a million years. It is lawyers like this loser and those horrible Tv ads that further denigrate my profession.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST&f=2&t=8803

Because your comment at the time was so reasonable-sounding, I gave you a break and didn't lord it over you. But now, here you are, saying stuff like:

What frivolous litigation?

and

they have yet to materialize as any actual "frivolous litigation"

One would hope you intended sarcasm with those statements, but you clearly didn't.

There has been such litigation. That is a fact. When you're ready to disprove it, go ahead. Otherwise, the argument that "they have yet to materialize as any actual 'frivolous litigation'" is simply wrong.

There is a massive effort underway, spearheaded by Banzhaf, to "sue them and sue them and sue them." I've provided the citation above. When you're ready to disprove it, go ahead.

Banzhaf is his own best promoter. When you're ready to disprove it, go ahead. But the facts clearly indicate that he is fully in favor of keeping the story hot. I've given examples of his self-serving media appearances, with links. And I've linked to organizations that are backing up this strategy, and quoted their spokespeople and documents in their own words.

And finally, I'll make the prediction again, because it will come true again and again and again. My advice is not to bet money on the other side.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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"Today's celebrities wear sizes 0 or 2, as compared to a normal size 12 a few generations ago."

This is actually a very misleading statistic. The fashion industry re-jiggered their sizing some time ago so that a size 2 is larger than than the previous generation's size 2s. Anyone who has ordered a wedding dress knows about this phenomena---women find they have to order wedding dresses in sizes larger than their everyday clothes because many gown companies still use the older sizing.

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The US gov't cutoffs for obesity were also changed some time ago, making something like 30 million people obese (or maybe it was overweight; I posted the citation on another thread) overnight.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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it must be easier for a state to take action against harmful societal structures and big corporations that can be largely blamed for the "obesity epidemic", if that society does not see the individual as absolutely and solely responsible for himself

It's easier for a society that deemphasizes individual responsibility to blame those structures and corporations in the first place.

and a lot more realistic, too. forgive me for saying so, but your "stubborn individualism" has a taste of "übermench". please remember that the typical modern western individual is in a setting of eating habits that seem normal to him, even though his situation is in reality partially harmful. and remember that this is a situation that is created by big corporations (and not only the mac d.s of this world, but the producers, too), by where we live (work far from home etc), by our having to work long days, by...the list has no end, but there are a few places where government can step in and change things. like consumer protection, by making it easier to walk or ride a bicykle to work or to the train station (and of course by improving public transportation), by limiting the allowed size of shopping malls, by... problem is, this means taxes and limitations, and that's difficult when the state is basically seen as an enemy.

Edited by oraklet (log)

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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your "stubborn individualism" has a taste of "übermench"

This "stubborn individual" is through communicating with you.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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your "stubborn individualism" has a taste of "übermench"

This "stubborn individual" is through communicating with you.

and my dad can beat up your dad. so there. take that. nyah nyah.

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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