In the Grip of Obesity Fear

Many believe the answer to the obesity pandemic is education—Educate people about nutrition, physical activity, and health matters. But many of the messages being broadcast the most loudly are not just distorted and misleading, for some of us, they add to our increasing stress and worry.

I believe that profit-driven changes in food processing and marketing have been the primary culprits in triggering and advancing America’s obesity problem. Americans started to get fatter as our choices at the grocery store began to expand and prepared food became cheaper and far more accessible. The United States today is one giant food theme park.

Yesterday I wrote about Walmart’s new “Great for You” product line. The press releases say it’s been created so that “busy moms can instantly identify healthier choices.” These “healthier” choices include reduced-sugar granola bars and low-sodium lunch meat. Walmart’s publicity campaign proudly announces they are responding to consumer demand. As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart has been able to establish connections to the Clinton Health Matters Initiative and Michelle Obama.

Walmart and other food retailers want the public to believe that the answer to the obesity crisis is to eat more boxed and packaged food that they will tell you is HEALTHY. Just look for the label they so generously and responsibly provided for you on the package. Oh no, not the nutrition facts. The sticker that says “Healthy!”

Food retailers and processors are not going to stop trying to make a profit on food and trying many different marketing angles to get you to buy it. They are not creating an “educated” consumer with their little green labels. They just want to sell.

I see the complexity of the obesity crisis deepening. Consider that food retailers are limited in how they could manipulate the costs and profit margins on fruit, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins marketed in their whole state. They could attempt to grow it faster to reduce time to market; grow it in higher volumes to increase supply and reduce the price; or extend shelf-life by retarding spoilage. They would accomplish this through increased use of GMOs in farming and livestock.

What does this mean to those of us who are already dealing with serious lifelong obesity, 100lbs or more overweight? In many ways, we’re already highly “educated” food consumers and we know only too well the health threat we live under. In fact, many of us live with what I might call “Ticking Time Bomb Syndrome.” I certainly did.

Documentary films and gloomy reports exposing America’s decline toward obesity-fueled doom are not news to us. But we are not incapacitated by ignorance; we are not blind and oblivious to health threats. We live with a very real fear of where our own habits and our own bodies are leading us. Some of us suffer every day with a painful awareness that we have to find a way to bring dramatic change into our lives.

Our fight is a very difficult one. Our adversaries are our own brain wiring, our genetics, our physiology, and how these function in an intensely food-focused culture. We endure judgment and accusations that we’re emotionally broken, weak, and justly penalized by our own poor choices. A label on a box, a book from some television trainer, a documentary or “inspirational” reality show won’t lessen our burden or guide us toward a path. For us, the answers are in our own individual truth, our own self-awareness, our own discovery and acceptance of what needs to be done. It may be breaking down specific habits, it may be undertaking physical activity in tiny steps, it may be surgery, it may be anything you do one day, even one hour, at a time. No one has to tell you where you need to go, you already know. But only you can draw the roadmap to get there.

Light & strength, my friends.