Washington is tackling rising obesity rates with educational programs focusing on nutrition and fitness — programs that focus more on the classic American value of personal accountability, rather than addressing the real reasons why people are overweight to begin with.
Human beings are not overweight for lack of knowledge. The fact of the matter is, if healing obesity were as simple as telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables, it would have happened already.
Similarly the “obesity epidemic” is not the result of some spontaneous loss of willpower across cultures, race, and social groups (which some people would like to believe, so they can relinquish all responsibility for poisoning our food systems).
Let’s get real.
Back in the day, people didn’t need to be told what to eat. They instinctively knew and found pleasure in eating foods that promoted their health and were appropriate for their bodies (in both quality and amount). One reason things have changed, is that our food choices have been restricted, either by lack of funds, or our aggressively fat-shaming, diet-promoting culture, which has resulted in massive cross-cultural binge-eating.
Let me explain ....
We have two primary populations of people that are eating too much:
1. “Rich people” who eat too much.
2. “Poor people” who eat too much.
Rich people (i.e. people who have free access to an array of different “healthful” foods without financial constraint) are eating too much for a couple of reasons. First of all they’re eating their feelings, and combating emotional drivers that encourage them to eat as a form of desensitization; just like watching too much television. It’s a way people deal with their feelings in a world that increasingly encourages them not to feel.
Why rich people get really fat, is that in response to putting on “emotional eating weight” they’re told to diet, which almost always ends in reactionary binge-eating, and more weight gain. While the phrase “diets don’t work” seems to be widely accepted, people keep going on them, because they don’t know what else to do and no one is talking about the emotional component.
“Poor people” (those who do not have access to healthy food due to financial or socio-geographic constraint — e.g. they live 100 miles from the nearest Whole Foods), get fat even faster than rich people, because they don’t have access to healthy foods to begin with. Then they’re told by the government that they’re all going to die of diabetes if they don’t “do something about it.” So they start buying Lean Cuisines, or other processed, junky “diet foods” and all of a sudden they’re in reactionary binge-eating mode too. This is not for lack of will-power, but an actual biological response to restriction.
In both categories, the overwhelming cultural (and government) response to being overweight is dieting or restriction around food, regardless of the fact that 90% of the time, dieting results in long-term weight gain.
No amount of ChooseMyPlate posters will ever make up for the financial and emotional barriers to healthful eating. And on our current path of putting the band-aid of dieting on the bullet-wound of obesity, we have a good chance of getting fatter (and more miserable) as the days go on.
Isabel Foxen Duke is a Certified Health Coach and Emotional Eating Expert. She helps women make peace with their bodies, so they can stop obsessing about food. Your weight dramas are scared of her. For more articles, visit www.IsabelFoxenDuke.com and download How Not To Eat Chocolate Cake. You can also follow me on Twitter @IsabelFoxenDuke and Facebook.com/