Weighty issues

The bloggers at The Food Museum ruffled a few feathers yesterday with a snarky post about obesity rates in the U.S. Citing a new study that shows obesity on the rise in 33 states despite increasing nutrition-education funding, the TFM folks scoff at the idea that government might play a role in preventing the problem. “Frankly, my dears, each and every adult in this country has to wake up and take charge of his/her own health and well-being and that of their kiddies,” they write, after rattling off a litany of ostensibly failsafe weight-loss tips. One commenter lets ‘em have it for painting overweight people as those who “lack will power [SIC], are lazy, immoral, ignorant, inactive and bad parents.”

Only the briefest P.S. at the end of the bloggers’ post concedes that “there is a segment of the U.S. population that is hard-pressed to get access even to a supermarket…for them eating better is exceedingly difficult indeed.” It’s shocking that food-studies people could be so cavalier about the link between income level and food access in this day and age, given the mountains of recent reporting on the issue (never mind that TFM’s stated goals include “[tackling] childhood obesity by giving school children enlightening offbeat experiences that nudge them away from poor food choices and towards healthy eating” and “[delving] deeply into food issues affecting people, places and the planet itself”). What strange folks.

Meanwhile, a study released yesterday in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that people routinely underestimate the number of calories in large fast-food meals they’ve just eaten —but are surprisingly accurate in their calorie estimates after polishing off smaller combos. In its discussion of the research, the watchdog Diet Blog suggests that since people of all sizes are so bad at determining how much to eat when faced with a giant pile of food (and since large-scale efforts at teaching proper portion size don’t seem to be working), maybe the restaurants themselves should be responsible for reducing the caloric payloads of their meals.

That’s not a new idea, nor is it super-well-articulated in the DB post, but it’s still satisfying to see the medical evidence stacking up against horribly massive fast-food offerings. In this thread, too, one commenter reacts by busting out the old saw about Personal Responsibility (“If you are fat, you are eating too much! Eat less. What part of that is hard to figure out?”).

Not that personal responsibility is meaningless, but clearly the discourse has to go beyond these angry, simplistic rants. What’s your take on the issue? Found any good discussions in blogland?