The Stigma of Obesity

Overweight people know they're overweight.  But they don't always appreciate the help being offered.  Why should they?  If they get talked down to, belittled or ridiculed ... A recent study of obese people in Australia looked at how they perceived themselves in the media and what they thought about the approaches to "cure" obesity. They perceived the diet industry as "greedy," "a scam." or a "rip-off" but most said they would still turn to the same industry for help with weight loss because they didn't know where else to go for support. It's pretty sad that the "best" information out there is only provided by people hoping to make some money off the guy who's just trying to get healthy. Here's what I propose as possible solutions to encourage people to lose weight.  Some of it is stick and some of it is carrot.  But the stick is aimed at food manufacturers, not individuals. Tax junk food to make it as expensive as "good" food.  This is directed more at the food manufacturers so they'll start making nutritious, good-tasting products instead of the processed crap they've been putting out since the 1970s. Make over the General Practitioner's Office. Doctor's should be pushed toward wellness maintenance models instead of "sick treatment" models.  I want to literally place nutritionists and highly certified personal trainers in doctors' offices.  A medical referral will provide you food and workout advice that's safe, effective, and reasonable. Encourage businesses to 100% reimburse their employees for fitness and weight loss programs.  I've read studies over the years that support this as a huge ROI (return on investment).  Workers immediately become more productive, take less sick time, and have less significant medical issues which drops the health costs for the company overall. Stock workplace cafeterias and vending machines with only healthy food. Doesn't this just make sense?  Why let an employee inhale a Twinkie and then deal with his 3:00 pm sugar crash?  While you're at it, offer cooking classes during off hours at the cafeteria to show employees how to cook healthfully.  And for any healthy dishes served at the company cafeteria hand out recipe cards so folks can cook the meal at home. In urban areas, focus on developing safe outdoor spaces for people to play and workout.  I'm lucky that Boston has a wonderful park system, beautiful paths along the Charles River, and tons of pocket parks throughout the city. Encourage the development of more pocket parks.  Look at developing roof tops as areas people can access.  Another great example is the old elevated railway renovation in Chicago.  They took an eyesore and turned it into a beautiful park and walkway. Make all restaurants post nutrition content directly on the menus. This works.  Would you order a 2,000+ calorie meal from the Cheesecake Factory if you knew exactly what you were putting in your mouth?  The food industry is very sophisticated, they hire chemists and marketers to feed you mounds and mounds of cheap food that appeals to your caveman palate.  By insisting on menu disclosure these same people will need to retool their dishes with fresh herbs, healthy fats, and diet-friendly starches.  It'll still taste great.  We'll just be giving them a strong push to go in the right direction. What do you think?  What would you add or take away from this list?  I'd love your thoughts. Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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5 Responses to The Stigma of Obesity

  1. TraceyJoy July 22, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    I love your ideas Lisa. If only they would truly be implemented. I would add that all public school districts no matter what the budget crisis is, that PE classes never be on the chopping block. PE will also include nutrition & wellness classes for students and teachers, heck for the whole community & the school must serve well balanced meals free of all bulk process garbage.

    As a person who has been the “chubby kid” since I can remember I know the stigma first hand. I know what it feels like to be invisible and ignored. People assume that you are dumb and stupid and deserving to be treated worst than any criminal. I know what it feels like to be picked on not just by kids at school, but family members who are thin, who in their way of trying to be helpful but are just more hurtful. I’ve been on a diet since I was 8. I took dexatrim at 8 years old, slim fast at 10 and wore corsets and girdles before I was 10 all to keep me flat & thin. All of these methods were very dangerous for a growing child and none of them worked.

    So here I am in my early 30’s larger than some NFL players and unhappy. I don’t even go home to visit family and friends due to my weight, I just can’t take the stares, comments and the “why did you let yourself go like this”. So I just say I’m gonna be overweight forever. It hurts likes nobody business.

    A few months ago I started a journey not to loose weight or have that as my focal point but to discover total body wellness. I’ve met many people who are just like me. They know what I’m feeling & the share the same issues. Then there are folks who are willing to impart their knowledge to assist others in learning how our body works, how to be healthy and strong. When you learn how your body works the process of wellness becomes easy. Don’t put garbage in your mouth no matter how yummy it taste. In the long run it will do much much more harm to you than you can ever imagine. It’s hateful and a destroyer of all things good.

    I learned how to shop for foods that were good for my body. Foods that were full of nutritional value. Buying organic can be costly especially if you are still buying the junk or garbage “foods”. I actually found that my food bill was even buying wholesome foods verse prepackaged processed to the hilltop “foods”. Sometimes it’s less. There are online resources that show you shopping list for healthy clean eating on a budget. It can be done.

    Dr Wayne Dyer says “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. That is so very true. In the long run you will have a healthy, happy body, one not prone to illness and diseases. You could cut your DR visit and prescriptions bills in half if not totally out by eating good, clean foods now. You have to reprogram your brain and think differently about your life and food. I’m not saying quit going to the Dr and stop taking all your meds and eat veggies and you’ll be ok, no. What I’m saying is in changing your diet many people have been able under DR orders to remove certain medication (especially diabetes, heart and even blood pressure pills)from daily use.

    The masses may not pick up on this, I have. I know that I can and WILL achieve wellness in my body. Our portion sizes are outrageous, change that. Change starts with you.

    Start carrying your food w/you. You’ll spend less on eating out & you know what you are putting into your body. Shift your thinking.

  2. TraceyJoy July 22, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    oops I’m back, I know my last post was very long. Guess I needed to get all that out. Sorry hope I didn’t offend. Let me add 1 more thing. You must get your body moving. Start by taking a walk you’ll be amazed at how you feel in just a few days. = )

  3. Julie July 22, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    Wow – what a great post.

    “Aiming the stick” at the manufacturers is the only ray of hope. People need to have “good/healthy” food choices available – period. There is no scenario where our society can effectively sustain a healthy, lean,and active life(style) without such options – let alone reverse the obesity epidemic.

    Sure the food industry “wants” to help (i.e. the new food labels – heart, whole grain etc.) people eat more healthfully. The rhetoric sounds very familiar (think tobacco manufacturers encouraging people to quit smoking). Right….the simple answer is quit making/selling cigarettes. As we say here is the south “That ain’t gonna happen.”

    On the non-cynical side, I sincerely hope the food industry finds a way to provide nutritious ,healthful food choices AND to be profitable.

  4. Lisa Johnson July 22, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    Julie I thoroughly agree with you. There is some responsibility that rests with each individual who struggles with weight. BUT it’s a lot, lot more complicated than telling someone to just “stop eating junk.” Food manufacturers will go where the money is and public outcry like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is one such pressure point, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move childhood obesity campaign is another one. If we keep repeating the message over and over then eventually the regular Joes and Janes will jump on the bandwagon and THEN we’ll start to see change.

    I’d like to see the school lunch program be a platform in the next wave of national elections this fall. Let’s throw the question out to politicians during debates … that would be fun …


  5. Christine July 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    I’ve said before on your blog that I’m a large proponent of overhauling over government in order to promote health and fitness. I agree that individuals need to step up and take responsibility for their choices, but the government needs to do a hell of a lot more than they are doing now in order to make a healthy lifestyle easier for the average citizen.

    In addition to your first point — tax the junk food — I would add this: lower the cost of healthier foods. Lower the costs a lot. That probably means that the government needs to subsidize farmers, or local communities need to offer incentives for buying locally. Where I live, it’s surprisingly hard to find a farmer’s market. (There’s only two that I know of, both are only open for three hours on Saturdays. I’m ALWAYS busy!)

    And why is buying “organic” so much more expensive than buying regular veggies? Organic just means that there are no pesticides and junk injected into our foods. That stuff should cost MORE, right? So shouldn’t organic cost LESS?

    I’m all for individual companies opting to reimburse their employees for healthy lifestyle choices. I think that would be great. However, I would discourage insurance companies from FINING individuals if they are NOT partaking in a weight loss/healthy living class or whatnot. That’s happening more and more — insurance companies are fining individuals for “being lazy” or “being overweight.” I think rewarding is one thing. Fining is a totally separate ballgame.

    I agree with Tracy that more needs to be done to promote health and fitness in our schools. Young kids need to learn at an early age what is good food, how to make healthy choices, how to be physically active. There needs to be a BIG overhaul in the way our schools serve food and promote fitness.

    Just my two cents!

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