Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Diet for Your Country

The Global War on Terror cannot be effectively fought with our young people becoming too globular themselves. Corpulent Millennials just end up bloating the corporate defense budget. Fat people can't fight.

So, the military industrial complex has a message for all you critics of government programs which fight childhood obesity. Forget about the terrible toll that a bad diet is taking on our increasingly impoverished population. We get that you don't care about people living longer, healthier lives just for the sake of living longer, healthier lives. But have you ever stopped to think about the awful truth that our young people are becoming too fat to keep the plutocracy safe and secure?

"Still Too Fat to Fight" is the title of a chilling new report funded by a mish-mash of health care think tanks and defense/homeland security contractors called Mission Readiness. It is apparently a follow-up to that other blockbuster called "Too Fat to Fight" which I had somehow missed. And in keeping with the current fad of blaming public schools for everything that is wrong with our society, the military mavens are putting the onus of obesity right on the public school system.

One in four Americans of military age is now too fat to join up, moan the generals and the admirals. And combined with poor education and crime, that means a whopping 75% are totally unqualified to fight and die for the oligarchy! From the report:

Finding ways to reverse our epidemic of obesity is crucial because the U.S. Department of Defense alone spends an estimated $1 billion per year for medical care associated with weight-related health problems.In a dramatic move to address this problem, the military is bringing healthier foods to its schools, dining facilities, and vending machines, but it cannotwin this fight alone. The civilian sector needs to do its part.

Look at this way, the bigwigs continue. If you counted up all the calories these kids consume and converted them into candy bars, the sweets would weigh more than the aircraft carrier Midway! Without a lean mean fighting machine, our ship of state will sink from the excess weight. Our progeny will have become a sorry nation of Colonel Blimps.

The report also inadvertently acknowledges that our economic recession has actually been a good thing when it comes to desperate unemployed young people joining up as a last resort. And OMG, what'll happen if and when times get better? Who will fight our forever wars then?

The childhood obesity epidemic is still threatening our national security. In fact, the rate of obesity is still climbing among boys age 12 to 19 years. When the impact of the recession is over and fewer people seek to join the military,or if America is drawn into a new conflict, our military could again have trouble finding a sufficient number of well educated recruits without serious criminal backgrounds, or
excess body fat. Even among those who can be admitted, if they are physically unfit from a lifetime of nutritionally weak diets and lack of exercise, they will be more prone to injuries.

The Pentagon retirees urge Congress not to dismantle public education and defund the free healthy meal programs for our impoverished youth. We need to keep them healthy enough to lose their limbs. We need them healthy enough to lose their minds. We need them physically fit so that when they die they can fit more easily into our assembly line of coffins.


Pearl said...

What Mrs. Obama does not include in her lectures about eating healthily, is the fact that many families these days who are getting poorer and poorer cannot afford to buy the healthy fruits and vegetables, etc. to keep their children from becoming obese. The diets of people watching the pennies consists of basics such as rice, potatoes, pasta which are filling but not the best, especially for children. They need lots of milk, and all the other fine foods that she recommends which are unaffordable. Even government handouts of certain foods are basic and do not include the more nourishing ones that are needed. Also food stamps have to be carefully used which means buying the cheaper items in the market. Also, never mentioned is the cost of food which is steadily rising.

Denis Neville said...

Obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges our nation has ever faced. Childhood obesity in America is at epidemic levels. Obese children will likely become obese adults and continue to have poor health throughout their adult lives.

When societal change depends on overcoming the influence of entrenched powers - the industrial food complex - does it help to have another powerful interest in your corner - retired generals and admirals of the military industrial complex - urging Congress not to dismantle public education and defund the free healthy meal programs?

Kat said...

This book offers a different take on the "obesity epidemic":

For further reading:

and from the same blog:

That's all I'll say because many say what I want much better.

Denis Neville said...

@ Kat - Thanks for the links.

I am particularly intrigued by Oliver’s Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America's Obesity Epidemic.

He actually set out to write his book believing that "obesity" is a real problem in America. However, “What I thought was an epidemic began to look like a politically orchestrated campaign to capitalize on America's growing weight.” The "heath-industrial" complex profits once you can label fat people as "sick".

“The only way we are going to “solve” the problem of obesity is to stop making fatness a scapegoat for all our ills. This means that public health officials and doctors need to stop making weight a barometer of health and issuing so many alarmist claims about the obesity epidemic. This also means that the rest of us need to stop judging others and ourselves by our size.”

Obesity is not a disease according to Oliver. It is a symptom, not a cause of, the nation's health problems. Oliver writes that proclamations of an "obesity epidemic" are built upon shoddy science and marketing campaigns developed and promoted by those who either sell purported "solutions" to the "problem," or whose funding depends on belief that they're researching or fighting a terrible disease.

Oliver says that despite the claims attributing increased incidence of diabetes to weight gain and insulin resistance, “No one has demonstrated that obesity causes insulin resistance. All we really know is that insulin resistance is simply more prevalent among people who are heavier. In fact, we just may have the whole causal relationship backward - rather than obesity causing insulin resistance, it might be that insulin resistance is causing obesity.”

Fatness is not a disease. Oliver says, it “is a protective mechanism that evolved to survive fluctuations in our food supply. Judging someone's health by how much they weigh is like judging a camel by how much water it has in its hump -- in conditions of privation, our extra weight, just like the water, may be exactly what we need to survive. Our weight is merely an expression of this adaptive mechanism at work.”

Locally, the fight against the "obesity epidemic" is well under way. Candy and soda machines have been removed from the schools. New rules from the Department of Agriculture for school lunches have been implemented. Many high school students are complaining that the 750-850 calorie limit for them isn't enough food. Ten-to-one there will soon be black market in those schools selling candy and other junk food.

“Instead of convening task forces to figure out ways to combat obesity, state and federal government should simply be telling health agencies to find better measures of health than weight. They should make rules on the conflicts of interest between obesity researchers, weight-loss doctors, and the diet and pharmaceutical industries. And they should develop programs to combat the stigma and prejudice that fat people must face and institute laws, such as those in San Francisco and Michigan, that protect people against size discrimination. In short, they should work on changing all the harmful perceptions we have about weight. This would do far more to improve the health and well-being of the American population than making us so worried about our weight.”

This book is important reading.

Kat said...

Thanks, Denis. I know the post was more about the idiocy of attacking obesity to make better cannon fodder soldiers (similar to Michelle's idea that less obesity=more productive workers), but I do think the whole idea of the "obesity epidemic" should be scrutinized. It is pretty silly as obesity is neither a disease nor is it contagious.
I do feel that fat prejudice often stands in for class prejudice.
I think it would be wiser and kinder to stop judging others on their body type.
I'm not fat. I do have kind of unruly hair. It has been something that has annoyed me my whole life-- a lot less as I get older, though. But the real annoyance is when I have to interview for a job or some such similar occasion. I know that I'm viewed as less professional. How stupid is that (although I would never really call myself "professional" truth be told. I have to wonder if my hair shaped some of that view.). How silly is that? Or, if you're a man how about being judged more competent simply because you're tall?
We have no trouble judging people based on their weight-- they lack discipline, they lack self control, they're stupid and don't know how to eat.
But people have been dieting forever and we have never been able to solve the "problem" of keeping that fat off.
I think there is a lot -- I mean a lot-- of junk science built around diet (sugar is poison anyone?). And, I think many suffer from the delusion that if they just control their diet they can control what happens to their health. I would expect this in America. We don't like to believe in limits and we are conditioned to be optimistic. To express cynicism or pessimism is to be a malcontent, not a realist. (how'd that work out with the housing bubble?).

The Black Swan said...

Slightly off-topic, but I've been trying to encourage my friends and family to look beyond the Dem and Rep dichotomy and take a more active role in searching for other political options this November. I still am undecided if I will vote, it is a tough call. I thought I would share this though...

My 2 cents on the election.

I highly doubt Romney will get elected, unless it's something along the lines of Bush in 2000, and then it doesn't matter if we vote. I agree with everyone, everywhere that Romney and the Republicans are despicable. But I also believe the same for Obama and the Democrats. They are just despicable in different ways. But I do not support American Imperialism, I do not support the police state, I do not support the complete corporate ownership of our government, I do not support the modern banking system. I cannot condone murder, torture, unlawful imprisonment, the privatization of America or the corruption of our food system. I can't get behind the destruction of Unions, the destruction of the working poor, the destruction of the Middle Class, the Middle East and our own backyards through fracking. I cannot vote for a man who declares the right to murder anyone, anywhere, whenever he determines they are a 'threat' to 'national security'; a man who is engaged in terrorism in NW Pakistan. Just as I cannot vote for a man who is a religious fundamentalist and a corporate sociopath.

Both parties represent the furtherance of all these ills. Capitalism has an endgame of extinction. We are witnessing exponential growth bumping up against a finite world.

We can either accept this outcome and blindly walk the road to destruction or we can open our eyes to a broader and more varied range of outcomes.

Change is the only constant. Life is a constant battle against entropy. We are on a losing path. Any action to further cement the status quo is an action to further an entropic victory.

Life demands that we stick up for it.

bhavatu sabba mangalam

Kat said...

@Black Swan-- my fear is that Obama will be more successful at selling war with Iran. I don't think Romney, buffoon that he is, could accomplish this task.
The selling has already begun in the media. The stenographers are at work. We've been down this road before.

@Denis-- I really did want to thank you for looking at my links!

Valerie said...

Thank you for the links, Kat.

I think most of the processed and packaged foods that are marketed to the public, especially kids and teenagers are causing young people - who should be at the height of their fitness - to be sluggish and overweight. Some people - and I certainly saw this living in Germany thirty years ago - are "heavy-set" and have energy and feel great at a higher weight. But others feel tired and unhealthy at a higher weight. For those people, social norms aside, they would benefit from weighing less.

It isn't rocket science to work out what the problems are. I see it with my daughter. Instead of being active and outside running around the neighbourhood and playing, kids are inside watching T.V., playing computer games either on computers or on handheld games or phones. As for food - there is so much processed, packaged food that is sold to them because big corporations are making a killing on selling this stuff. There is even a whole status thing about having packaged food. A friend’s daughter came home from school in tears because some girls told her she had a “yucky lunch.” She had a sandwich, cut up veggies and a piece of fruit.

I remember insisting that if I were going to take time out of the school day for kids to have a snack that it had to be a healthy one. I said no sugar or chips. The parents, who seemed to genuinely want to cooperate, asked me for suggestions! So I went to the grocery store and saw how much crap is sold in the way of crackers, cookies - and even "healthy alternatives" like granola bars. Most of it had high fructose corn syrup and chemicals. I really question – despite assurances from the FDA – if there is any nutrition in this packaged food and I really wonder if the chemicals in the food are doing bizarre things to make our bodies hold on to the fat.

And then there is this whole issue of faux food that has been genetically modified or crops that have been sprayed with stuff like Round-Up which pretty much makes the soil totally dead - as opposed to alive with micro-organisms. Does this food give us nutrition and is it causing strange reactions in terms of how our bodies digest the food. It all makes me wonder if the food we are getting at the grocery store is even nutritious. I don't begrudge anyone a home-made cookie but I DO wonder if most of the “fun” packaged food our children are eating is making them sick and fat.

But as Pearl pointed out, organic, wholesome food is very expensive – out of the price range of most people living on a budget. I started vegetable gardening just so my child could have healthy food to eat, but gardening isn’t as easy as it sounds and it is hard to feed one’s family from a kitchen garden. And DO note, there is an entire commercial aspect to organic gardening that simply didn’t exist ten or fifteen years ago, including buying organic dirt! (OK it is sold as compost and manures but it still amounts to the dirt we grow our food in.) The EPA in South Australia is moving to regulate compost when they were getting reports that producers were mixing in all kinds of garbage, including batteries and construction materials that were totally toxic.

Food needs to become much more political. For too long, we have trusted the EPA and FDA and our image (promoted by Big Ag) of the wholesome family farmer with our food supply. And while we haven’t been paying attention, they have slipped all kinds of toxin or potentially toxic – they don’t know or want to know – into what we are eating.

Valerie said...

Yes, Kat - I totally agree with you. At least if Romney wins, the Democrats will have to oppose him if for no other reason than to prove they aren't all part of the same plutocratic party. I think Obama has been very effective in selling bad policies because died in the wool Democrats won't oppose him and black Democrats in Congress won't either. Plus, I predict that before the next election will be another financial crash, and the Republicans don't want that on their watch. If we look at how effective the corporate agenda has been under Obama - killing off unions even more than they were killed of under Bush, maintaining war, setting the stage for demolishing our safety net, promoting Free/Faux Trade, dragging down the environment, allowing the corporate banking industry to become stronger and more reckless - it is pretty clear that Obama is "the more effective evil."

Valerie said...

OK - I am writing to say please excuse all the spelling and grammatical errors I made in my last comments. I am tired (STILL moving) and my daughter - AKA Chatty Cathy - has been talking my ear off while I try to read the news/blogs/columns and write a couple of comments. I vow to find a more peaceful space to make my points in the future!

Pearl said...

"Stephen Harper receives his World Statesman Award from former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, left, and Rabbi Arthur Schneier at a reception for the Appeal of Conscience Foundation in New York Thursday.." This is underneath a picture of these venerable characters which is truly heartburning.

Ugh!! As if it wasn't enough to find Netanyahu holding forth to the U.N. this morning I knew the day would end badly. Shame on you Bibby to complain about how hard Israel has tried to make peace in the Middle East but being thwarted all the time by the evil around you. Don't you know it was just Yom Kippur when good Jews are supposed to atone for their sins????

Our current Canadian Prime Minister is a "Real' friend of Israel unlike many other current world leaders who have deserted poor Bibbi. He does good by sending Iraq war veterans home to get their just desserts.

I can hardly wait for an election to be called here and hopefully soon before Harper sells all the tar sands and other valuable bits of the Canadian environment to the highest bidders. Now that Justin Trudeau may become the leader of the Liberal (not so liberal) party, perhaps the two opposing parties may be able to work together oust Harper before long.

Pearl, where all is not well in Paradise.

Pearl said...

Yes oh yes Valerie. Today I received my absentee ballot with Jill Stein's name and party on it. (Roseanne Barr is running too?)

My choice is clear. The water in my frog pail that I am relaxing in is getting much hotter.

Denis Neville said...

Our culture of dependency according to David Brooks.

“Have you looked at 67-year-olds recently? They look the way 40-year-olds used to look. These days we have many people who don’t enter the labor force until they are 22 and then they leave at 64 and die at 85. We can’t sustain a society in which people work for 42 years of their lives and live as dependents or non-workers for 43 years of their lives.” - David Brooks

What our tin pot sociologist is advocating is a new 21st century retirement age. Why shouldn’t the 72 be the new 67? They are looking younger and living longer, why shouldn’t they work longer?

No doubt this is probably true for the elite, plutocratic crowd that Brooks hangs out with.

Almost half of workers who are 58 and older do physically demanding work, which means they are at risk of becoming disabled. The safety net is being slashed by federal, state and local governments. The result is a growing burden of retirees and their families.

So, let’s add to the number of less fortunate living on the streets and their families!

Brooks and the lamestream media, who advocate slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, haven’t a clue about the travails these people face. After all, “they’ve got theirs, Jack.”

The basis of social insurance programs is that each generation owes a debt to the preceding generation. But Brooks and his ilk don’t believe this. Instead they want each generation to begin and end with a zero balance sheet. That’s why Brooks so easily describes “entitlements” as “fundamentally diseased.”

It is amazing what these “conservatives” can tell just by looking at others. Such as, “Elizabeth Warren doesn't look like an Indian, you could tell just by looking at her that she’s white,” according to Senator Scott Brown.

Denis Neville said...

@ Kat

I truly appreciated your links.

As Harry Truman once said, “It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Having worked in health care most of my life, I frequently encountered patients with medical complications related to morbid obesity. Hence, my easy acceptance of the obesity “epidemic.”

However, I did not share the collective prejudice against obese people of many of my colleagues. One of the reasons many obese people often avoid medical care until they are seriously ill is because of the way they are treated when they seek medical care. There are pervasive stereotypes that obese individuals are lazy and undisciplined among healthcare professionals. Some even use stigma and shame to “motivate” patients to lose weight. An overweight patient deserves to be treated compassionately.

Valerie said...

I think I might have already written this in a past thread, but - to respond to Denis' last comment on Brooks - my brother, an auto-mechanic who has worked like a dog doing manual labour his entire life, is an old man at 49. Compare that to me, a teacher, who while I might be hard-working certainly didn't wear my body out doing physical labour could easily - if someone would give me a job - work till 70. I simply did not have a job that took a toll on my body the way my brother has. Truthfully, I wonder how he will make it to 65. He has two torn rotator cuffs which he can't really do anything about because he lacks good health insurance and he simply cannot take the two months off work that it would take for his shoulders to heal properly.

The problem with people like Brooks and the rest of the population of professionals pulling down a decent wage is they have NO IDEA how the other side lives. They might work hard at their chosen jobs, but they don't understand what it means to have your body just wear out from being overworked.

So now, people like my brother - people who have worked hard their entire lives, paid their taxes and paid their dues, now have to worry that when they finally get to retire, they won't have Medicare or enough Social Security - and now jerks like Brooks want to raise the retirement age. Did I mention that my brother always saved for a rainy day and lived within his means? Well, too bad the stock market crashed and wiped out his little nest egg which was in a conservative money market account.

I get SOOO mad when people like Brooks make these sweeping editorials based on nothing but their own narrow life experiences.