Politically Correct Dieting and The Obama Children


One of the major stories of 2010 was the move toward health care reform — “Obamacare.”

Although the name should be “Obama insurance”, there were several instances where the government made efforts — or made noises that there would be efforts — at controlling what they perceive as an obesity epidemic.

This included removing soda and candy machines from schools, major warnings against high-fructose corn syrup (neither of which I have a problem with) and making it mandatory for calorie counts to be listed on menus in several states (which left me scratching my head).

Early in the year, the First Lady adopted childhood obesity as her cause.  As long as I remember, a First Lady has had to have a cause.  Lady Bird Johnson declared war on litter.  Nancy Regan thought “Just Say No” would be an effective deterrent to keep people (mainly kids) off drugs. Hillary Clinton actually tried to tackle health care reform, although the rest of the government wasn’t cooperative with her plans.

Michelle Obama put her “chubby” girls on a diet.

Lots of large obese women I see daily tell me about the “first” diets their moms put them on in childhood.  They all reacted the same way — trying to sneak foods that were not allowed — sometimes with elaborate plots.

It is the old “think of anything you want except a blue horse.” The next question is, is the horse navy blue or powder blue?”

NOTE: Next week I will unveil my new book, “This Is NOT A Diet Book,”
subtitled, “How I Lost Over Half My Body Mass Without Diet, Exercise, Drugs Or Surgery”  And then, I guess what you’d call a sub-sub-title — “A Biographical Journey Through Thick And thin.”

If you want a sneak preview of the book, be sure to sign up for my mailing list by filling in the form at the top right of the page.


About the only thing good I can say about the First Family Diet is that it does not sound much like a food limiting diet:  Fruits instead of fruit juices; Less sugar and processed things.  Basically, good ideas.

The problem is more that there is any food restriction at all, and that the word “chubby” was used.  You can bet that high profile folks like the Obamas are using a “mainstream” doctor with mainstream qualifications.  Now granted there is not a lot of data about childhood dieting or food restriction that I can find.

The first thing “diet” brings to mind for most people is restricting — or eliminating — fat.  This is so-o-o-o-o wrong and very bad.

One of the main functions of fat is to coat the nerves — the way insulation coats electrical wires.  It is called “Myelination.”

The brain is chiefly made of fat.  Children especially need fat in their diet or their brains and nerves won’t develop properly.  In fact, the brain does not even get fully myelinated until age 28. The children of vegetarians are often at risk for problems because of this.

We do know something about food restriction and its effects on later life.  I was working on my neurological fellowship in Minneapolis when I first heard about the Keyes experiments back in World War II.

Young conscientious objectors were the test subjects, and the reason they were used opens a whole new political dialog which doesn’t fit in the current article.

They were placed in restrictive settings and got various limited diets for
several months. Presumably their brains were still developing at age 18. They all became food obsessed — what we shrinks call “Obsessive Compulsive.”

The obsessions didn’t end after they went back to “normal” diets, for practically everyone in the experiments went on to become a food professional (chef, dietitian, etc).

About the same time, people seem to have slammed the President’s choice of an overweight woman as surgeon general.

Eating disorders folks slammed the Obama girls’ diet as perhaps generative of eating disorders.  Nobody can really expect the daughters of presidents to come out normal, as they are under the microscope in so many ways. Labelling them as “chubby” can only hurt.

Obesity is a puzzle for mankind, people who are mired in mainstream
businesses which in America largely includes businesses that are allegedly health-promoting.  This way of attacking childhood obesity shows no signs of helping; and the eating disorder folks are right, this is a great way for people to get started on one.

Labelling people as overweight when the causes of that are still very much in question to a medical community that is more business-run than enlightened is wrong. I gave decades of praiseworthy service when I was an overweight physician.  That fact ought not to be thrown out.

The kind of idea espoused by the Obama kids diet and the fact that a surgeon general candidate is overweight is a “kill the messenger” idea.  We are all works in progress, all potentially diminished by mindless labels as science and technology, knowledge and observation, help us learn to solve our problems. Valuing perfectionism, listening to a physician or anyone else more according to how their body weight fits norms — than according to what they know and what they can do — this is superficial and silly.

Benjamin Franklin said a very long time ago — in a pamphlet designed to make Europeans relocate to the “colonies” — that America was a place where people could be judged not by who they were, but what they could do.  I always loved that statement.  I think he was thinking of noble birth meaning little, and ability to work and achieve being the cornerstone of our society.

Well, we have been judging people quickly and easily on all the wrong things for a long time.  In our history we have judged people by appearance all too often.  Skin color, the current hysteria about people wearing turbans, even celebrity worship according to physical attractiveness.

There are solutions to obesity.  But labelling someone as “obese” or even “chubby” can have lifelong psychological ramifications.  Michelle Obama may have trusted a naive doctor — many are surprisingly so. Or perhaps the responsibility of attending the First Family makes a doctor scared to deviate from the politically correct responses — even if they are not in the best interests of the patients — for fear of backlash from his peers.

There are some solutions to obesity already becoming known and understood.

The problem is multi-factorial — medical, sociological, psychological, nutritional. In trying to take on childhood obesity, I think the first lady bit off more than she can chew.

Filed under News, Nutrition, politics, weight by on #

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