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F is for Fat

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Richard Hamburg, deputy director of Trust for America's Health, discusses his organization's recent report on obesity in America. 

Guests:

Richard Hamburg
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Comments [48]

Evan

Mr. Bad,

While I appreciate your ad hominem attacks and assumptions as to my wealth, I feel the need to clear some things up.

I believe in single payer. But since that's not happening anytime soon, I believe we need an outcome, not procedure, based system. Despite the fact that it's incredibly cost-ineffective, our current system would rather pay for Type II diabetes than nurse practitioners, etc to educate people on better choices, which would hopefully reduce obesity and costs. I also think we should assess additional taxes on high fat foods as we do with cigarettes, which will hopefully result in better choices. I understand that people buy fast food because it's cheaper. Let's try and end that.

But I also think it's incredibly condescending and paternalistic to say that poor people are so ignorant that they can't understand bad choices and the cost of doing so. Cynical as it may be, people respond when it costs them.

Jul. 15 2011 10:44 AM
Katherine from NYC

I hope when the Brian Lehrer show covers this issue further they will consider addressing trends which have influenced how Americans regulate their eating -- what is going on so people are not getting signals for satiety, and continuing to eat anyhow? I feel like this is the biggest factor in this trend. Lack of exercise is part of it, but lack of exercise can also affect people's ability to regulate their eating. Sugary foods are part of it, but only a small part. I'd be interested in the cultural trends that lead people towards eating to cure boredom, excessive snacking, eating larger and larger portions... that I think gets at the overall trend. The decline of the family meal (however you define family) must be a part of the picture too...

Jul. 14 2011 04:56 PM
anna from new york

Ah, happy holiday.
Allons enfants de la Patrie ...

Jul. 14 2011 01:01 PM
anna from new york

Patrick from Fort Greene.
So obviously you are fat and obviously nothing and nobody can help you..

Jul. 14 2011 12:34 PM
Karen from NYC

What about the ability to buy food on credit card? This occurred over the last 10-15 years? This payment type happens at local supermarkets and the big box food stores. You do not have to make choices-- you can buy both items. You are also able and encouraged to buy the largest size food pack possible since it is more economical and there are often multiple food items shrink wrapped together for sale. The larder is thus always well stocked. Also, while waiting for the cash register, the shopper passes [and often waits next to] a wall of large muliptle pack snack foods and candies.

Jul. 14 2011 12:12 PM
Patrick from Fort Greene

Hi Richard Hamburg,

How can you have a job related to these issues and not know that "food desserts" is a myth?
Are you disputing this:

"In the 2008 farm bill, Congress mandated that the department conduct a $500,000 study of "food deserts."

"Overall, median distance to the nearest supermarket is 0.85 miles," said the Agriculture Department report. "Median distance for low-income individuals is about 0.1 of a mile less than for those with higher income, and a greater share of low-income individuals (61.8 percent) have high or medium access to supermarkets than those with higher income (56.1 percent)."

So why Dick Humbug, are you perpetuating this lie? Can you not see that it makes certain groups appear as blameless victims, rather than as rational human beings?

Fraud.

Jul. 14 2011 11:59 AM
Patrick from Fort Greene

There is a clear link between stupidity and both poverty and obesity.

If you are stupid about your life choices this will also include what you eat.

Low IQ is correlated with obesity and poverty.

It's the stupidity.
Here is the link in case you don't think so:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1531487/The-greater-your-weight-the-lower-your-IQ-say-scientists.html

Jul. 14 2011 11:56 AM
Liz Dibble from Tuckahoe, NY

I think a major factor as was stated earlier is the disappearance of family meals. As mothers are increasingly found in the work force and not in the home, they no longer govern family food choices in the same way. Also a society where instant gratification is constantly promoted, "if it feels good do it" has seemed to become the mantra. That of course will spill over into food indulgence. There is nothing inherently evil about candy, dessert, carbs, soda, but they should be occasional "treats" not a staple of our diets. Also, I too thought the idea of how to make "fat gross" as in the recent cigarette campaign was insensitive and has little value. Society has certainly taken care of that already. The pressure on women to be thin and flaunt their bodies in super revealing clothing is greater than ever, maybe that has contributed to low self-esteem, poor self image, and some resultant over-eating

Jul. 14 2011 11:53 AM

Some of you have to get out of the Tri-State area more.

You want to eat or shop in most of the US you have to get into a car and drive. The supermarkets don't deliver and they can be miles away. It's easier and closer to drive up to Mickey D's, yell into an intercom and pick up your "food" than go to Walmart (a soul crushing experience) or a supermarket, go up and down the aisles, check out your groceries, drive 20 minutes to home, unpack your groceries and cook dinner. This is assuming you know how to cook. I know a lot of people down here, men and women, who can't and don't.

The entire culture of food in most of the US is simply unhealthy.

Jul. 14 2011 11:53 AM
Patrick from Fort Greene

There is a clear link between stupidity and both poverty and obesity.

If you are stupid about your life choices this will also include what you eat.

Low IQ is correlated with obesity and poverty.

It's the stupidity.

Jul. 14 2011 11:51 AM
Bryan Keller from East Village, NYC

All of this "I pay more for people who do not conform to my lifestyle choices, so the government should force people to change" commentary is exactly why conservatives don't think we should have socialized medicine in any form.

And from the comments on this page, I think we are actually too intolerant to have nice health coverage.

Liberals like you make me sick (and I am a die-hard liberal).

Jul. 14 2011 11:51 AM

we all pay extra taxes for overweight medicare recipients

Jul. 14 2011 11:44 AM
Mr. Bad from IL

@ Evan from New York, NY

If you've been listening you'd know that a disproportionate % of the very overweight are poor and disadvantaged, forcing them to pay more for their health care is exactly the OPPOSITE of an intelligent approach, those people need better and cheaper access to care (PCP to control their condition, nutritionist/therapist/surgery to treat it) not punitive measures that may make health care unaffordable altogether - they won't just "die off" as you would like, they will linger on, draining public resources with their increasingly expensive treatment needs due to deteriorating health.

Or maybe we should just bar smokers and fat people from health care at all, isn't that the logical conclusion of your misguided, diminished logic? Thanks for taking us back to medieval times, all the fat peasants can die in the fields so you can afford some more baubles, you're quite a forward thinking progressive.

Jul. 14 2011 11:41 AM
Bryan Keller from East Village, NYC

I just heard the most offensive piece on the BL show. "Is there any way we can make 'fat' gross? Like we did with smoking?"

You know what? Screw you. Just screw you. That kind of thinking makes me want to support the tea party and abolish the government and effing annoying 'public health experts'. Get a real job, jerk.

Jul. 14 2011 11:38 AM
Brian from Hoboken

There are always going to be some healthy people for whom the BMI scale doesn't properly categorize their health risks, just as there are skinny guys with bad hearts. That aside, it doesn't take an epidemiologist to see the obesity trend.
At some point healthy people should not pay the same insurance premiums as high risk people. Offer obese patients free nutrition counseling and exercise regimen advice, and monitor those patients. As long as they continue to at least try to lose weight, they are fine. If they don't comply, they pay higher insurance rates. Same with smokers- enroll in free smoking cessation program or face higher premiums.

Jul. 14 2011 11:34 AM
Patrick from Fort Greene

This feels like such a retro topic.

Everyone should know by now that:

a) The BMI scale is completely laughable.

b) That "overweight" people are just as healthy as thin or normal.

c) That fat is a symptom, not the CAUSE of illness.

d) We eat too much sugar and grain etc. and exercise too little - that is bad for health. Being fat is not bad per se.

e) "Food dessert" theory is a myth, that moves the responsibility away from the eater. Everyone who really wants it, can get hold of veggies.

Jul. 14 2011 11:34 AM
Mr. Bad from IL

@ Evan from New York, NY

"Perhaps in my childlike viewpoint, I don't see a difference."

Agreed.

Jul. 14 2011 11:34 AM
John A.

Hazel, ever count the racks of candy in the front of the CVS (heathcare!) store?

Jul. 14 2011 11:33 AM
Heather from Brooklyn

Food system policy, especially the farm bill, creates subsidies for corn, soy, and other commodity crops keeping foods with factory farmed meats, and foods sweetened with corn syrup cheap. Eating refined and processed foods robbed of their nutritional value create cravings. our bodies are shouting for nourishment and tell us to keep eating. Food and health advocates should target policy makers to create a fair and healthy food system, supporting local farmers, organic produce growers, and changing the way we raise animals for meat.

Jul. 14 2011 11:32 AM
Hazel from New Jersey

The hospital in my community has a Dunkin Donuts in the lobby.

Jul. 14 2011 11:32 AM

Like Caroline, I am from NYC and have lived in FL for the past three years. She is spot on. The restaurant choices are horrible as all you've got KFC, Mickey D's, BK, Waffle (aka Awful) House and Denny's. And these places are packed. I cook all the time and walk as much as possible (which is tough in the summer here).

Jul. 14 2011 11:31 AM
Brenda from NYC

It is easier to be obese than in the past. Clothing was much more expensive 40 years ago. The average person could not run out and replace their wardrobe with every 10-20 pounds gained.

Jul. 14 2011 11:30 AM
anna from new york

I turned on the radio ... and predictably there is idiotic babbling.
American are obese because of idiocy.
Stop idiotic babbling about ... starch and look at systemic problems.
Americans work 70 hours a week in terror and horror and collapse in front of TV with comfort food. Simple. Children deprived of parents who "love their bosses and love their jobs" (70 hours a week of horror and terror) and normal civilised way of life (no fear, vacations, future, etc.) find comfort in comfort food. Simple.

Jul. 14 2011 11:30 AM
Edward from NJ

@Jay from Brooklyn, the interesting thing is that the 2011 winner who ate 62 hotdogs isn't obese.

Jul. 14 2011 11:29 AM
Lori from NY/NJ

Well, regardless of the BMI, all you need to do is travel to see that Americans are fat. I'm always amazed at the lack of obese people when I travel to Europe, Asia, etc.

Jul. 14 2011 11:29 AM
Evan from New York, NY

Mr. Bad,

I don't see it as black and white. You stated that you quit because of higher cigarette taxes. I'm saying that we assess higher insurance rates as a means of hopefully stopping smokers, reducing obesity, etc. Perhaps in my childlike viewpoint, I don't see a difference.

Jul. 14 2011 11:29 AM
Mary Hartley RD from NYC

For the caller now - the research shows that we have a habit of "constantly snacking".

Jul. 14 2011 11:28 AM
Sarah from CT

It would be much appreciated by those of us raising kids who have Type 1 diabetes if Mr. Hamburg would take the split second needed to say, "Type 2 diabetes" when he discusses the impact of obesity on health. The "obesity and diabetes" mantra is terribly unfair to those living with Type 1.

Jul. 14 2011 11:28 AM
Tim

People.... It's not meat that's making us fat. It's the french fries, bread and pasta that is driving insulin resistance. The carb loads are killing us.

Jul. 14 2011 11:28 AM
Sandra McLean from brooklyn

I am the chair of Slow Food NYC - we run good food and gardening programs in 12 schools and have a farm and food program in Brownsville Brooklyn. We work very hard to teach our teens and children to eat well by learning to love healthy food.
The 2 biggest obstacles are food access and education. We can handle the education part, but even if a child excitedly brings home a new vegetable recipe to try with their parents, there is no place for them to buy the healthy vegetables needed. What can be done about this?

Their busy parents

Jul. 14 2011 11:27 AM
Sandra McLean from Brooklyn

Studies show that cutting down our intake of sugary drinks by one a day could cut the obesity rate in children in half.

Why are sodas still being allowed in the SNAP program?

Why aren't recipients of SNAP being better educated about sugary drinks?

Jul. 14 2011 11:26 AM
The Truth from Becky

Be whatever you want...just don't go to the extreme either way...too fat...too skinny and certainly don't look to the government for assistance whatever you choose to be!

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him vegetables instead of chips! or something like that! lol

Jul. 14 2011 11:24 AM
Mr. Bad from IL

The caller is also correct, the BMI scale is way out of sync. I'm 6'2 230 and according to the BMI measure I'm VERY overweight and one Bic Mac away from Obese (29.5 BMI) meanwhile I have no noticeable gut and the BP of a "baby" according to my PCP.

People nowadays are able to maintain a lot of lean (heavy) muscle & bone mass especially since they can do weight training efficiently at a gym and never endure even periodic malnutrition as they did even 100 years ago during the winter, especially in rural areas.

Jul. 14 2011 11:23 AM
Mr. Bad from IL

@ Evan from New York, NY

All of our lifestyles are subsidized collectively, you're just a little too dim to realize it, it's part of the social contract, not black and white the way children (and you) think.

Jul. 14 2011 11:22 AM
Lori from NY/NJ

Well, what are the consequences? If society pays for food for poor citizens and also pays for their medical costs, why would people change?

Jul. 14 2011 11:21 AM
Evan from New York, NY

Mr. Bad,

If you want to smoke, go ahead. If you want to be fat, good for you. Have whatever lifestyle you want. Just don't expect subsidies in the form of community rating.

Jul. 14 2011 11:21 AM
Jay from Brooklyn

In 1984, the winner of the Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest ate only 9.5 hot dogs...this year the winner ate 62 hot dogs!

How is this possible? What changed?

Jul. 14 2011 11:20 AM
The Truth from Becky

He dodge the "rural" question...the correct answer is the poor whites in rural areas are overweight and poverty stricken as well.

Jul. 14 2011 11:18 AM
Tim

What do they feed livestock to fatten them up? Grain. 'nuff said.

Jul. 14 2011 11:17 AM
Mr. Bad from IL

Well, stop subsidizing corn (used for cattle feed and soda syrup) and leave it be. When meat and corn products become more expensive the problem will correct itself, same way smokers (myself included) were forced to quit by cig taxes.

Also, if people want to be fat so what? Are fit people the only ones allowed to have unhealthy lifestyles? Personal choices shouldn't be legislated and adults can think for themselves.

Jul. 14 2011 11:17 AM
Evan from New York, NY

Martin, Martin, Martin...I'm not "picking winners and losers and trying to control them." I'm actually calling for personal responsibility (something to which the right used to pay lip service). I'm saying that you can engage in whatever behaviors you choose, but be prepared to pay for the consequences. What you want is not personal freedom but rather the right to act like a teenager - do what you want and let others pay.

Jul. 14 2011 11:16 AM
patrick from Fort Greene

"Food desserts" is a complete myth. If you are interested in getting fruit and veggies, there is nothing stopping you from getting hold of it. If poor people can manage to find street drugs, they can probably manage to take a trip every week and get some veggies.

You can do it if you really want to!

Jul. 14 2011 11:16 AM
patrick from Fort Greene

This is so ridiculous. "Obese" and "overweight" is defined in ridiculously low weight.

"Obese" people don't look obese at all, and "overweight" people have longer life expectancy than thin.

The health problems is not caused by the weight itself, but unhealthy life styles.

Poverty doesn't anyone fat, I was skinny when I was poor. It is about consuming more calories than you expend. That is all.

Jul. 14 2011 11:14 AM
Caroline

As someone who just moved to the south from NYC, I'm amazed at all the fast food down here. Even the restaurants are really high end fast food.. TGIF, Olive Garden etc..

When I lived in the city I could get a salad to go anywhere.. here my only option is fast food if I want to eat out on my lunch break.

Jul. 14 2011 11:12 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

@Evan

Penalize risky behaviors (or at least the ones that you don't do).....just like a leftie to pick the winners and losers....and then control them.

Actually, this is an incredibly HOMOPHOBIC idea since epidemiologists have long recognized that gay male sex is among the riskiest of behaviors on an economic and public health basis. Shall we start demanding that gay men either prove that they are not having unprotected sex or risk paying higher healthcare premiums? LOL .... where will you stop?

Jul. 14 2011 11:09 AM
Evan from New York, NY

Martin Chuzzlewit,

Nothing like the knee jerk response of the right wing. How about we apply the GOP's standard response? Tax cuts for the rich, on the theory that they will then invest the money in healthier food, gyms, etc which will then trickle down to the poor and obese? Or invade Iran, since it has a link to obesity (i.e., Iranians eat kebabs and shawarma, which could make people fat)? Or blame gay people, since some of them are caterers or restaurateurs who sell high fat food?

Actually, I believe that we should charge higher health care premiums to smokers, the obese, motorcycle riders and others who engage in higher risk activities. We have a problem in this country, both public health and financial, and we need to do something about it. Your snide comments aside, we need to control costs and if counseling and education can do it, they should be required. Or is it better to cover the cost of coronary care and insulin for preventable Type II diabetes?

Jul. 14 2011 10:39 AM

tax soda tax gas!

Jul. 14 2011 10:17 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

I think that President Obama and the Democrat Party should apply their 2 favorite remedies to this problem (since a person's obesity is a healthcare burden on us all).......questionably constitutional mandates and, of course, an excuse for further taxation.

Anyone 10 lbs or more over the "government guidelines" should be required to.....
(1) abide by an Obamacare mandate to receive nutritional counseling and weight reduction education that they must pay for out their own pocket.
(2) pay an additional 0.5% in a federal income tax surcharge for every 10lbs over this threshold. After all, they take up more space and consume more food ... so they should pay their fair share...it's only "fair" and it is for the "common good." As President Obama would say, these folks took more food and now they must "give back." He would also remind us that they represent only a finite % of the population, but consume a disproportionate amount of the available food.

Jul. 14 2011 08:04 AM

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