How Do We Move Beyond Obesity Panic?

Last week I tuned into HBO’s Weight of the Nation and combed through many of it’s critics. Like a horror movie trailer, the familiar alarms shrieked: Fat people! They are everywhere! They are getting bigger! Fat is attacking the children! We are all going to die!

The series opens with the Body Mass Index- an oversimplified and flawed measure of health. A high BMI implies inevitable doom while the skinny folks are supposedly safe. Never mind the unhealthy string beans or the fit, “overweight” athletes.

Sustaining health is everyone’s problem.

We’re fossil fueled with quickie carbs, the media is saturated with transfats, and clogged socioeconomic arteries spike our cortisol. Cheap calories manipulate the most vulnerable: the poor, the uneducated, and anyone hungry in a grocery store. Bariatric procedures, genetic engineering, and sedentary employment second-guess our ingenious design. The congested disease care system shows up late and overcharges for a scalpel or pills for the side effects of other pills. In an inflammed ecosystem, we’re all ready to internally combust.

Yeah, it’s scary. Fearful times trigger scapegoating, denial, dogma, and freaking out:

Fat people present the most convenient scapegoats for our quagmire. Yet fat people are not the problem.

If the BMI grants immunity and your health sh*t hasn’t hit the fan than you are “off the hook”. Enjoy the denial while it lasts.

Panic also perpetuates dogmas. “Health” gurus scream from their pulpits, “I have seen the light! Follow my dietary doctrine or atoning workout. Lose 20 lbs. by tomorrow!” Peddlers of cure-all potions and quick-fix gizmos flood the airwaves.

Following all the rules and “being good” can provoke neurosis. Why binge on health advice yet still hunger for clarity? It feels like micromanaging the apocalypse.

Folks, once we calm down we can get to work. Stress narrows our mindset at the moment we need broad, creative solutions. The most challenging exercise will be adapting our thinking.

HBO’s final segment came around the holistic perspective required to address our crisis. Small farmers seeding innovative business models, urban planners redesigning public space, and employers reimaging the workplace. No singular diet, farm bill, or school lunch program will guarantee an immediate 30lbs. weight loss. There is no so single answer and no single shape of a healthy body.

How do we carve out a optimal habitat as we rally for change? We start by relearning our agency in a body, a community, and an ecosystem. Moments of intentionality won’t always grab headlines. Yet with consistent steps, we forge change in our metabolic, economic, and agricultural systems. Let’s calmly commit to the heavy lifting of paradigm shifting.

Speaking of solutions, I’m launching a podcast entitled Leaders of the Movement.

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