The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Orphan (2009)

Does does access to health care affect obesity statistics?

My attitude is: how could it not? Since the obese have been mentioned several times (Americans are fatter! That's what drags down the life expectancy stats...)

This almost makes me laugh. It's like saying "Americans are sicker! That's what drags down the health stats" or "Americans die sooner! That's what drags down the mortality stats!"

In other words: Duh. In my opinion, Obesity is a disease. It is a disease that is composed of mental, emotional, and physical factors. Which of these can be affected by good health care?

1) Since we're the fattest country, and also the one without health care for all, AND obesity is a disease of poverty in me, the obvious conclusion is that the poor are less likely to have health care. Meaning that whether their issue is physical (that 3% or so who actually have a physical ailment to explain their obesity), emotional (poverty is depressing as hell. It also breeds predators who need prey, and damaged people often need armor), or intellectual. And by intellectual, I mean just plain ignorant.

I mean variations on the "my body disobeys the laws of physics" thing. I mean "I don't have hours a day to exercise" thing. The "it's genetic, what's the point" thing. And so on. All of these I consider to be lack of actual understanding.

What obesity factor WOULDN'T be influenced positively by health care? What? Remember that health care is educational, medical, emotional...I am almost baffled that such an obvious benefit is invisible to so many people. I believe that in a society where its "all in, everyone pays":

1) The number of mixed messages about health and fitness would decrease. There is a dreadful amount of ghastly misinformation floating around, much of it driven by companies who want to sell you fat and sugar. And the rest by book companies that want to sell you a new diet book every month. We drown in lies, while the data is out there.

2) Ignorance is curable. Physiologically (leaving the psychological issues out for the moment) an overweight individual could strip off ten pounds a month with about an hour of exercise (Tabata-protocol type wind sprints using a kettlebell, for instance) a WEEK, assuming that their weight was stable prior, and they did not increase their caloric input, or decrease their average level of activity outside the gym. Physics says I'm right. Argue at your own risk. A person with access to health care can learn this.

3) Many people literally don't know how to eat for health. Again, ignorance is curable. The number of mythologies running around our culture about weight loss is just horrifying.

4) There is social pressure to eat. What is wrong with social pressure to exercise and eat properly? Each side of the political spectrum tries to use social pressure to achieve its aims and reinforce its mores. We've all done this through all history.

5) Disease? We could reduce the number of people who are obese due to disease to only those with INCURABLE diseases.

6) Psychological/emotional issues. This is where the rubber really meets the road. Again, we're not talking about "a little chubby". Who cares about that? We're talking morbid, life-span affecting obesity. Talking "you're carrying enough weight to make another human being" obesity. And that relates far more often to behavior patterns than some incurable physiological issue. Behavior is driven by beliefs, values, and positive/negative emotional charges. This stuff can be worked through. It is as painful as dealing with any other addiction pattern. Right down to my toes I believe that, while core human identity may not be malleable, the EXPRESSION of that basic self is malleable indeed. In fact, it changes throughout our lives. I've seen people do it, I've helped people do it, I've failed to help people do it and had endless conversations about how they sabotaged themselves.

You guys see "America is fattest! So socialized medicine will drag us down." I see "America is fattest, and one of the factors is lack of access to health care, lack of access to real information about how and why to lose it, and a sense of isolation and "no one cares" that feeds depression."

I look at serious obesity as a disease born of bad habits, fear, poverty and depression. The fact that it is more endemic among the poor and black population feeds right into this.

I suggested that there are only two groups that can talk about this issue without suspicion of purely selfish motivations: those who can afford health insurance but are in favor of Universal health care, and those who CANNOT but oppose it. So far, we've gotten no comments from this second group. They must exist, however.

My guess is that the "asshole" quotient remains constant across the political spectrum. Shall we say 10%? So About 10% of people are lazy bastards who want someone else to pay their way. And 10% are selfish bastards who don't want to contribute to the public good. That leaves plenty of folks on both sides who either support or oppose UHC on moral, responsible grounds. Let's assume that only these people are on this board, shall we?

I really feel that what will make a difference is the question of what one believes human beings to be, at their core. I believe that we are physical beings evolving toward spirit. And that when the barriers are moved from our way, and we can see a way to live with greater long-term pleasure, we will. When this is expressed in balance, we grow and heal. I often get the sense that many on the other side of the issue think that we are, at core, lazy and sinful creatures. That the way people manifest in this world is, in general, an expression of our inner natures to the degree that the successful...well, God loves them a little more, made them a little better. And those who crawl in the muck...well, God loves them a little less, and made them a little worse.

I've caught a whiff of this regarding issues of race, poverty, sexual orientation, and more.

But my suspicion that that mindset often lurks behind an argument is partially just my own emotional stuff, and must be put aside. What I will say is that I see no factor influencing obesity that cannot be statistically impacted by proper education, counseling, medical treatment, preventive care, effective school exercise programs, and availability of adult gyms that actually produce results for time and energy expended (that excludes most isolation weight training, big time!).

I don't want a free ride. I want to pay in, with my taxes, to the largest possible pool of insured, and then purchase a rider for whatever additional needs I have. Sounds good to me.

And to those who say: "should the government grow all the food? Make the cars? All the movies and books?" I find this almost funny. If every other industrialized country had their transportation, food, or whatever made by the state, and it was cheaper and better than our system, and the citizens found the system safer and were more satisfied with it...yeah, I'd think about that seriously. But so far as I can see, that isn't true, and hasn't ever been true, anywhere.

When I am shown something that works better than what I have, yep, I look at it very carefully. And the only people I think our system works better for are some of those with the money to buy the best insurance, or those who are employed in a system providing same. And everyone else? Not so much.

I think about my mother's death. She collapsed into deep depression after some terrible events in her life, and I have often thought that was integral to her death. But I also know that she had no insurance, and delayed going to the doctor until it was too late to stop the cancer ravaging her body. Might she have lived, if she had had better access to health care? Perhaps. I think so, yes. And she worked harder than anyone I've ever known.

So, yes, you can look at the longevity statistics and take them apart, and find some particular types of diseases the American system is better with--if you can afford it. But you know what? The worst team in the NFL can find some stats that make them sound good. But at the end of the season, it's the Superbowl that counts. And I think that the health of a country can be understood by the snapshot view of infant mortality, life span, percentage of incarcerated population, gap between rich and poor...stuff like that.


Please prove me wrong: is there anyone out there who believed in UHC UNTIL they looked at the life expectancy and infant mortality statistics, and then changed their minds? Or was it that they didn't like the idea from the beginning, and then found stats to back up their positions? Fracture those statistics and I suspect what you get is that everyone who was originally on one side or the other will remain in their original position, concentrating just on the statistics that reinforce their preexisting beliefs.

For me...if America had had the best stats, I'd say that the commercial way was the way to go, I really would.


What if you think about the obese: "they're just lazy". God, do I disagree with that. First because I've known too many who worked themselves into numbness. Second: I really don't believe in lazy people. I believe in people who are unfocused, or don't believe that honest effort will bring them something worth having, that will bring more pleasure than pain into their lives.

It's like saying that someone is too lazy to run out of a burning building. Don't believe it. I DO believe in people who cower in the corner, terrified of the flame and confused by the smoke, unable to see an egress. So they die in the closet. But if they had ever seen a clear path to the door? They would have run like hell.

Do you think they're stupid? I don't. Some of the smartest people I've ever known were obese. Isaac friggin' Asimov was pear-shaped. So don't even try to go there. We're obese as a nation because

1) The way we earned our average living requires a fraction of the caloric output of our ancestors, but the "eating meme" hasn't changed.

2) We're genetically programmed to expend as few calories as possible, and eat as much as possible. The American scene has shifted so drastically that this basic programming is now one of our greatest threats. Sugar and fat taste GOOD. We did not evolve in an environment in which they were easy to find. With pain and effort no longer associated with these tastes, we've unleashed a monster.

3) Cheap food is often bad food. It satisfies our superficial hunger without deep nutrition. Bad food often also has the widest profit margins (compare the cost of a cup of coke to a cup of fresh orange juice) making it most promotable. Coca-Cola is a much bigger brand than Sunkist.

4) A more esoteric addendum. From the Hawaiian "Huna" point of view, our bodies are "black bags" where we can stuff all our unprocessed fear, guilt, anger and grief. To begin to process that flesh can bring those emotions back. We all deal with our emotions in different ways, many of them unhealthy. This is just a way that is visually evident.

Other stuff too, but that's what comes to mind first. If someone can think of an aspect of obesity that I'm missing, please tell me. Otherwise, arguing that the reason America has bad stats is obesity is actually making my argument for me.


Orphan (2009)

Finally, a horror film for genre fans with a taste for the grindhouse. "Orphan" is the story of a family that adopts a nine year old Russian girl...and then the fun begins. To say more would be just wrong. Strong stuff, exploitative a hell, and a terrific ride. For people who like their horror edgy and violently old-school, this deserves an "A". If you're touchy about the subject of adoption or images of child endangerment, it might be an "F." Tananarive and I had a great time. I felt like I was on Time Square at midnight with sticky popcorn underfoot, and a drunk sleeping in the next row. And I mean that in a good way.


First of all, nothing to fear: no white women or children were killed in the making of this film. I know you'll find that a relief. Men and black women on the other hand, well...not so much.


Anonymous said...

Though health care is extremely important for people, I'm no so convinced that access to health care will have a very big impact on obesity. I think it is A LOT more emotion and psychological than it is physiological. Attitudes in this country are not such that health care workers have any time or concern to devote to such things. I have good insurance. It buys me five minutes with a doctor if I'm lucky. And have you noticed how many fat health care workers we have? Our last doctor (a fat man) tried to solve my husband's fat problem by basically pushing 'legal speed' from his prescription pad. I told the husband to take it if he would prefer to damage his heart with stimulant drugs instead of deal with his real problem. His real problem is that his father was a violent child abuser and his mother, who showed her love with food, was his only protection. He started getting fat when his mother died. Health insurance can't fix things like that. Neither can money. My husband's family was not poor.

Marty S said...

Steve: I am obese, I have four brother in-laws three out of four are heavier than I am. My daughter in-law is obese and so is her mother and father. All these people have health care. My daughter in-law is a dentist and met my son at medical school. One of my obese brother in-laws has two sons who are both doctors. So in my personal circle having good health care and knowledge of health issues doesn't seem to be a deterrent to obesity.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Americans are obese because they're stupid, evil, or whatever. I just can't help noticing that they are, since my job puts me in contact with an unusually high number of non-Americans who whom I've sometimes made friends. Spend enough time around non-Americans, and it gets easier to see that we've got a general pattern in this country.

I'm deeply skeptical about public medical care being The Solution for exactly the same reason that I'm skeptical about public education being The Solution: there's at least as many political failures in the public sector as there are market failures in the private one; and, a lot of what makes either fitness or education work is pretty darn personal -- emotions, culture, upbringing, individual choices.

Finally, let me say yet again: being against the current disaster-on-wheels Obamacare proposal does not mean either that I think our current system is too good to improve, or that I can't think of several ways that I'd like to see it improved. It only means that I specifically think that the Democratic plan in 2009 is a large, complicated, bad idea, and that I have a general skepticism about big hulking governments being any better at solving life's problems than big hulking corporations. It doesn't mean I want uninsured women to die of cancer!

--Erich Schwarz

AF1 said...

I'm curious how you determined that obesity is a disease of the poor?

Depending on the sources used, about 13% of the US population lives in poverty. While about 37% (and growing) of the population is obese.

This seems to be an increasing problem that is cutting across all social classes.

AF1 said...

About 34% are obese, that should be. Not 37%. Sorry.

According to the Natioal Center for Health Statistics.

suzanne said...

the poor tend to eat
nutritionally deficit "food"
wonder bread made
bologna sandwiches
cost MUCH less
than fresh veggies and fruit

I eat really well
and healthily:
few processed foods
plenty of the aforementioned
(and whole fruit not juices
orange juice isn't near as good for you
(and a heap more caloric)
as eating the whole orange is)
not all that much meat
and of that mainly
chicken and fish

makes perfect sense to me
that por people eat
less nutritious foodstuffs

and now much of the population
in general
is hooked on fat
and high fructose
corn syrup

on buying pre-made foods
rather than
making their own

Marty S said...

Steve: Getting away from the link between obesity and health care lets look at the why people don't do those things(eat healthier foods, go to gyms etc.) that would lead to them being thinner. On that subject I can only talk about myself. In my youth I thought about the purpose of life and decide that the purpose of life is to enjoy it. So I make the decisions that I believe bring the most pleasure to my life. In my career that meant I settled for less money because I enjoyed doing technical work and didn't enjoy managing. With respect to diet and exercise I enjoy sports, I don't enjoy doing exercises. At one time in an attempt to exercise more I bought a treadmill, I used it for about two weeks and stopped because it wasn't enjoyable. Last night I ate veal parmigiana for dinner. Undoubtedly it was not the healthiest meal I could have eaten but I enjoyed. To put it in a mathematicians terms if maximizing the amount of pleasure in my lifetime is my goal and I have to reduce the amount of pleasure per year by 8% to increase the number of years I live by 7% then the mathematically rational solution is to make the choices that increase your pleasure per year rather than the number of years you live. Think of it this way Steve. If medical research showed that you would live longer if you spent your life digging ditches instead of writing novels would you give up writing and become a ditch digger.

Scott said...

Sambo alert got cut short; is there more?

Marty S said...

The obesity issue also plays into the universal health care and socialism issue. Most nights after supper I cap the meal with ice cream. A decidedly unhealthy decision for an overweight individual. I am diabetic so I eat only sugar free ice cream. I find that if ice cream is both no sugar added and fat free it doesn't taste good so I look for the ice cream bar that has the greatest percentage of fat. As long as I am paying for my own health insurance this may be unhealthy, but its my health and my choice. Now suppose the government becomes a major player in the health care market. It decides that eating high fat ice cream cost the government too much so it forbids manufactures from producing ice cream with more than say 2% fat. There goes another individual freedom. Can anyone honestly rule out actions like the above when the government is paying the bills.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently agnostic on the idea of UHC. I like the idea, but I'm not convinced. Here's a question; how likly are we to get what's being promised?

Steve, your use of other countries provides an excellent case study that comes down on the 'pro' side of the argument.

Let's look at a case study that seems to be a pretty strong 'con' arguement. Maybe someplace our government has promised a standard of health care and failed to deliver. A place that costs more then it ought to operate. A place with long delays for care. A place where the standard of care varies tremendously depending on who you happen to be assigned to and their mood that day. A place called the VA.

I know people who work there, I've been a patient there. The news has covered numerous problems with the VA. It's a great idea. I had some people who were very motivated to help. Others less so. I lost a lot of confidence in the system because people who I knew gave me 'the inside story'.I'm going to post anonymously to protect my sources.

I realize I sound like I'm arguing against UHC but I just really don't know at this point.

Travis said...

Hi all, I'm coming in late to the health care debate, mostly because I hadn't thought enough about it yet. Mostly I want to adress points made earlier but I'm putting it here in the more recent thread.

One thing I see in this debate is a mix of philosophical concerns, ie. what is the role of government? to create a free environment for us to do our owb thing or to provide for our welfare? Our country was very clearly founded on the first idea and has been shifting more and more to the second. It's hard for "conservatives" to "get" a position like Steve's because it flys in the face of their underlying views about government. It's not an issue, neccessarily, of being selfish or of not wanting the 'good' for all; there exists a very basic disagreement on what constitutes the 'good' and how to get there. There is a debate that is much more fundamental then health care that frames this issue.

On the otherhand, we see lots of concern over practicality and effectiveness. These are valid concerns. What does the government do effectively? How do the other countries keep there healthcare systems at least relatively non-corrupt, above board and efficient? Or do they? It's easy from here to look at Europe and say, oh, they don't have the same kinds of problems we do with their government; but they DO have issues too.

And,a final point for now. Someone mentioned people who are against universal health care being the same as the people who are against universal education. We'll here's the thing. I look at the system for educating kids in this country. I look at my son. I think it's great that we have a baseline standard education for all kids. But is that good enough for my son? No. At the worst I intend to game the system so that he has access to the very best of the public schools and I'd like to do even better then that.

Dan Moran said...


I've got 5 kids, and all of them did or are going through LAUSD. All of them are or did get As or better. My oldest just finished her first year at Berkeley -- and has 58 credits and is nearly a junior, because she took 8 AP classes in high school and got 4s or 5s on her AP tests, which got her credits with Berkeley good for almost a full year. She's going to graduate with a bachelors after 3 years, speaking English, French, German, and Spanish ....

Daughter #2 I can't brag about as much yet, because she's just entering her senior year -- but she finished last year with a 4.3 GPA, also from taking AP classes.

The younger 3 aren't in high school yet but are all getting As.

So, yeah: you can get a good education out of public schools in LAUSD. We had no choice; we're going to struggle to put 5 kids through college, and we had no chance of putting 5 kids through private school and college. But Alex (oldest kid) got into the college she wanted to go to in the first place; she didn't apply to Harvard and Columbia for fear they'd take her. :-)

Nonetheless I stand by my observation about the people who want to destroy public education; they're the same right-wing ideologs who hate the idea of public health care. Possibly this doesn't describe anybody on Steve's blog, but it sure describes an awful lot of the Republican base.

Anonymous said...

"..government becomes a major player in the health care market...There goes another individual freedom."

An excellent point. If federal moneys were allocated for individual health, the government might indeed be in the right to mandate that recipients follow prescribed fitness regimens. For example, if coronary bypass is funded, and a rehabilitation regimen consisting of controlled food intake and exercise is prescribed, should the Feds fund successor operations ad infinitum that result largely from disregarding the regimen? Universal Health Care providers would logically be empowered to contractually enforce adherence to the prescription or to penalize violation thereof. Since enforcement in a democratic system is problematic, the feasible penalty would be to "cap" benefits for noncompliance with medical recommendations. First bypass your covered regardless, second one..did you loose those excess pounds?


Travis said...

Hey Dan,

Congratulations on your kids success. I mean that, you seem like a good guy and rightfully proud of your kids. My point at this juncture isn't to debate the possibility, or even probability, of doing well based on public education. My point is that when we start adding up the deep set beliefs that govern people one of the things to consider is that 'good enough' for society as a whole may not be considered 'good enough' for the individuals themselves.

I don't actually know ANYONE who is against public schools. I know lots of people against government health care. So I don't think it's fair to equate the two groups. I'm sure you can excerpt out some quotes from extremists to make the arguement but that doesn't reflect reality. Extremists are, by definition, extreme. And when we enter the realm of punditry it seems that many of them make a living by being contrary to the opposing view at all costs.

Why is it that schools might be more accepted then health care? Could it be that most of us went to public schools and expect to send our kids there? And that while we have seen a practical benefit from it while the concept of government sponsored health care is new and untested? Is it just the 'that's the way things have always been' mentality at work?

Drifting closer to practical concerns Marty/Eithiopian Infidel bring up a good point about preventable conditions. Should we, as taxpayers, be forced to cover the obess equally? Smokers? What about type II diabetics? Alcholics and drug users? So many people already don't take responsibility for their own health, you really think they aren't going to start insisting they have a 'right' to be taken care of?

Everything else this country has created to help people, social security, welfare, have turned into 'rights' that people feel are owed them. I'm pretty much against the notion of 'rights'. Doesn't mean I'm against social programs. We, as a society, need to understand that rights are an idea, not a thing.

I've no fundamental objection to a socialized health care system. The united states could be the biggest co-op the world has ever seen. Of course we should start by applying that logic to other aspects of government too. Instead of paying for things that are massively over budget and years or decades behind schedule Congress should say, "Deliver the product as agreed or you're ineligable for future bidding". That's not going to get them money for their campaigns, ritzy dinners bought by lobbists, 'consulting' positions when they retire or a blatant payoff under the table though. Which makes me think that this whole debate may be purely academic. What's the odds that the American political system will really let this happen? Insurance is big money, lots of lobbying power. What's on the other side? Obama and... what?

Dan Moran said...


Thanks. Maybe I brag too much, but I'm proud of them -- they've worked hard under what have sometimes been very difficult circumstances. Some of the people on this blog know what I'm referring to there.

I do think a big part of the reason public health care is causing problems (with the Republican base mostly, I'll note) whereas public defense, public police departments, public schools, etc., don't, is just that level of familiarity. People have seen defense, police, fire departments, schools, etc., all work well in the public arena. They haven't seen it from health care, at least not in the U.S., and the lack of familiarity is frightening.

The fact is, right now, almost everything anyone has said about Obamacare is projection, since no such plan exists yet. We don't even have something as clear as the public option being included yet -- and frankly, if there's no public option, the whole thing is probably cosmetic to begin with. (And rather than Rs not voting for it, Ds won't vote for it.)

This is the first real test for Obama. It'll be interesting to see if he blinks. Lack of a public option is blink territory, period, and will probably result in the plan failing for lack of left-wing votes.

Marty S said...

Don't stop at smokers and alcoholics. How about skiers, mountain climbers, sky divers and others who indulge in risky endeavors. Close all the ski lodges and reduce medical costs. If your caught speeding you lose your health care coverage. Once you start down the slippery slope where do you stop.

Scott said...

Oh, look; another argument against gun ownership.

Dan Moran said...

The whole slippery slope thing is a lousy argument. Civilization consists of being able to make nuanced decisions. Every decision is a step on a slippery slope to somewhere. "I'm going to have a cheeseburger" ... slippery slope to heart attack. "We're going to restrict speed limits" ... slippery slope to cars that can't go faster than the posted speed limit. "We're going to restrict cop killer ammo" ... slippery slope to taking everyone's guns away from them.

But despite the above, I've eaten thousands of cheeseburgers and still have really low cholesterol; I can still buy the 400 horsepower supercharged Vanden Plas that has 40 inches of rear seat leg room and does 0-60 in a little over 5 seconds; and I can still buy a Sig Sauer P229 if I want to. Which, thanks to Steve Perry's suggestion, I might.

Marty S said...

Dan: Talking about slippery slopes, a number of years ago I had a co-worker who was an avid skier. He had said he was going skiing that weekend and I remarked that skiing was too dangerous a sport and I wouldn't do it. He responded by telling me that it wasn't dangerous as long as you stuck to slopes within your skill level. The people who got hurt were those who tried slopes they weren't ready for. He was always careful not to do that. Not many weeks later he walked into work with a cast on his leg and crutches because of a skiing accident. Yes there are a lot of slippery slopes in life and you may get away with starting down some of them. But you won't get away with all of them so you have to be very careful which ones you start down. With respect to health care just look at Travis's last post and tell there won't be huge support for controlling peoples life style. Steve has suggested that only those who have good health care and are for UHC or don't have it and are against it should comment on it. My attitude is that only people who have been obese and made an honest effort to lose weight and haven't should have an opinion on that topic. You can say what you please about calories in and calories out and proper diet but unless you have tried that route and failed you don't know what your talking about. I went on a 1400 calorie per day diet given to me by my doctor. I ate only those things included in the diet and weighed portions on a scale where indicated. I was extremely obese when I started. For a while I lost weight, until I reached the area of nominally obese at that point I stopped losing weight. After two months of stepping on a scale every day and weighing the same I decided that walking around constantly hungry and not enjoying my meals I canned the diet. My brother in-law in an attempt to lose weight went on a vegetarian diet three years ago that was supposed to be healthy and take the pounds off. He also lost some weight initially but three years later he is still more obese than I am.

Steven Barnes said...

I didn't say that only those who have insurance and are for UHC (or don't have it and are against it) should have an opinion. I said that they're the only ones who can be reasonably thought not to be speaking from selfish motivations.

Anonymous said...

"My attitude is that only people who have been obese and made an honest effort to lose weight and haven't should have an opinion on that topic. "

I agree since I've had similar weight issues. Turning into an gym and hiking aficionado and eliminating the worst junk from my diet has significantly reduced my obesity (I shudder to look at my piks from the old sedentary days), but the bod I've always craved to possess (a combo of Wesley Snipes' and the late Henry Cele's physiques) apparently isn't' in the genetic cards short of marathon running and starvation. Oh, well..


Anonymous said...

"I didn't say that only those who have insurance and are for UHC (or don't have it and are against it) should have an opinion. I said that they're the only ones who can be reasonably thought not to be speaking from selfish motivations."

Unfortunately, unselfish motivations can be as stupid or evil as selfish ones. Torquemada undoubtedly thought that he was being unselfish. But, despite their unabashed pursuit of self-interest, I'd rather have had Ayn Rand or Robert Heinlein as next-door neighbors.

Moreover, an unselfish person motivated to do something stupid or evil can do a lot more damage than a selfish one, for reasons eloquently described by C.S. Lewis:

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

--Erich Schwarz

bud said...

"I suggested that there are only two groups that can talk about this issue without suspicion of purely selfish motivations: those who can afford health insurance but are in favor of Universal health care, and those who CANNOT but oppose it. So far, we've gotten no comments from this second group. They must exist, however."

Does this count?
"At this juncture in the conversation, someone almost always breaks in and says, "Why don't you tell that to an uninsured person?" I have. Specifically, I told it to me. I was uninsured for more than two years after grad school, with an autoimmune disease and asthma. I was, if anything, even more militant than I am now about government takeover of insurance."


She has also, over the last few days, blogged quite a bit about "obesity". She quotes from _Rethinking Thin_ by Gina Kolata:
"Every time the result was the same. The weight, so painstakingly lost, came right back. But since this was a research study, the scientists looked at more than just weight loss . . . they measured metabolic changes and psychiatric conditions and body temperature and pulse. And that led them to a surprising conclusion: fat people who lose large amounts of weight may look like someone who was never fat, but they are very different. In fact, by every measurement they seemed like people who were starving."


The obesity "epidemic" is of recent origin, but let me give a counterfactual to the concept of "poor" food choices, in both senses of the word. When I was a kid, we had fresh vegetables about 4 months of the year, the rest was canned. Meat and potatoes were my families diet for years, but none of us were Obese.

We didn't pack on the weight because we couldn't afford to; food accounted for a large portion of the family budget, so we ate less, just to be able to have a pair of shoes that didn't have a hole in the sole.

We are fat today for a reason that sounds like a tautology - because we can. We have access to huge amounts of calories for a comparatively miniscule percentage of our income. Our caveman genes teach us to put on the "insurance" (pounds) for down times, and we do.

Marty S said...

Bud's link made me google for a statistically sound study of exercise and calorie control that would address the issues we are discussing. What I found fascinated me. First I found no valid study that would completely address the these issues. What I found were studies performed in association with groups that had an axe to grind. Purveyors of sugar substitutes, exercise programs etc. These invariably supported the backers product. I also found studies that looked at part of the issue by researchers with a particular interest. For example I found studies where one group only exercised and one group only dieted. I would dearly love to see a properly designed statistical experiment that varied exercise and calorie control(quantity and type of calories) together. If anyone knows an organization that wants to do such a study I would love to design it for them.