This past Christmas Season, as most of us stuffed our faces full of turkey and pies, a well respected weight loss expert from WebMD made some crazy remarks about ending obesity. Needless to say, the response to his rhetoric, despite the Christmas Season, was naughty not nice. Dr. George D. Lundberg, Editor-in-Chief for Medscape General Medicine, had this to say about his “crazy” diet idea:
“Ho! Ho! Ho! Here we are in the holiday season right between those 2 great American days of gluttony. What is Scrooge’s holiday greeting this year? It is about overeating, of course. How can we stop the obese from becoming more obese? Pretty simple. Stop feeding them. Think about the other common self-destructive human behaviors. On a commercial airplane, in a saloon, or at a professional sports event, if the customer is deemed to be drunk, the keepers of the booze key will lock the cabinet. If a person drives a car at a dangerous speed, the driver is subject to substantial penalties.
For young persons known to be at high risk for early chemical addictions, society tries to prevent exposure to the addicting drugs.
Overeating with underexercising is now killing more Americans than anything else except tobacco addiction. Yet, an obese person enters an eating joint, or a supermarket, and buys and eats any and everything he or she wants, and nobody seems to care. Does that make any sense to you?
Meanwhile, Big Science strives to understand why people get fat; Big Genetics searches for the obesity gene so that stem cells could correct the flaw; Big Surgery lines up the morbidly obese to shunt their stomachs; Big Pharma seeks the next weight-loss pill that will help more people than it kills; Big Nutrition hawks the newest sure-thing, weight-loss diet; Big Fast Food pushes “healthy food” lines right next to their billion dollar unhealthy food lines; Big Soda and Big School Boards share the profit from drowning kids with calories from vending machines; and Big Exercise pushes group rates for aerobics class. Money made by so many special interests.
All this while the simple answer is to stop eating; stop feeding the obese until they are no longer obese. Of course, that may be hard to do, and who makes any money that way? Fat chance for this crazy idea to go anywhere. That’s my opinion. I’m Dr. George Lundberg, Editor of MedGenMed. Happy Holidays!”
Now, as you can imagine, health care providers, dieters, and web surfers were not happy with his remarks. They immediately and appropriately attacked, firing back with real science facts, healthy weight loss tips and the benefits of regular exercise.
It was nice to see the real experts come out for a day or two and make some noise. One of the experts is Jon Robison, PhD, from Michigan State. He said:
“It is truly hard to believe that MedGenMed would print an editorial so scientifically inaccurate and ethically unconscionable (“How to Prevent the Obese From Becoming ‘Obeser’). As a health professional (doctorate in health education and masters degrees in exercise physiology and nutrition), I am even more dismayed that this hateful diatribe was written by a fellow health professional — and a medical doctor no less!
Never mind that the doctor is obviously not familiar with the latest information from the CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], showing that the link between weight and mortality has likely been greatly exaggerated. Never mind that the analogies to alcohol and illegal drugs are inept at best — hard to imagine abstinence from food as a viable alternative.
The most egregious aspects of this editorial are the outright prejudice and moral disgust it portrays.
There is certainly no great argument with the contention that many Americans could increase their exercise and eat more healthfully. However, prejudice raises its ugly head when the contention is made that it is possible to discern who is or is not eating or exercising properly by merely looking at the size and shape of one’s body! Most Americans (fat or thin) are not getting enough exercise, and the research is clear that fatness and fitness are not mutually exclusive.
Condemning a fat person’s eating, or assuming that a thin person is eating well (can you say anorexia nervosa?), is no different from concluding that a person is less intelligent by looking at the color of his/her skin. Judging people’s intelligence, health, or behaviors based on how they look is not science; it is prejudice — and prejudice has no place in our culture or in our healthcare system.
We can do and be so much better than this!”
Mary Emerson, MS, a Clinical Dietitian from Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, Maine, had this to say (emphasis added):
“You compared your solution of not feeding an obese person to an intoxicated person not being served in a bar, yet we know that that hasn’t cured alcoholism.
Gastric bypass surgery is one of the most popular elective surgical procedures. The answer for the cure is far more complex than simply training more surgeons to do the procedure or not allowing overweight people to purchase baked goods.
Just as prohibition did not eliminate alcoholism, these measures will not eliminate obesity. Rather, we need to change how we approach our medical care, not to solve the problem once there is a problem, but to achieve a healthier lifestyle with emphasis on not only our physical health, but also our mental health and emotional well-being.
I believe that it is very important in mental health to evaluate the risks of obesity on our patients, not in decreasing longevity, but in decreasing the quality of their lives by lowered self-esteem and health complications, such as feeling tired, weak, and unable to take part in many activities that they previously enjoyed.”
Wonderful! Finally the truth. No fad diets, no rapid weight loss, no “eat anything you want and still lose weight” lies…just pure science coming from the real experts who care.
Maybe Dr. Lundberg isn’t so crazy after all…or maybe he is. Either way, it was a good day!
Michael A. Smith, MD
Dr. Smith is the primary physician and consultant for the Weight Loss Professional Website. His interests include preventative medicine, the genetic etiology of obesity, and several others too numerous to list. Please visit his Website at http://www.weight-loss-professional.com and let him know what you think.