Sunday, June 12, 2005

MEDIA ON DIET BINGE/PURGE

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"In a TV ad by Consumer Freedom, Larry Thomas, the "Soup Nazi" from "Seinfeld," orders restaurant customers to go to the salad line."
It seems that the mass media is all over the obesity issue now. Stories and counter stories appear daily. The data is shoved back and forth and confusion reigns because of all the contrary forces at work are creating a veritable hurricane of despair.

Which way to turn? What can we do?

People may think no one really noticed the gradual fattening of the general population but trust me, it is watched very closely. Ever see "Gone With the Wind"? In the opening scenes the fat mammy bustles about the skinny belle preparing her for a dinner by making her eat first so she won't disgrace the family by actually eating at the dinner table! The preservation of this distinction goes back only to the 18th century when sugar came into vogue in Europe. Before then, getting fat was difficult and a sign one was rich. But cheap sugar products from the toil of New World slaves kidnapped from Africa changed all that. Even as the slaves were brutally worked to death, the Europeans grew fat. The very rich noticed it was harder and harder to tell themselves apart from the population at large because the sumptery laws were collapsing, too.

It is very vital for the very powerful and their lower levels of ruling class people to recognize each other from far away. So they came up with the "skinny and pale" scheme which devolved into racism. By the way, when the middle class obtained the pale part, the ruling class switched gears to glorifying the sun tanned look.

In well-to-do homes, food is very strictly regulated. The cook keeps the children out of the kitchen and the governess insures they don't eat on the sly. The food selection process is carefully researched and kept in order. Even so, the fear of fat can turn even princesses into bulimics as they try to cope with all those state dinners with a groaning board.

In the sororities in upper class universities and women's colleges, the selection process involves many things but the number one item is "fatness." You are fat, you are finished.

So why are all the media carrying on about fatness? Well, I suspect the changes in our society are hitting the upper classes and causing even their own kids to gain weight. CNN takes a stab at dieting, for example.
In a no-nonsense approach to weight loss, the American Heart Association's new diet book offers options for the weak. Can't give up pizza? Try eating two slices instead of your regular three. Craving ice cream? Try a sorbet.

"The intent on doing this was to try to get around the faddish diets," said Dr. Robert Eckel, president-elect of the American Heart Association and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "The theme is based on behavior, nutrition and physical activity."

Released this week, "No-Fad Diet: A Personal Plan for Healthy Weight Loss" dismisses trends like the grapefruit diet, the very low-fat diet and the low-carb diet. Although the heart association has published heart-healthy cookbooks before, this is its first all-out diet book with a variety of options.
This is the basic, "don't pig out" and "no seconds" and "chew it twice" and "eat your vegetables first" warnings that I heard every dinner all my childhood. Visitors who aren't raging WASPs are shocked to find out we have only what is served and what is served is rationed very carefully. Back in the fifties there might have been horses in the paddock and three cars and a truck in the carport but there were no seconds for dinner.

In this article they even say, "Lose a pound a week" as the proper way to regain WASP power. I have fallen off the diet wagon several times. Each time, that rule is enforced. One gets it beat into the brains at a young age, if you are WASP.

Now here is the NYT investigating an industry group that is trying to convince people that eating junk food is great.
In recent years, Mr. Berman, who is not a scientist, has emerged as a powerful and controversial voice in the debate over the nation's eating habits. In some ways, he has become the face of the food industry as it tries to beat back regulations and discourage consumer lawsuits. Food and restaurant companies, he says, are being unfairly blamed for making Americans fat and unhealthy; he adds that people are smart enough to make their own well-informed choices.

Formed in 1995 with money from Philip Morris, now known as Altria, to fight bans on smoking in restaurants and bars, Consumer Freedom has gained attention for its provocative tactics. Last year, it ran television ads that featured the Soup Nazi of "Seinfeld" fame ordering overweight people to eat salad - a clear jab at what the group considers pushy nutritionists who are trying to suck the joy out of eating.
I remember when all good rich women smoked. This helped cut their appetites and make them skinny. Now, to their regret, it is considered verboten and smart ones don't smoke. But here is the crux of the issue: rich people who want to be healthy and skinny have to make money selling junk food and cigarettes to lower class people so the rich can be rich. So they have to make all this tempting and good for the poor only the propaganda for this backfires when it seduces their own spawn into eating junkfood and smoking.

Time for the smelling salts!
Along the way, Mr. Berman and his group have earned more than a few enemies. Critics say that Consumer Freedom seizes on statistical errors and other nuances to distract from the substance of the obesity debate. "They make a lot of noise, but nobody in academia takes their arguments seriously," said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children's Hospital in Boston and an occasional target of Mr. Berman's group. "They stand for food industry freedom, not consumer freedom."

Amid the claims and counterclaims, Mr. Berman and his opponents duke it out, taking sides on major questions about obesity, including these: How did Americans become so fat? Who is to be blamed? And how should the problem be solved?
Overweight American workers cost the rulers money. The health problems and the difficulty in doing a day's work thanks to too much fat is becoming a problem for the capitalists running things yet the need to keep the working class consuming mass quantities of junk that is unhealthy is vital to keeping the capitalist system chugging along.

This tension is growing as schools try to stem the tidalwave of obesity problems by reforming their menus and banning soft drinks, for example. To the howls of the industry, of course.
The C.D.C., the government's primary agency for health information, still calls obesity "a very, very important health problem" and "a serious epidemic."

According to the agency, rates of obesity have doubled in the last 25 years among adults and children, and tripled among teenagers. Some scientists and public health officials have suggested that this trend, if left unchecked, could bankrupt the already faltering health care system. A study last year by scientists at the Research Triangle Institute and the C.D.C. found that states' medical expenditures related to obesity were as much as $75 billion a year.
Here it is! The $75 billion.
A watchdog group in Washington, the Center for Media and Democracy, has posted data about Consumer Freedom's financing on its Web site. According to documents they say were obtained from a former Consumer Freedom staff member, corporate contributors to the group as of 2002 included Coca-Cola, Wendy's and Tyson Foods, each of which gave $200,000. Cargill gave $100,000, according to the documents, and Outback Steakhouse gave $164,600.
Just like Cadbury taking over the American Diabetes Association, these companies have a vested interest in turning humans into garbage dumps. They make more money on heavily processed things that use cheap ingredients like the humble potato, corn or rice and of course, salt. Salt is way cheap.

Remember the kids commercials peddling cheap sweet cereals while showing a breakfast of eggs, a glass of milk and bacon? "Part of a healthy breakfast"? Well, that isn't a healthy breakfast on any level. But even back then, years ago, they had to admit the cereal alone was not healthy at all.

I remember the flap when the wife of the owner and founder of Dunkin Donuts said she would never ever allow her husband to eat one. She was hustled off stage and never spoke in public again. As one President of McDonald's after another keels over from heart attacks at age 58-60, at no point does the press or the company speculate about this peculiarity. Wendy's founder floundered and fell to a heart attack, too, at what I consider to be a very young age (under 80).

The founder of the Atkin's diet which is basically all about eating meat with a weak craveat about veggies, he too keels over with a heart attack at a rather young age. They tried to pretend it was something else, but he keeled over nonetheless. He is dead. (heh, sorry, grandmother, had to say it!)

The women who work for women's magazines love to show skinny women on the cover, add some diet blubs and then, in a side box, feature only high calorie desserts. This is rigid as a the designs on a mummy's tomb. The jarring messages are deliberate. The writers and editors took psychology courses at their various elite colleges and they know exactly what they are doing: holding out hope while undermining the victim, keeping her in her place.

Back in the sixties, many women got speed from their doctors, it was legal back then. But soon the addictive side effects became very obvious and I, for one, campaigned against prescribing the drug for weight control. In the hinterlands today, a major industry is the vile meth manufacturing (replacing the departing industries!) which has truly toxic ingredients that eat away at the mouth and gums, destroying the teeth then destroying the person. Yet people take it to be skinny....while eating junk food.

For this is the crux of the problem. You can't just lose weight, look at the poor comatose woman who died so infamously...she starved herself into a coma because she ate mostly junk foods. One can eat a fine, extravagant dinner with fine fruits and vegetables and breads, etc. and keep the weight effortlessly under control. But the deal is, no junk food.

Ever. Period. That is the thing that balks.
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