Last month, the medical journal The Lancet published its second series on obesity. It’s first was in 2011, right around the time I started graduate school. The current series looks at what’s changed since 2011, particularly in the public health focus on obesity prevention. The news is not good, largely because they say the obesity debate is becoming increasingly polarized with “false and unhelpful dichotomies.” To wit:

  • Individual blame vs. an obesogenic society
  • Obesity as a disease vs. the consequence of unrestrained gluttony
  • Obesity as a disability vs. the new normal
  • Lack of physical activity as a cause vs. overconsumption of unhealthy food/beverages
  • Prevention vs. treatment
  • Overnutrition vs. undernutrition

The series authors propose a reframing of obesity as a consequence of the “reciprocal nature of the interaction between the environment and the individual,” where poor food choices and unhealthy behaviors are perpetuated. (Of course, poor food choices and unhealthy behaviors affect everyone, regardless of whether they end up gaining weight. We all benefit from eating nutritious, tasty food and finding ways to be active that feel good to us.)

In other words, they say that society itself needs to changes it’s approach to food, beverages and physical activity. (I’ll use the burger photo above as an example. Burger’s aren’t bad, per se, but we’ve become so used to super-sized portions…that’s not a good thing!)

Stay tuned Thursday for a meatier Part 2 post! [And then Part 3 the following Tuesday…I just couldn’t stop writing!]