Category Archives: Obesity

Resisting Irresistible Impulses

I always look for patterns in callers’ questions, because I’m interested in what that pattern means in terms of what folks have come to believe…and why.  A persistent thought seems to be that impulse is irresistible.  That means, if you feel like a burger or a cigarette or a roll in the hay with someone you know you shouldn’t be with, then you have some kind of addiction, which means a disease, which means out of your control.

That’s a darn good rationalization…but it ain’t true.  The only irresistible impulse is one which hasn’t been resisted, and that is most definitely (but not simply) a choice.

I say “not simply,” because resisting impulses is difficult and sometimes painful.  Generally, such inappropriate behaviors have the purpose of 1) immediate gratification of feelings, and 2) hiding you from other emotionally distressing thoughts and feelings.  That means that, if you resist the impulse to drink, eat, or have a sexual fling in the office stationery closet, you will be left with the anxiety or sadness that resides within.

It is clear, therefore, that the emphasis should be on dealing with the not-so-well submerged anxieties and sadness.  For example, a man called recently to say that he is mean to his wife, criticizing anything he sees around the house.  I immediately suggested that he saw the cluttered kitchen counter as a sign his wife didn’t love him.  Now, you’d think that was a ridiculous leap, but it was “spot on.”  He (after some nagging from me) offered that his mother had not been, well, “motherly” and loving.  To this day, he has his wife do things to prove/make up for the lack of affection and attention he missed as a child.  Did he know he was doing this and why?  Yes for the “doing;” no for the “why.”

I suggested he go home with a flower in hand and tell his wife that he needed her to hold him.  I told him that’s what “his woman” was for.  You can always hire a maid, but you can’t hire someone to really love and care about you.  He was treating his wife like his mom, when he really needed her to be a wife with loving kindness.

You get love by being open to it, and by being loving in return.  You do not get love by eating that cake, smoking that joint, drinking that beer or overpowering those who care about you. 

Resist those impulses.  Yes, it’s painful and difficult, both physically and emotionally, but the ultimate reward is the very thing you’ve been trying to get (just all in the wrong way), and that thing is LOVE.

The High Cost of Obesity

It seems that it’s very much in the nature of human nature to expect more without having more expected of us.  Because so much energy is being focused on the cost of health care and the proposed programs for universal health insurance, the flip side of the equation is starting to get attention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled a free website application last week called LEANWorks, designed to motivate employers to start “healthy living” and weight loss programs for their employees, because being overweight is a major cause of certain illnesses, and also contributes to missed work days and higher insurance costs.  Of course, representatives of organizations like the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance are up in arms over this.

A keystone to the LEANWorks program is the “obesity cost calculator” for companies to estimate how much their obese and overweight employees are costing them in higher insurance rates and missed work days each year.  The ultimate point is to get preventive programs in place.

Of course, the “fat advocates” don’t want responsibility – just perks.  They are claiming everything from prejudice to discrimination.  In their view, facts are irrelevant.  It’s just their “feelings” that count. 

It’s no secret that obesity is a big risk factor for chronic diseases.  Obesity has accounted for over 25% of the rise in medical costs between 1987 and 2001, according to Dr. Bill Dietz, Director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the CDC.  While it is also true that people of normal weight have medical issues which result in work day losses and higher insurance costs, most of their conditions are not as controllable as excess body fat.

It is the moral responsibility of those who are overweight and obese, of those who smoke, of those who abuse alcohol and various drugs to correct their activities for the greater good of the community which has to take on responsibility for the negative consequences of their behavior, and their lack of self-discipline and commitment to health.

If the greater “we” is responsible for taking financial hits in order to cater to the predictable consequences of your actions, then you become accountable to the greater “we,” and we cut out the nonsense about discrimination and prejudice against fat.  It isn’t healthy, plain and simple.  And now that you think about it, it isn’t fair, either.

Calorie Police or Helpful Nutrition Information?

Beware “The Calorie Police!”  At least, that’s how some look at the newly proposed Federal legislation which would require chain restaurants with 20 or more establishments to post the calories of everything they serve, right on the menu.  The National Restaurant Association, which originally fought calorie posting, now says it supports it.

Dr. Lynn Silver, Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention & Control at New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says “We hope this law will have a significant impact on both the frequency of obesity and diabetes in our city [which already has the law, by the way].  We estimate that in our city there will be 150,000 fewer people obese because of this.”

Well, I don’t know if that’s true, since every time I go out to eat, I see relatively fit people eating fish and vegetables and fat people eating lasagna with extra cheese.

I’ve only encountered the calorie menu one time so far, and it was in New York.  There were dishes I thought were healthy, but I was totally wrong about them.  I definitely ordered my meals completely based on calorie content, leaving out foods I knew were yummy but which were calorie-laden.  Nonetheless, I was shocked to see how many relatively innocent-looking dishes had enough calories for the entire day and the next morning too.

I know people who have worked in a number of restaurants, and they tell me that to make food “delicious,” extra sugar, fat and salt are added by the bucketful.  Butter, butter, and more butter; sugar to make the food sweeter, and salt to give more flavor.  This is especially true when the meat, poultry or fish is not of the highest quality or if it’s a bit old.

I’ve gotten to the point that no matter what I order (even fish), I ask for whatever sauce they are serving to be put on the side.  I never have salad with dressing – again, I order any dressing on the side.  If I use any sauce or dressing at all, it’s a micro drizzle for a little taste. 

Do I think this will diminish obesity?  No.  I do think, however, that it will help people with self discipline as well as the motivation to be healthy to make the right choices and not be undermined right under their noses.  I think that, generally, folks with limited motivation and self-discipline will ignore or rationalize the calorie facts and add unwanted pressure to our health system, where the health-conscious have to financially support the health-unconscious behavior of others. 

I do believe that the calorie count posting laws might serve to have restaurants cut fewer corners when it comes to the quality of their cooking and their menu planning.  And that I am looking forward to!

New Reality Show for the Overweight is a Bad Idea

When I was in my first year of college, I ate and ate and ate…especially at breakfast.  There was an unlimited supply of raisin toast, and that was the trough at which I fed.  I gained a good ten pounds.  This was a rebound from my anorexic last year of high school, when all sorts of stresses led me to find an answer to no sense of control in self-starvation.  The “plumpy” time was short-lived; however, as I became very active, and the rebelliousness was no longer necessary, as I was out of the home and on my own.

Since then, I’ve always been thin, but thin is neither healthy nor particularly womanly.  I’ve been working out six ways from Sunday, and I am a petite hardbody at 62, and proud of it, even if the discipline sometimes annoys me.

I do not watch reality shows.  I know of them, but I just can’t imagine how any rational person can consider these highly-produced dramas, with people pushed to bring out the worst in themselves as entertainment.  Yuck.

I just read that FOX has yet another so-called reality program in the works.  FOX is teaming up with “The Bachelor” producer for a new dating-competition series that casts fat people.  The series, titled “More to Love,” is billed as “the first dating show for the rest of us,” versus the sexy babes and good-looking bachelors that we usually see on these shows.  The show is considered “controversial,” because there is some argument the viewers don’t want to watch anyone other than “pretty people” do anything.

The producer says, “We want to send the message that you can be the size you are and still be lovable.  We aren’t going to ‘thin’ these girls down so they can find love – that’s a backwards message.”

I have my concerns.  This is the network that aired such shows as “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance.”  I worry that, in order to get attention, overweight types might be exploited for the “freak” attraction element.  I worry that emotions are going to run higher and deeper, because these folks already have sensitivities and have likely experienced rejection in public, and public display (even though it’s voluntary and in pursuit of their ’15 minutes of fame’) could hurt people.  The “pretty people” shows have contestants used to acceptance and calls from agents for other “pretty people” opportunities. 

I’m hoping this doesn’t get set up as a circus sideshow, which I think these shows are, even for the thin types.  Viewers are not looking for true love to occur – they’re waiting for the train wreck, the car crash, the suicide jump, as embarrassed and hurt people display their pain, and potentially, their rage.

I know some of you might say, “It’s about time that the typical American man and woman (who are, by the way, overweight and out-of-shape) get to be treated on TV like anyone else.”  Okay.  I get it, but, my friends, this is ENTERTAINMENT, not a psychotherapeutically romantic venture.

First, we saw on TV the pain and hurt of “pretty” types.  Now we’ll get pain and embarrassment for overweight types.  Frankly, I find that reality programming is there because it is inexpensive to do, and because the population seems to have an inexhaustible appetite for watching people get emotionally and/or physically splattered. 

I thought those days in the Roman Colosseum were over, but I guess base nature doesn’t change.

Obese Woman Told to Get An MRI At The Zoo

I recently read a news report from Kansas City about a 5 foot tall, 275 pound woman who needed an MRI exam.  The problem is that MRI tables often can’t support heavier patients and the tubes into which the patient must be moved generally can’t fit someone of her girth.

You don’t usually see body scanners that will accommodate bigger patients, because they don’t provide the clearest images, and those that have large openings increase the possibility of the magnetic field dissipating into the room.

The obese woman in question reported that someone at the hospital suggested that she could go to the zoo for an MRI as they accommodate larger critters.  The suggestion was made to “help” and not to “insult.”  According to news sources, the woman said: “I thought, I know I’m big, but I’m not as big as an elephant.  And my husband got mad.”

Sadly, she has a tumor on her spine, has had multiple surgeries, and now has partial paralysis. This event is purported to have happened two years ago.

I’ve heard that there are some court cases to force airlines not to charge obese people for the two seats it takes to carry them.  This is yet another situation where no responsibility is taken for being obese.  What is it with our thinking that no matter what irresponsibility we demonstrate, the world is supposed to accommodate us?

There is a difference between making access for folks who are in wheelchairs and making access for people who simply abuse their bodies and then demand that the consequences of their actions be borne by others.

This woman eventually did find a place with an “open” MRI machine.  I hope her treatment is successful and she takes from this experience some sense of purpose in getting her body more healthy, rather than anger that not everything will adapt to her.  She has some responsibility too.

Eat Less, Move More

There are two sure fire comments that I can make on the air which will get hackles way, way up.  The first is to say anything which even sounds remotely like a criticism of cats (for some reason it doesn’t work for dogs, chickens, pigs or parakeets…just cats) or comment that, for the most part, being fat is your own darn fault.  There’s even a fan site for my show called “We Love Dr. Laura” – which has a thread that goes wild whenever I take a “fat” call and give my opinion that by and large, being fat and unfit is a voluntary condition.

Let me give you an example: a woman called to tell me about her mean, mean, and oh so mean, husband who is trying to influence her to lose weight and start working out.  She just about had a fit on the phone, telling me that he should just love her the way she is…or he’s, simply, a bad guy.  Since when don’t we owe our families our healthiest selves: mind, body and soul?

When I didn’t agree with her, the harrumph resounded across the land.

I’ve basically told people who call about weight that it is ultimately a simple issue: “eat less, move more.”  That might not result in the kind of body they show off in all those home exercise equipment videos (by the way…does anybody believe you go from fat and flabby, to svelte and ripped exercising 20 minutes a day, three times a week?).  Nonetheless, you can evolve into a more healthy, fit, and attractive version of yourself.

This is all in preparation for an inspirational story of a fat man, 330 pounds, who wanted become a Marine.  Their answer was, well, nope.  Committed as he was to joining the military, he did what is generally said to be too difficult to do: without miracle weight loss potions sold on television, he moved more and ate less.  The 23-year old man gave up beer, cut his food portions way, way down, and exercised 140 pounds away in about a year.

Kindly, the Marine recruiters also worked with him – helping him to develop an appropriate, safe yet effective workout regimen.

When his friends would sit down for beer and pizza, he’d put on a head lamp and go out for a run in the dark.

Eat less…move more.  It’s the least expensive weight management program on the planet.

Fat by 40

No, I don’t mean by the age of forty; I mean that if the trends of the past thirty years continue, it’s possible that every American adult could be overweight forty years from now.  This is the warning coming from the Federal government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  You can read all about this in the journal Obesity (online 7/24/08).

They estimate that 86% of American adults will be overweight by 2030, with an obesity rate of 51%.  By 2048, all U.S. adults could be at least mildly overweight, a/k/a fat.

The researchers also estimate that the healthcare costs directly related to excess body weight will double each decade, and reach almost $1 trillion in 2030, accounting for at least one of every six healthcare dollars spent in the USA.

Being fat is voluntary.  Healthcare costs are skyrocketing, largely because people “volunteer” to move less and eat more.  Our Presidential candidates can mull over healthcare plans, but we need to take more personal responsibility for the state of our own health.

The Government is Making Me Eat Healthily!

All those who don’t follow the guidelines for good eating and no smoking are just going to have fewer choices available to them.  Free will to be self-destructive is about to managed by the government.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a one-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a 32 square-mile area of South Los Angeles, an area plagued by above-average rates of obesity:  30% of adults, as compared with about 21% in the rest of LA.  Nationally, 25.6% of adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When you look at the realities, an intact family with a homemaker mom or dad (versus a two-career, busy, busy, busy set of parents) generally results in everyone eating less fast food, and more nutritious at-home meals.  But promoting marriage and a division of responsibilities is politically incorrect, isn’t it?

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law ordering that, as of 2010, no California restaurant will be able to serve foods containing a harmful form of fats called trans fats.  Baked goods containing trans fats will be banned in California as of 2011.  If a product’s list of ingredients contains the words “partially hydrogenated,” the product contains trans fat, which is used to harden vegetable oils into shortening and margarine to help extend product shelf life.  Trans fats lower “good” cholesterol (HDL) and contribute to other health problems.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, eliminating artificial trans fats from the food supply “could” prevent between 6 and 19 per cent of heart attacks and related deaths each year. 

Do you think there’ll be an underground market for trans fat products?

San Francisco is ready to become the first city in the nation to ban sales of tobacco products at pharmacies, which last year accounted for almost 20% of U.S. tobacco sales.  The logic is that pharmacies are places people go to get healthy, so cigarettes ought not to be on the shelves as they are a known health hazard. 

Since trans fats are going to be off the supermarket shelves because they’re unhealthy, shouldn’t supermarkets stop selling cigarettes too?

I am all for healthy habits.  I work hard at eating as healthily as possible, generally ordering fish without sauces in restaurants and salad without dressing.  As sauces, gravies, and dressing are very high in calories, perhaps they should be banned from restaurant recipes, or ordered only under a physician’s approval…assuming you already have a very high HDL level.

Lastly, restaurants around the country will soon have to post on menus the exact calorie count of a meal.  It will blow your mind to see what you thought was healthy is actually loaded with hidden calories.  There’s a terrific book, called “Eat This, Not That” which will make your head explode when you find out where calories are hidden in some of your favorite meals.