Chicago vs. Soda Tax

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Childhood Obesity News noted the objections of a Chicago citizen whose photo of the sales receipt for a pack of sodas went viral. What else might be in store for consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages?

Chicagoan Fred Emke recommended a measure that, given the rationale behind the soda tax, makes a certain amount of satirical sense. His facetious recommendation was to tax several of the most renowned fattening food items — “A penny a chip, a penny a French fry, or a penny per pepperoni.” Emke went on to say:

When you buy a 32-ounce sports energy drink for 79 cents and you get hit with a 32-cent tax, it’s time to travel outside of Cook County to get your pleasure. Let’s hope all of county government officials dine on kale and water during their sessions to find other ways to tax us back to a healthy life!

The whole topic inspired many public outbursts, like the letter that Richard Clemens sent to the Chicago Tribune which concurred that going to Indiana to take advantage of its 7 percent sales tax and absence of soda tax was well worth the trip. He also articulated the taxpayers’ unwillingness to be taken advantage of:

I refuse to spend anymore of my hard-earned money here in Cook County… I would like to see how much of this tax money actually goes toward programs to help fight childhood obesity and diabetes.

In another letter to the editor, Robert Kandelman wrote:

Anyone can see that the Cook County soft drink tax is nothing more than a money grab. If the tax is intended to promote better health choices, why not tax lack of exercise or bad posture?

For Reason magazine, Christian Britschgi explained how people were still upset about the 2016 increase that jacked up the sales tax to a lavish 10.25 percent, the highest in the land. And then property taxes rose by a devastating 10 percent. Britschgi suggested that the soda tax profit would not be used for anything the people of Chicago would willingly pay for.

Instead, it would just service the crippling debt caused by, among other things, the city’s obligation to pay retired employees their pensions. Conclusion: “The county has gone searching for creative ways of bilking citizens.”

Letter-to-the-editor writer Kandelman recalled that when it was first proposed, Toni Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board President, touted the soda tax as a weapon to fight obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. Also, it was advertised as benefitting lower-income families, by limiting the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages they could afford. Yet, the tax would not be collected from SNAP (food stamp) recipients.

Many people said negative things about the perceived hypocrisy. This wasn’t about people’s health, or children’s health, or anybody’s health, really, except for the budget, and people don’t like to be lied to about such matters.

Then, when the tax was threatened by a lawsuit and a restraining order, officials cast aside all pretense of intent to raise money to fight obesity. Preckwinkle admitted frankly that the purpose of the tax was to fill holes in the general budget. To make her point, she warned that unless it became law, many county employees would have to be laid off. Britschgi wrote:

Preckwinkle has at least been more honest about the tax, saying “we chose as a revenue generator a sweetened beverage tax… both for the revenue and for the health benefits. But first and foremost, for the revenue.”

To both hypocrisy and this admirable transparency, the public reaction was equally sour.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Why stop with soda? Cook County could tax chips, candy and pizza, too,” ChicagoTribune.com, 08/24/17
Source: “Letter: Cook County soda tax: For health or for profit?,” ChicagoTribune.com, 09/08/17
Source: “Cook County Will Repeal Soda Tax,” Reason.com, 10/09/17
Image source: niloo138/123RF Stock Photo

The Chicago Soda Tax Attempt

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While various soda tax battles were being waged in California, Colorado, and other states, Illinois entered the fray with a saga worthy of a TV mini-series. Cook County, which is mainly Chicago, proposed a one-cent-per-ounce tax that would pull in $560 million per year.

A burning question was whether Cook County’s hundreds of thousands of SNAP (“food stamp”) recipients would have to pay. Eventually, a court action quashed that notion. But it was one of the sore points that alienated large segments of the public, because of the uncertainty about a detail that should have been made clear from the start.

Presumably, the public servants who wanted the tax would have studied how it was done in other places, so they might anticipate the stumbling blocks in the process. The taxing of soft drinks is supposed to have a deterrent effect, so consumers will buy less soda, and thus avoid obesity.

But since the SNAP question was brought up, it alerted the public to the fact that the tax would not be collected from SNAP recipients. This supplied plenty of opportunity for critics to point out that the poor are the most at-risk for obesity, so what’s the point of taxing everybody else except them?

For the Chicago Tribune, Greg Trotter wrote:

The study estimated the tax would prevent 116,000 cases of obesity and cause a $733 million decrease in health care costs over a 10-year period. The study, part of the broader, ongoing Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study (CHOICES) at Harvard, models the impact of the tax in Illinois.

Illinois said yes to the soda tax, but the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) petitioned the court for a temporary restraining order, on grounds of unconstitutionality and vagueness, which is a vague way of saying that the tax would hurt beverage sales. The judge who was scheduled to hear the case recused himself for some reason, perhaps unwilling to deal with one of IRMA’s objections, the thorny issue of uneven application of the law. The problem was:

Retailers also have noted they must either charge customers tax on the ice in fountain drinks, unless they fill out paperwork to designate how much ice each cup holds. Complicating matters, most fast food restaurants that serve fountain drinks allow customers to decide how much ice to put in their drinks.

A different judge took the case, upheld the ordinance, and removed the temporary restraining order. Beneath a headline that called the soda tax “insane,” journalist Jack Burns described this latest outrage perpetrated against the sugar-sweetened beverage corporations. Cook County, upset at the delay in revenue collection, sued IRMA for the millions that the restraining order had prevented the government from making in the interim.

There was some support for IRMA on grounds of general principle, that principle being that there is a “chilling effect” on parties who want to sue the government, when they know that losing might cost them money. The reporter referenced a citizen who bought a 24-can pack of 12-ounce sodas and compared the “before” price ($5.99) with the “after” price ($9.66), with the after price including $2.88 for the soda tax, and the customary 10.25 percent sales tax added in there too.

It is interesting that retail websites currently offer that same pack of 24 sodas for $13, $14, and even $20. The Chicago purchase given as a horrible example was only last year, so what’s up with that stunning price differential? It is also interesting that the quoted citizen’s Facebook timeline is full of heart-warming photos of him with various grandkids — the very demographic that the soda tax hopes to protect from a life of obesity.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Illinois soda tax could cut health costs, raise $561 million in revenue annually,” ChicagoTribune.com, 04/25/17
Source: “Hearing on Cook County Sugary Beverage Tax Delayed,” CBSLocal.com, 06/28/17
Source: “Chicago’s Insane Soda Tax Shows What Happens When Crooked Govts Collapse — They Rob the People,” DCClothesLine.com, 08/08/17
Photo by Miran Rijavec (Artist of doing nothing) on Visualhunt/CC BY

Soda Tax Considerations

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Recently, Childhood Obesity News caught up on the soda tax-related doings in California and Colorado, and learned things about the deep-pocketed beverage industry, its representatives, lobbyists, and allies. When the Center for Science in the Public Interest totaled up the amount of money spent from 2009 to 2016 — on trying to prevent state and local efforts to impose a soda tax — they came up with a grand total of $67 million. During that time, the money has bought victory for the industry in 40 instances where a state or city tried to make a tax happen.

For instance, Albuquerque, New Mexico, made a stab at passing a soda tax, with the very specific purpose of using the money to enroll an additional 1,000 children in preschools. The Bloomberg political machine kicked in $1.1 million to support the measure, but the American Beverage Association spent $1.3 million to prevent it from happening.

The industry lobbyists have some unfortunate facts on their side, gleaned from a federal study performed by the Joint Congressional Committee on Taxes. Their research showed that while the soda tax might cause some people to lose weight, they would not be the people most in need of protection: namely children, teens, and low-income folks.

In examining the soda tax concept, writer Thomas A. Hemphill summed up the major publicly proclaimed arguments on both sides. Necessarily it is a gross simplification, because in every city, the contending parties have their own local concerns and agendas:

A soda tax internalizes the negative externalities of market activities — in this case the “public” health costs of obesity and other diseases — by assessing at least a portion of these costs to consumers or soft drink manufacturers. Soda taxes are also flat taxes, thus regressive in nature, negatively impacting lower-income consumers.

Let’s look at those one at a time. The rationale for a soda tax is that money can be spent on anti-obesity measures and on treating people who have diabetes, etc. In reality, the money often goes to all kinds of things, and the citizens rightfully feel like they have been fleeced.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing

Then there is the argument that the soda industry rolls out when it wants to appear altruistic and righteous. More than the middle class or the wealthy, a soda tax hurts the poor. But apparently this is only true of some low-income people, because SNAP (food stamp) recipients are not taxed for grocery purchases.

A common-sense but probably politically incorrect reaction might be, “Well, fine. If poor people can’t afford soda pop, their health will be the better for it. What’s wrong with that?” Regrettably, several more sub-arguments can then be formulated.

The writer points out that the Berkeley, California, soda tax was the first law of its kind to be created through a referendum, and passed with a 76 percent plurality. He praises San Francisco’s bountiful amount of public information and education because if it works, it should be “encouraged for implementation by other local governments in lieu of a SSB [sugar sweetened beverages] tax.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Spyware’s Odd Targets: Backers of Mexico’s Soda Tax,” NYTimes.com, 02/11/17
Source: “Soda Tax Update: Santa Fe Rejects, Seattle Considers,” BevNet.com, 05/05/17
Source: “PepsiCo: The Soda Tax Is The Opportunity,” SeekingAlpha.com, 05/14/17
Source: “Soda taxes: Regressive and unnecessary,” RealClearPolicy.com, 02/14/17
Photo by TheToch on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Soda Tax — How Goes It?

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The city of Davis, California, had a healthy families initiative that succeeded in passing an ordinance to make milk and water the “default options” for children’s meals served in restaurants and fast food outlets. But then Mayor Dan Wolk seemed to lose interest, and disappointed many constituents by not pressing for a soda tax. Despite his professed desire to institute some kind of tax to pay for parks and recreational facilities, sugar-sweetened beverages did not strike him as the appropriate source of revenue for this purpose.

Although this is probably totally unrelated, industry lobbyists had spent over $400,000 in the previous year, making campaign contributions to politicians who believed that any taxing of soda would be a bad idea. Early last year, an attempt was made to tax soda, but the public wasn’t having it. Even the suggestion to label high-sugar beverages was shot down.

This was despite the fact that Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis called obesity “the public health crisis of our time,” and spoke quite eloquently, as quoted by journalist David M. Greenwald:

The challenge of sugar beverages is quite simple, they’re a delivery mechanism. They deliver fructose to the liver in probably the most efficient means of doing so. Quickly. And rather than being cleared by the liver, that sugar stays there and is turned into fat and that fat and the inhibition of fat burning that goes along with it, means that all the precursors of diabetes, heart disease and coronary artery disease — the genesis is occurring in that location.

Elsewhere in California, the Bay Area cities of Oakland, San Francisco, and Albany were gearing up for an anticipated November 2016 vote on whether to tax soft drinks at one cent per ounce. The beverage industry also prepared, by broadcasting nearly $10 million worth of anti-tax television ads. They had only spent a bit over $4 million on trying to prevent Philadelphia’s soda tax. In comparison, they spent a whopping $21 million attempting to convince San Francisco voters to see things from the soda manufacturers’ perspective.

At the same time Colorado, a state that is home to lots of super-fit people, decided to go backwards when the Board of Education rescinded the ban on diet soda that public high schools had experienced since 2009.

Meanwhile, the Colorado city of Boulder placed an initiative on its ballot which would institute a soda tax, and the American Beverage Association (ABA) somehow managed to fool business owners into joining an anti-tax campaign that many subsequently resigned from. Possibly some of the merchants changed their minds because of a Harvard University study with a 10-year outlook that predicted 1,000 fewer deaths and $6.4 million less in health care costs during the upcoming decade.

Last November — despite the ABA and the corporations having raised their yearly budget for fighting the soda tax in America to almost $38 million per year — Boulder voted for a soft drink tax of two cents per ounce, and the three California cites all voted for one cent per ounce.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Industry Successful in Killing Statewide Soda Tax without a Vote,” DavisVanguard.org, 04/13/16
Source: “Big Soda Spends Millions On ‘Unethical’ San Francisco Area Ads Fighting Drink Taxes,” HuffingtonPost.com, 08/24/16
Source: “The Soda Industry’s Panicked Downward Spiral,” OrganicAuthority.com, 11/08/16
Source: “Colorado education board considers lifting ban on diet soda in schools,” DenverPost.com, 09/14/16
Source: “Jim Martin: Big Soda’s latest scam,” DailyCamera.com, 09/27/16
Source: “In a devastating blow to the beverage industry, four cities passed soda taxes,” Vox.com, 11/09/16
Photo by TheToch on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Loss Aversion and Manipulation

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Childhood Obesity News has been looking at an illogical and destructive human trait. Often, a person who regrets not having or doing something will suffer from a sense of deprivation that is all out of proportion to the corresponding satisfaction they would have gained from having or doing the thing.

Here is another take on the “Loss Aversion” concept:

We feel the pain of loss more acutely than we feel the pleasure of gain. In other words, we may like to win, but we hate to lose.

Dr. Chuck Schaeffer calls it “a common trick our brains play on us,” this tendency to “fear loss more than we seek gains.” He says the psychological quirk is hard-wired, which affects the economy by being very useful to the marketers of goods and services. They manipulate minds with the carrot-and-stick approach. If we buy their product, we also buy the privilege of considering ourselves smarter, hipper, and more popular than those who don’t buy it. That is the promise, and if the promise does not work, there is always the threat.

The threat is that we will be demonstrably “less than.” Advertisers shame us for not being enough, doing enough, or having enough. The propaganda known as advertising tells us that we are losers — and we hate to lose. But there is a path to redemption! To become winners, all we must do is transfer money from our pockets to theirs.

Overcoming toxic ideas

Dr. Pretlow holds that disordered overeating and obesity in youth stem from psychological problems and very much resemble an addictive process. Disordered overeating that leads to obesity is, by definition, an eating disorder. Other eating disorders are comfortably accepted as coming within the purview of psychiatrists and psychologists.

In relation to eating disorders and in many other areas of life, emotional considerations are generally misleading, and decisions based on them can be disastrous. But patients can learn the skills to overcome or set aside toxic ideas and impulses, and mental health professionals are the ones who can teach those skills. They are empowered to equip the people who are lost with tools to find their way out of the wilderness.

Many forces are at work to manipulate people into the mindsets that facilitate morbid obesity. But they can also be manipulated in the opposite, healthy way. Entities with bad intentions can mess with people’s minds; but mental health professionals can help to clear away the delusions and shore up the vulnerable parts of a person’s psyche. A confident, self-aware person does not succumb to the idea that buying things will provide a magic cure for sorrow, or believe that the world’s esteem depends on what she or he consumes.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Overcoming an Aversion to Loss,” NYTimes.com, 12/09/13
Source: “Mind Over Meal: Loss Aversion and the ‘Fear of Missing Out’,” TheDailyMeal.com, 06/03/15
Image by Tim Sheerman-Chase

Jingle Bell Blues

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We humans need our families, our tribes, our communities. Isolation from them is a kind of death. To demonstrate the fact that we prefer to live, people gather in groups and do the things that promote life, namely, eat and drink. “Obesity, the Holidays, and Fitting In” explores the deeper meanings of festive gatherings that highlight food, through the writings of an associate professor of psychological sciences and a neuroscientist who are both experts on holiday binge-eating.

All Hail the Lord of Misrule” looks at customs from the past, when life was tough and boring, winter was dark, long, and cold, and any excuse was seized upon to fling mundane routine aside and boogie all night long. This post also mentions some of the psychological difficulties that trouble people in modern times. “Fitting Into the Winter Food Festivals” does more of the same, pinpointing the factors that can cause all rational systems to shut down, making way for a binge.

A Holiday Reminder” reflects on holiday stress in all its dismal varieties — financial, interpersonal, intergenerational. There may be harsh weather to cope with, and even in good conditions, the stress of travel can unravel a family’s equanimity. But relatives have to be visited, or hosted, and there may be religious duties.

There may be obligations concerning places to go and things to do that, given a choice, a person might simply prefer not to deal with. And everywhere, there are “refreshments.” From the most basic primeval instinct to share resources and preserve all members of the group, to the most cynical entrepreneurial ambitions of a glitzy gift-basket delivery service, everyone has reasons to ply their fellow humans with food and drink.

Advertising, which is insane at the best of times, goes into hysterical overdrive at this time of year, urging us to eat-eat-eat, and eat some more.

More holiday “roundup” posts

Meanwhile, a lot of beleaguered people have their own reasons for resisting the onslaught of treats and goodies. For them, this post contains a couple of very helpful hints.

For additional strategies, and a peek into the mind of a compulsive overeater who is also very intelligent and highly educated, we recommend “Escaping Winter Holiday Hell.” “Season of Challenge” offers more workarounds and tricks to prevent holiday occasions, especially those of the family kind, from becoming disasters.

Holidays and Childhood Obesity” zeroes in on one of the particular holiday hazards for obese children. Relatives who only see you once a year are bound to say something about your size, and it doesn’t matter if the remarks are negative or positive because you just don’t want to talk about it. But they insist on asking nosy questions and saying embarrassing things.

If the world of wearables had not already impinged on a parent’s consciousness by this time last year, surely that parent has caught up by now. “Fitness solutions” are a huge market, and choosing among them is a significant decision.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Photo by Neville Wootton Photography on Visualhunt/CC BY

‘Tis the Season

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‘Tis the season of what? Maybe regretful groans. Or it could be day after day of opportunities to practice new skills.

So you walk into the bank and there’s coffee and cookies. Gift baskets arrive packed with sugar bombs. You attend food-centric holiday events held by family members, workplaces, schools, and churches. Maybe you even throw a party. Recent Childhood Obesity News posts regarding FOMO, or fear of missing out, are spectacularly relevant at this time of year.

If you’re a grownup, you know what it’s like to either resist the urge to pig out, or give in to it, or to spend life constantly on the fence, never knowing which way you will fall. Next time you are confronted with food or drink not even you know how you will react. Now imagine that, only ten times worse, and you now have empathy with how most kids feel. They don’t know what’s going on — they’re kids!

A holiday gift

Escape from FOMO” offered some ways to escape the holiday overconsumption trap, and today, here are ideas from health coach Marissa. First, eat before going to the event. To a lot of people, this seems counter-intuitive, because we are used to getting ready for a party like a professional fighter cutting weight before a match.

But, instead of a violent encounter, we will be facing a table full of food, and it’s free. It only makes sense to fast, in preparation to appreciate all the goodies. Don’t do it! Marissa tells why and how:

The best way to counteract the tendency to overeat is to eat reasonably throughout the day and have a well-balanced meal or snack of fiber, fat and protein before you arrive… With your blood sugar balanced, you’ll be better able to make rational choices and prevent overeating.

What if there is no chance to eat beforehand? The mantra is “fiber, fat, protein.”

Fill your plate with proteins like chicken, shrimp cocktail, sliders without the bun, vegetable crudite, nuts, fresh salads and good quality cheeses.

Marissa also advises giving yourself a timeout. The object is to find a quiet corner and take ten deep breaths. (Even if a person is already seated at a table, it might be possible to do the ten deep breaths without causing comment.) Her third suggestion is such a jewel, please just read the whole article.

She gives quite a few strategies for surviving in environments loaded with temptation. Allow yourself a treat now and then. But be picky:

If you know Suzy has THE BEST spiked hot chocolate at her holiday party, then make that your thing. The tray of sad, picked over deli pastries that end up in the office kitchen after the management meeting? Yea, go ahead and skip those…

Of course it’s a good thing for any adult to master these holiday-wrangling skills, but the benefit is not just to ourselves. We need to be good role models for children and teenagers; not domineering, but ready with a helpful hint if called upon.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Food FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and How to Handle It,” WhereINeedToBe.com, 11/30/16
Images by (top to bottom): @Julie_McGann1, @Ewans_Dad, @CassiusMorris

Obesity Is Shrink Territory

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Dr. Pretlow makes a good case for the idea that obesity is primarily a psychological problem, and that psychologists and psychiatrists are the best professionals to treat it. On the most elemental level, it doesn’t take a mental health professional to enumerate the reasons. Even a layperson knows that depression leads to overeating.

The special kind of depression caused by the death of a loved one has its own name — Kummerspeck — which means “grief bacon,” or the more genteel “sorrow fat.” In fact, the German language even has another customized word for the emotional distress-motivated overconsumption of food — Frustfressen, which is excessive eating brought about by frustration. The concept that mental/emotional upsets can drive the body into unhealthful activity has been around for a long time.

Just because people are prone to experiencing these states does not mean they are good or healthy. This is where the practitioners of mental and emotional therapy come into the picture. They have the ability to help a person realize how illogical, short-sighted, and potentially dangerous it is to give in to cravings.

If food is available to be eaten, two things can happen: A person either eats it, or turns down the opportunity. For the person who chooses not to eat it, two results may follow. They might continue on with their daily doings, mentally and emotionally unaffected by the non-event.

Loss Aversion

Or, they might experience ongoing regret, and a genuine and painful sense of deprivation. In fact, the person who didn’t eat the cupcake might feel worse about not eating it than the person who eats the cupcake and feels happy about eating it. In other words, the cupcake eater might feel pleasure up to the 5 mark on a 1-to-10 scale, while the person who did not get the cupcake achieves an 8 on the 1-to-10 anguish scale.

To put it another way, we are more bummed out by pleasures we miss than we are satisfied by good times we capture. Folk wisdom tells us that, looking back over life in our dying moments, we will most powerfully regret the things we left undone. Famous journalist Sydney J. Harris phrased it like this:

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.

Another quotation, this one from the writer Rafael Sabatini, kicks it up a notch:

Regret of neglected opportunity is the worst hell that a living soul can inhabit.

Difficult as it may be for a sane person to imagine, that is the exact emotion felt by an obese child who has just returned part of his lasagna to the serving dish. At the moment, relinquishing those extra calorie-laden bites is the worst kind of hell. This obviously is a delusional and counterproductive mindset. The examination and alleviation of such mental constructs is the area of expertise where mental health professionals shine.

This quotation is from Dr. Pretlow:

If clinicians would listen to their obese young clients and ask the right questions, it may become evident that what drives these youth to overeat is a psychological problem…

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Untranslatable German Words,” Transparent.com, 02/09/15
Photo by threelayercake on Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

Dr. Pretlow’s WPA World Congress Message

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In October, Dr. Pretlow went to the World Congress of Psychiatry with a handful of simple and powerful concepts.

The first is: Disordered overeating is an eating disorder. The statement is almost tautologous. Does it even need to be said? Apparently it does, because, despite its glaringly obvious nature, the point is, nevertheless, not universally acknowledged. And yet, under-eating (e.g. anorexia) is recognized as an eating disorder. That is an issue for another day.

Now, obesity: Is obesity an eating disorder? Yes, in two different ways. Obesity results from eating — from eating the wrong things, or the right things at the wrong time, or too much of the right things. There are many possible permutations of circumstance, but in the vast majority of cases, obesity and caloric intake are inextricably entwined. As for the minority of cases, the rare exceptions, those will be discussed.

In Dr. Pretlow’s view, disordered overeating is not only an eating disorder, it is a psychological malady. And if we agree to the premise that disordered overeating is a psychological problem, we pretty much have to agree that obesity, also, is a psychological malady.

Disordered overeating is almost always set in motion by psychological quirks. And without a doubt, disordered overeating almost inevitably leads to obesity. Therefore, psychological problems lead to obesity. Therefore, obesity is a psychological malady, except for when it isn’t — but that is a very small slice of the pie.

The rare exceptions

Is it possible for people who do not overeat to become obese? Yes, and psychology has nothing to do with the cause of their weight, because the problem lies elsewhere. The gigantic children who occasionally generate headlines have not had the time or opportunity to develop psychological afflictions, and even when their caloric intake is monitored, they stay big. Something else is going on, something that might be metabolic, genetic, or environmental.

Then, there are people who do undeniably and demonstrably overeat because some diseases and disorders cause unbridled appetite. Again, the basic root cause is not psychological. The disordered eating behavior originates when some other system goes haywire.

These somatic illnesses can cause obesity one way or another, for reasons that are not mental or emotional: Alström syndrome; Bardet-Biedi syndrome; certain tumors; Cohen syndrome; Cushing’s syndrome; hypothyroidism; Kleine-Levin Syndrome; and Prader-Willi syndrome. Hyperphagia (or polyphagia) is a well-known symptom of diabetes. Also, some medications for physical illnesses can start a patient down the slippery slope to obesity, and psychology has nothing to do with it.

Whether obesity results from a troubled psyche or an intractable physiological condition, here is the bottom line: Both types of obese patients need help from psychologists and psychiatrists. Folks who are coping with obesity that is not caused by their twisted psyches will more than likely progress to having twisted psyches anyway, because they really hate being fat. They definitely need and deserve therapeutic intervention that will help.

So there is no escape from the conjunction of obesity and psychology. By a direct route, or by an indirect route, as a cause or as a consequence, the emotional/mental apparatus is going to be involved too, and there is no getting around it.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Causes,” NIH.gov, 02/23/17
Photo by NichoDesign on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Escape From FOMO

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Advertising has taught modern humans that we are entitled to devour anything we fancy, at any time. As a species that sets a high value on novelty and variety of choice, we don’t have a problem with expending resources to develop more than 50 kinds of Oreo cookies, none of them good for us. Furthermore, if we don’t eat the currently popular corporate pseudo-foods, there is something wrong with us. We are missing out on the fun, and thus must be dull people, unworthy of esteem.

We have seen that the phenomenon known as “fear of missing out” (FOMO) turns up as a confounding factor in Dr. Pretlow’s work with young people. Of course FOMO is not the only dynamic at work in that endeavor, but it is an obstacle. We have been trained to perceive not getting what we want as almost the worst thing that can happen. It is, when looked at through a very primitive lens, tantamount to losing — and many people have been indoctrinated to believe that losing is beyond a doubt the very worst thing.

A FOMO villain

Social media are notorious for agitating every kind of FOMO. Power up any type of electronic screen, and there it all is, in living color — other people’s vacations, houses, love lives, jobs, cars, brunches, kids, achievements — so many things to feel bad about! If pictures of people you don’t even know can ruin your day, every day is preordained to bring emotional disaster. Life coach Michelle has an answer for that: Switch off social media.

How-to-sell classes all teach that a winning salesperson loves to hear the word “no,” because every “no” brings the ambitious peddler closer to a “yes.” Michelle gives that wisdom a new twist:

When I was on a diet I took great pleasure in saying no. It wasn’t about being smug, it was about taking pleasure from knowing that each “no” was taking me closer to what I wanted. Each “no” I racked up was another step forward and as I started to see results I took great joy in missing out on stuff.

Another hint is to seriously self-question:

Is your survival being threatened? If the answer is no then you can stop worrying about missing out.

Coach Jenny Eden also endorses the self-inquiry method. These are the recommended questions:

Is this a real or perceived food scarcity?
Is your body physically hungry right now?
What is driving your decision to eat right now?
Is this food readily available to me or is this a special or seasonal food that only comes around once in awhile?
Am I stuck in dieting mentality right now, which is telling me to restrict calories or limit what foods I eat?

Abolish the scarcity mindset and cultivate the abundance mindset, Eden says. Discover a mantra or a set of affirmations to repeat when the going gets rough, like “I will listen to my body and trust that I will know when I’ve had enough to eat.” Bring mindfulness to the table for every meal:

When you can slow down, invite gratitude for your food, appreciate where it came from and intellectually process the fact that this food fortunately will always be available to you, you can begin to have a more relaxed approach towards food.

Many health professionals at every level have contributed to the body of knowledge around dealing with FOMO.

FOMO escape hatches

Fitness coach Jill Coleman is all about attitude. Shifting one’s attitude toward anything generally requires practice, and patience to get through that deliberate repetition. We have seen that willpower will never be the magic bullet obesity cure. But even though it is not the whole picture, it certainly is an important tool.

Coleman asks us to regard willpower as a muscle, that a person can choose to exercise and strengthen. Also:

I can choose to NOT feel left out. I can actively CHOOSE my eating habits. I can CHOOSE to feel satisfied by my choices, and actually take pride in the fact that I don’t let my environment dictate my choices.

Dr. Kristen Bentson had health issues that led her to quit sugar and processed foods, and she never looked back. She writes:

Let’s be real, while it’s true that I’m missing out on the opportunity to talk about how good a dessert tastes, share a plate of fried mozzarella sticks, or taste a piece of candy I’m not battling the bulge, dealing with fatigue or doubled over with a stomachache. So in all reality, what am I missing out on?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Do you have food FOMO?,” DiveDeeperDevelopment.com, 11/21/16
Source: “Do you have Food FOMO?,” JennyEdenCoaching.com, undated
Source: “Do You Have FOMO Around Food?,” JillFit.com, 11/09/13
Source: “FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and Food,” DrKristenBentson.com, undated
Image source: nikkized/123RF Stock Photo

Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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