More Obesity in Media

How big

As Childhood Obesity News recently noted, endocrinologist Robert Lustig doubts the efficacy of willpower in helping people to maintain a healthy weight, because our biological chemistry is against us. And once obesity has taken hold, the overweight condition itself messes around with our hormonal balance, and everything become exponentially more problematic. Lustig is also very much against fructose.

Chapter 5 of his recently published book, Fat Chance, is all about food addiction. He notes the similarities between food and addictive drugs, and describes what in particular makes fast food so addictive. And he talks about the reward system that is built into each human, which apparently is so essential that being deprived of it can have the most serious consequences.

In 2007, a certain anti-obesity drug was denied approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Lustig says:

Rimonabant is an endocannabinoid antagonist, or the ‘anti-marijuana’ medicine — which means it’s also ‘anti-munchies.’ It inhibits the sense of reward. While it worked to promote weight loss, 20 percent of the subjects who used it experienced serious psychiatric side effects, especially depression, and there were several suicides. Kill the reward system, and you just might want to kill yourself.

That is a heavy consequence. But, what to do? The Guardian‘s Steven Poole sums up the book’s take-away as: “[A]void processed rubbish and just eat real food.” Everybody pretty much knew that already. And, of course, exercise — a word that also rings the recognition gong.

Indeed, as Childhood Obesity News has often observed, there is no downside to indulging in plenty of healthful physical activity. The body needs to move and even to be challenged. However, can exercise end the childhood obesity epidemic? Doubtful.

At any rate, Poole is neither as enthusiastic nor as impressed as some reviewers, saying:

Fat Chance is a persuasively indignant public-policy manifesto, but it’s also a self-help book; curiously, each strain flatly contradicts the other. The crux is whether people can actually change their behaviour. Of course they can, you might retort, citing friends who have successfully slimmed; but Lustig spends most of the book denying that this is even possible, the better to justify government regulation.

Now, for the sheer gossipy fun of it, let’s look at a hot topic in the current media lore of obesity — the public dissing of comic/actress Melissa McCarthy, as reported by Alyssa Rosenberg for Slate:

There are plenty of valid critiques of Melissa McCarthy’s comedic brand, even some that have to do with her weight. I, for instance, might wonder if she should take parts that encourage audiences to think of heavier people as obnoxious or stupid and their sex lives as hilarious.

It’s one thing for Reed, or any other critic, to dislike a comedian’s physical humor because it’s ineffective (i.e., not funny). It’s another for Reed to treat his personal distaste for McCarthy’s size as if it’s a legitimate aesthetic issue and to suggest that being that size disqualifies an actor — or much more frequently, an actress — from being sexual, funny, charming, or heroic, regardless of skill.

Well said, Alyssa Rosenberg!

This all started back in February, when Rex Reed reviewed a movie called The Identity Thief and charmingly called the McCarthy “tractor-sized” and a “hippo.” (He didn’t much care for the film’s plot either.) Readers, was Rex Reed out of line, or only doing his job?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth About Sugar by Robert Lustig — review,” The Guardian, 01/25/13
Source: “Fat Chance,” Amazon.com
Source:”Melissa McCarthy Finally Responds to Film Critic Who Called Her a “Hippo”,” Slate.com, 06/17/13
Source: “Declined: In Identity Thief, Bateman’s Bankable Billing Can’t Lift This Flick out of the Red,” Observer.com, 02/05/13
Image by Nina Matthews Photography.

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