Two Obesity Books

Stuffed was written by someone whose credentials are both impressive and doubt-inspiring. Hank Cardello spent an entire career within the food and beverage industries, serving in various capacities, such as marketing director for Coca-Cola USA. The book is said to reveal the hidden forces that lead people to buy grocery products and choose restaurant menu items.

According to the publisher’s description, it provides “an insider′s account of food company practices, failed government regulations, and misleading media coverage.” Also:

Stuffed explores how food companies have spent the last fifty years largely ignoring healthier fare in the name of their bottom lines while pushing consumers toward “convenience” food and supersize portions without considering the health consequences.

This sounds intriguing, but an additional paragraph rings some alarm bells:

Cardello explains the fundamental risks to one-size-fits-all regulatory solutions and the bigger dangers posed by letting the food pundits confuse the health conversation…. He stresses the realistic role that consumers must play in America’s new health equation, explaining that unless they demand healthier food with their wallets, America will continue to tip the scales for years to come.

That almost seems like a roundabout, backdoor way to say what the food industry so dearly loves to repeat: It’s all about personal responsibility, which is very close to “Everything that’s wrong is your own damn fault.”

The industry loves the old CICO paradigm (calories in, calories out), because it lets them off the hook. If the consumer is too fat, it’s the consumer’s fault for not buying the right kind of food, and for not spending five hours a day in the workout room sweating off the pounds acquired through poor judgment.

New understandings

Dr. Pretlow says, “I’m averse to promoting ‘healthy eating and exercise’ as a solution for childhood obesity, albeit they are useful concepts for general health.” Many health professionals feel the same way, and it is worth thinking about why.

There is, for example, the question of quality over quantity. What we eat matters just as much as the amount. A low-quality calorie is made out of stuff that will mess with the endocrine system and influence the brain to want more low-quality calories. (For other reasons why the CICO paradigm is being dismantled, see Mark Sisson’s exquisitely detailed discussion of seven common beliefs centered around it.)

The following appropriate paragraph is found in a post by Dr. Garrath Williams, co-author of Childhood Obesity: Ethical and Policy Issues:

We still hear the old line that obesity is caused by “excess” calories in over calories out. But this truism just isn’t true. How the body converts energy to fat, how hormones regulate appetite and metabolism, how some chemicals (so-called “obesogens”) disrupt metabolic pathways — all of these things are immensely complicated.

Dr. Williams specializes in bioethics and medical law, and looks at phenomena through the lenses of politics, philosophy, and religion. The other authors of the Oxford University Press publication are Kristin Voigt and Stuart G. Nicholls.

They examine the modern trends of thoughtless consumption and the restriction of children’s activities, along with such environmental elements as our unsustainable food systems and the degradation of food quality in general. They also worry about our tendency to suffer from a certain kind of cognitive dissonance:

Books and media offer a glut of glossy culinary images. At the same time, we consume huge amounts of processed foods that bear no resemblance to those pictures nor, indeed, to any raw ingredient.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Stuffed: An Insider’s Look at Who’s (Really) Making America Fat and How the Food Industry Can Fix It,”, undated
Source: “Picturing childhood obesity: what’s behind the cover?”, 06/11/14
Photo via Visual Hunt


  1. SMU Maguire Center for Ethics says:

    Great books! Interested in Children’s Health? Check out our conference in Dallas!

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