The Underlying Paradox of Food Programs

In the previous post, Childhood Obesity News discussed the incredible controversy that arose 50 years ago when some factions struggled to bring to public attention the dire situation of Americans who did not have enough to eat. At the same time, other factions adamantly insisted that not only were all Americans well-nourished, but that to state otherwise was subversive and unpatriotic.

Normally, cognitive dissonance is a pathological condition, because believing two opposite things at the same time is a sign of mental illness. But in many cases, we have no choice but to believe two seemingly contradictory truths. Here is an example of how, for the past several years, the world has been confronted with a contradiction that seems on the surface to point to two different and mutually exclusive truths.

People who believe that world climate is changing catastrophically because of global warming are mocked and derided on the basis of one particularly cold and snowy winter in one particular place. Climate change deniers point to photos of people shoveling snowdrifts from their driveways, and say, “Look at that, there’s your so-called global warming, you fools.”

Meanwhile, serious climate scientists can explain how two seemingly opposed sets of evidence can both be true. Planet-wide warming that causes certain weather phenomena in some locations can indeed cause other weather patterns in other places, that appear to contradict the overall pattern of warming.

Too much or not enough?

In recent years, this same controversy has erupted in the area of nutrition. There are still very many Americans who suffer from malnutrition. But just as in the realm of weather, skeptics can publish photos of morbidly obese children, and statistics that reflect sky-high obesity rates in all age groups, and say, “Look at that, there’s your so-called nutrition crisis, you fools.”

The doubters can put forth undeniable evidence that X number of American children are overweight or obese, and then use that evidence to “prove” to themselves that the government should abandon all concern about making sure that American children are sufficiently nourished. “Look at all those fat kids,” they say, and that is the argument for refusing to spend tax money and other government resources to assure that all kids are properly fed.

In some circles, the widespread existence of obesity is considered sufficient evidence that all Americans are adequately nourished, and that government at every level should keep its nosey, interfering, overbearing, nanny-state hands off all matters concerned with food. Meanwhile, other groups insist that the government must step up and take responsibility for ensuring both that everybody gets enough to eat, and nobody gets fat.

How can these apparently mutually exclusive demands both be met? Recently, G. William Hoagland published a report dealing with efforts the federal government has made over the past half-century, since the landmark White House Food and Nutrition Conference took the first steps toward bringing this all out into the open.

Diverse experience or suspicious both-siderism?

Mr. Hoagland is a living example of what some consider to be an unholy alliance between government and business; the kind of bureaucrat who enjoys the “revolving door” relationship between official posts and private-sector employment. Although such people may be accused of having divided loyalties, they are also necessarily qualified to see issues from both sides. The next post will outline his varied experience before summarizing what he wrote on this topic.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What’s Happened in the 50 Years Since the White House Food and Nutrition Conference?,”, 12/04/19
Image by Nick Bramhall/(CC BY-SA 2.0)

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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