Coronavirus Chronicles — The Troubled History of “Move More”

In the previous post, we looked at two different situations where advisors in positions of trust could be accused of peddling false hope to the public.

Case #1: Many authorities still believe that exercise is not, in every instance, connected with weight loss, and hold other beliefs that seem contrary to both common sense and actual experience. Yet the pro-exercise faction grows daily. A lot of people exercise and never lose weight. Is it immoral and unethical to advise people to exercise, when its usefulness cannot be guaranteed?

Case #2: A popular TV personality was publicly scolded for recommending a plant extract as a weight-loss miracle cure that would work for all body types — truly a prototypical “silver bullet.” Although the doctor apparently did not directly profit from the sales, there were still grounds for criticism. People were buying the product in good faith, a.k.a. false hope.

Is one more wrong than the other? It could be argued that even if people do not lose weight from exercise, it is good for the body and brain in several ways. In other words, barring accidents, exercise can’t hurt.

But what if the plant extract doesn’t hurt, either? What if it becomes recognized as a vital health-enhancing supplement for some previously unrecognized reason? Is that enough justification to keep it on the market, as long as the manufacturer promises not to promote it as a weight-loss answer? How could the merchant be sure of the buyer’s motive? Would customers need to sign a waiver, stating that they did not believe the product to be a weight-loss product, and would not use it as such?

The changing lens of history

Close as conjoined twins, obesity and COVID-19 are always meddling in each other’s business and doing each other favors. Obese people are more likely to get the virus, and anyone who has a bad case or a long-lasting case of the virus becomes so debilitated, they can’t bring themselves to exercise, or find the strength to get their hands on fresh produce, or to prepare a healthful salad. In many cases, they literally cannot do anything useful or approaching the requirements for a normal life. If they have been convinced that neither fresh vegetables nor exercise will help, the situation worsens. What should people believe about exercise?

While the New York Post has never been accused of superior journalism, it does get into an awful lot of people’s heads, so maybe attention should be paid to what it has been saying. In mid-2014, that was a piece by Susannah Cahalan titled “America rejoice! Being fat may actually make you healthier.” It was a review of a “science-based anti-diet book” authored by cardiologist Carl J. Lavie. Such a book might be called, by some, another item that gives people false hope — for example, they might erroneously conclude that it is better to be overweight.

Dr. Lavie’s book is called The Obesity Paradox. He acknowledges that obesity is a risk factor of epidemic proportions, but cites evidence that with some disease processes, extra fat can be an advantage, depending on which part of the body it resides in, and how much time a person spends getting less than minimal exercise.

In other words, sedentary life is a short life. He makes a very convincing case against sitting, which is right up there with smoking and opiate addiction (and COVID-19) as a ruthless killer. Cahalan explained the doctor, and then quoted him:

[I]n general, when body fat increases, often so do muscle mass and strength, necessary in battling chronic disease. This leads to the essential divide between being “fat and being fat and fit.” He cites two studies, one out of Canada and one conducted by the American Cancer Society, which both say unequivocally that the more you sit, no matter your age or weight, the sooner you’ll die.

“If you have to choose between being fat or fit, go for fit, even if it means being heavier.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “America rejoice! Being fat may actually make you healthier,”, 04/05/14″
Image by Jonas Bengtsson/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

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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