Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The losing game

The one thing we should NOT be doing is buidling more autosprawl . . .
NY Times's Frank Bruni:
 What if we have it backward? What if the 310-pound man trying to jam into the middle seat and the 225-pound woman breaking into a sweat only halfway up the stairs aren't the undisciplined miscreants of modern American life but the very emblems of it? 
What if fatness, even obesity, is less a lurking danger than a likely destiny, and the surprise isn't how many seriously overweight people are out there but how few? . . .

Following in the heavy footsteps of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," "The End of Overeating," "The End of Food" and much else, "The Weight of the Nation" makes an especially persuasive case that gluttony isn't Americans' problem. Agriculture and abundance are.

Over the last century, we became expert at the mass production of crops like corn, soybeans and wheat — a positive development, for the most part.

We also became expert at feedlots for livestock and at processing those crops into salty, sweet, fatty, cheap and addictive seductions. This has downsides.

Densely caloric and all too convenient food now envelops us, and many of us do what we're chromosomally hard-wired to, thanks to millenniums of feast-and-famine cycles. We devour it, creating plump savings accounts of excess energy, sometimes known as love handles, for an imagined future shortage that, in America today, doesn't come.
. . .

John Hoffman, an executive producer of the documentary, told me: "Evolutionarily, there was no condition that existed when we were living with too much fat storage. We've only known a world of plenty for maybe 100 years. Our biological systems haven't adapted to it."

This is probably summed up best by Michael L. Power and Jay Schulkin in their book "The Evolution of Obesity." "We evolved on the savannahs of Africa," they write. "We now live in Candyland."

Our systems aren't just rigged to gorge. They're also rigged in many cases to rebound from weight loss and put pounds back on, as Tara Parker-Pope explained in a cover story for The Times's Sunday magazine last year. So we're fighting againstthat bit of nature, too.
. . . 
 If we're going to wage a successful war against unhealthy weight gain and obesity, we need to understand all of that. We need to stop vilifying obese people, who aren't likely to be helped by it
And we need to rethink and remake our environment much more thoroughly than we seem poised to do.

The kind of consciousness-raising and corporate prodding being done by Michelle Obama — laudable as it is — won't be nearly enough. Neither will the extra green space for exercise that cities like Nashville have commendably created, or New York City officials' admirable exile of sugary sodas from public school vending machines.

These important steps, plus others under consideration, are just the start. Let's move, yes. But let's do it a whole lot faster, because what we may be trying to hold back is a near inevitable tide.