There was yet another conference last week where experts confirmed what we all already know. The United States is fat and getting fatter. The conference issued a companion report. There was also a new study out last week. There’s a four-part HBO series, The Weight of the Nation, that premieres tonight. The HBO series has a companion book.
Let’s not repeat the statistics here. Let’s also not run the same picture of some overweight person’s bulging gut or super-sized rear. Let’s assume we already know we are, as a nation, obese. We know it because we saw the zillion earlier studies and documentaries and, mostly, because we went to the mall last week. Let’s say we’ve been hearing this tune for about a decade, hummed constantly in the back of the national consciousness. Let’s also agree that we are aware of the health and financial costs of our ponderousness.
So, then: why do we need this new conference/study/HBO series/companion book? One of the conference leaders put it this way: “Many people will probably say ‘what’s new’ and what’s new is the clear statement that we must begin to attack this problem collectively on all fronts.”
Seriously? We are saying this very clearly now: we’re deathly fat and we should address this issue with some sort of broad-based strategy. If that’s all you’ve got, you’re not even trying.
Let us say this very clearly now: Our consciousness has been raised. If it gets raised any more, we will enter the realm in which useful fact mutates into truism and then into tired cliché that we accept as an unavoidable condition of life.
So why do we keep publishing reports and running documentaries about obesity? Because it is the least demanding thing we can do. We are sitting on life’s couch, gorging our minds on studies about our fatness because they offer effortless self-stimulation. They are salty, cheese-flavored corn-puffs for your head. They are the empty calories of public debate.
We need to stop buying these nuggets. We need to put down the obesity studies and do something that makes us push ourselves a bit. Walking around the block would be a start. Or regulating food. Or adjusting health insurance premiums based on weight in the same way that they are now based on age and gender. Or reorganizing our streets so people can bike safely. Or do nothing. We don’t care. Just stop talking about the terrible consequences of something you don’t intend to do anything about.
Photo of delicious cheese puffs by annulla, via Wikimedia Commons.