Adult obesity is a growing problem. … Should this widespread obesity epidemic be a cause for alarm? … A common starting point is the assertion that those who are obese impose higher health costs on the rest of the population—a statement which is then taken to justify public policy interventions. … The existing literature on these topics suggests that obese people on average do bear the costs and benefits of their eating and exercise habits. (
Brendon and Matthew are essentially correct. The OP is more or less incoherent because it takes so much of the (false) conventional wisdom for granted. First, there is a huge correlation between obesity and wealth (poor=fat), mostly because carbs are cheaper food. People see this and naturally associate fat with low status. No conspiracies necessary.
There IS a hellish self-sustaining memeplex dynamic where rich hi-status folks get to look down on the poor for poor self-control when their problem is the deadly diet advice that has become standard over the past few decades. It's always easier to blame the victim. Doctors and bureaucrats have a very natural reluctance to entertain the hypothesis that they've been killing people in the millions since the 60's.
The canonical reference here is Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories.
Brendon is absolutely correct.
If you want to lose weight like mad, cut your carb intake to the bone and eat all the protein / fat you want (you won't feel like eating much and you won't be hungry and irritable either without all those insulin doses shooting into your bloodstream).
Eating carbs releases insulin (which make your cells suck up fat and makes you more hungry). For susceptible people over time this leads to varying degrees of overweight and obesity (as well as causing heart disease, dental caries and many other conditions).
That this well known fact was "lost" some time after the 1960s and replaced with the idiotic, obesity-creating carbo-laden "food pyramid" and the diabetes-inducing low fat (= high carb) diet craze tells you all you need to know about the quality of scientific consensuses in many areas.
Speaking as someone who just dropped thirty pounds over the past two months, I wanna correct the original post that said exercise matters more than diet - diet is everything. I actually think it's more important than how much you workout - even if your goal is to build muscle rather than lose weight.
The literature that says "exercise more" if often funded by food companies who want to tell you that "Krispe Kreme is part of a healthy diet" (quote from an actual spokesperson of theirs). If we were actually serious about ending the obesity epidemic, we'd stop subsidizing corn and high carb foods. Right now meat and vegetables are only more expensive than bad carbs because of government subsidies to the food industry (which they lobby for heavily). So we've artificially made it so the cheaper choice for the poor is unhealthy. But if we were to actually talk about diet, then all these subsidized companies might lose their money and buisness.
We investigated whether confounding from genetic factors could explain some of the observed associations between BMI and mortality.1 We used co-twin-control analyses, a well-known method2 that has contributed to many important findings in the past.3,4 We found that within monozygotic (MZ) twins there was no association between BMI and mortality from causes other than CHD, suggesting that part of the well-documented association between BMI and mortality may be due to genetic factors rather than causality. In their commentary, Kaufman and Glymour5 express concerns about potential sources of error—including violation of the equal-environment assumption, selection and survivor bias, and lack of representativeness—that may limit the validity of this finding.
Here is another paper that very specifically relates particular types of “injustice” to bad health, an effort-reward imbalance and procedural injustice.
This is interesting. I wonder how much of the increase in health care costs are due to the increased inequalities in income distribution due to effort-reward imbalances? It would be interesting to do the experiment, reverse the trend of the last 30 years or so and see if there is a change in the slope of health care cost increases.
Of course that experiment will never be done because it is low status individuals (i.e. poor people) that would benefit. The whole point of the changes in the last 30 years has been to put them where they are, deprive them of status and keep them there.
Actually there is a pretty good correlation between stress levels and BMI.
Here is a discussion of the physiology behind it.
and here is a discussion of a particular type of stress. The stress of being treated unfairly seems to be particularly effective at exacerbating it. Being treated fairly at work is pretty protective against obesity.
There is a great deal of evidence supporting a stress-obesity link.
Many thanks! Those were precisely the questions that I was going to raise.
Well put, RickG. It's always interesting to read counter-intuitive, contrarian posts like Robin's, but sometimes these discussions get completely untethered from reality. Thanks for the dose of common sense.
RickG: "The wage differentials are due to differences in worker productivity, which is related to the obese being less productive (for a variety of both correlative and causal reasons); they aren’t just arbitrary penalties imposed on the obese. "
How do you know this? Do you have empirical studies to cite?
Other physical features that are status markers but have no obvious related to productivity (height, skin color), also carry wage penalties even after controlling for things like intelligence and education.
How do you know what percentage of the obesity wage penalty are due to productivity correlations versus unconscious discrimination?
I don't disagree, but I question the use of BMI instead of body fat percentage. My guess is most people with a low BMI are undernourished and not just low fat whereas individuals with a high BMI are a mixture of high fat and fit.
i doubt that you could find a correlation between peoples stress levels and BMI. you may be able to find correlation between fat people and how they deal with stress (ie eating)
"> Some argue fat folk lack self-control, but very few of those who are aware of and have access to self-control mechanisms like stickk.com choose to use them."
People who know about those specific self-control mechanisms are a very small subset of the overall population. The weight loss industry in the US totals over 50 billion dollars in annual revenue.
It should not surprise us that people who have demonstrated a lack of self control don't know much about self control, and that people who are fat know less about nutrition than average. So, you should look for evidence that they are making an effort (and to what degree), not whether that effort is particularly effective. The total expenditure of money and effort hardly indicates that the overweight don't actually care.
I do not buy the claim that subsidies to the obese due to pooled health insurance are justified by offsetting wage differentials. The wage differentials are due to differences in worker productivity, which is related to the obese being less productive (for a variety of both correlative and causal reasons); they aren't just arbitrary penalties imposed on the obese. So how can the lower wages of the obese be considered a kind of compensation to the non-obese, which is supposed to make up for the pooling of risk premia? I obviously still have an incentive to encourage them to lose weight, as any increase in wages will be offset by increased productivity of the workplace, and the reduction in insurance costs will be had for free.
And as for public pooling, "This transfer seems progressive and is unlikely to induce substantial social loss". Really? The current estimate is > $100 billion. And this ignores many obesity risk factors which are not included in those studies, as well as the fact that the obese, by either working less or being on disability, are contributing less to the public insurance pool. I'm open to the possibility that the obese dying at or before retirement age saves public money, but does the lifetime product of such individuals really meet or exceed their lifetime public costs? And if subsidizing obesity is considered a progessive virtue, then lets subsidize drinking, smoking, and dropping out of school as well.
Being fat is low status now because it is largely due to being at the bottom of the social status hierarchy and the very high stress levels that being on the bottom cause.
In the past, being thin was a sign of not being able to afford enough to eat. Food is so cheap now that even poor people are fat because poor people are under much more stress.
What is harder to achieve is always more valuable.
If one can easily change A into B, but it is hard to change B into A, then A will be at least as valuable as B.
In the Middle Ages, being fat was hard and being skinny was easy. These days it is the opposite.
I think there have been studies done showing that most women prefer the runner's/swimmer's/soccer player's physique to bodybuilders. You might say this is cultural, but I suspect it's because until recently there were no bodybuilders for women to be attracted to, so "runner's physique" was roughly synonymous to "healthy male physique."