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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Obesity epidemic? Try hunger crisis.

April 17, 2012 13 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

image {image source :: rudd center for food policy}

Our airwaves, our water coolers, and even dinner tables are full of discussion about this supposed massive threat to our collective health and wellbeing called obesity. In fact, we don’t often hear the term “obesity” without hearing “epidemic” jammed into the same sentence.

For all of the hollering going on, you would think that fat people were dropping like flies and infecting others are their way down. In fact, the director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Julie Guberding, warned us in 2002 that obesity would be comparable to the bubonic plague. I’m not sure if Dr. Gbererding needs a lesson in history, but the Black Death took the lives of almost 200 million Europeans, approximately 50% of the population, in a four year period.

Meanwhile, obesity is associated with an estimated 26,000 deaths per year, a number that has been drastically revised since the CDC initially claimed that obesity was the cause for 400,000 deaths per year. [Note too that many studies assert that the risk of death associated with obesity is the same for individuals in normal weight categories, and less than those in low weight categories, but we don’t hear those statistics.] Have our shaming treatments for obesity worked that quickly to reduce the number so dramatically? No, not at all. Instead, the obesity epidemic stakeholders were forced to more honestly report the findings.

So why all the fuss about obesity as an epidemic? Once you start to peel back the layers, you start to see just how many individuals and organizations stand to profit from treating obesity as the next SARS or cholera. Government entities gain funding and public approval. Politicians gain supporters who see a leader being “proactive” and “tough” on health issues. Doctors gain patients being more interested in their surgical interventions and medications. Pharmaceutical companies boom with business. And the diet and weight loss industries? Puh-lease…

Who doesn’t benefit from the myth of the obesity epidemic? Well, obese people for one (and all of us for two). Individuals of a large body size or weight are further stigmatized by labeling supposedly increasing waistlines an epidemic. Just like the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the culture of panic that surrounds the condition leads to individuals being feared, reviled, and isolated. Large people in our society today are told they represent what is to be avoided. They are ascribed with labels of being “lazy,” “unmotivated,” “lacking willpower,” and assumed to eat much, move little, and be a drain on healthcare. Needless to say, all of these assumptions are incorrect.

With it clear that obesity and weight itself is not a crisis, it is important to acknowledge that we do have an issue on our hands. As a society, we have a distorted relationship with food and our bodies. I’d like to propose that what we have in our society is not an obesity epidemic, but a hunger crisis.

We hunger for the taste of real, non-processed food. We hunger for the days of our childhood when we were able to listen to and trust our bodies to tell us when to start and stop eating. We hunger for a connection with our bodies. We hunger for joyful movement that makes us feel alive and unencumbered. We hunger for sensibility and rationality among those who lead us and care for us. We hunger for honesty within and between ourselves. We hunger for food to be a part of celebration but not all of it. We hunger for time to spend with ourselves in quiet reflection. We hunger for peace in our bodies and minds.

Until we can recognize the hunger crisis, we’ll be forced to continue wandering the labyrinth of manipulated statistics, threatening claims, and fear mongering. Until we recognize that our cultural struggle is with our individual relationship with ourselves as embodied creatures, we get mired in the battle of the bulge that the weight loss industry and our government would have us believe to be true. From that place, the likely outcome is getting stuck in a vicious sequence of weight cycling and shame. However, if we can recognize what it is we are truly hungry for, we might just be able to satiate ourselves.

How has all of the media attention on the “obesity epidemic” impacted you? Do you think we have a hunger crisis going on?

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12 Comments

  1. KCLAnderson (Karen)
    2 years ago

    I agree 1000% percent. Brava!
    KCLAnderson (Karen) recently posted..When *I* Was A Kid…

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  2. Eating as a Path to Yoga
    2 years ago

    I’d like to change the War on Obesity to the War on Weight Stigma.
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  3. Helena Y.
    2 years ago

    I think there’s really a stigma for obese people. I hope this would change in the long run. What are ways to boost your confidence despite your size? Thanks for the post. It’s really inspirational.

    -Helena
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  4. Barbara
    2 years ago

    This post is so inspiring. I love it. You should act normal, despite your size.
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  5. Carmen
    2 years ago

    I hope this would change in the long run. Thanks for sharing these.
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  6. Born27
    2 years ago

    All of us is normal and that’s why we should be all equal to everyone’s eye. YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY.
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  7. cmichaelsny
    2 years ago

    Obesity is a major problem, which can be controlled by the individual by eating less. It’s obvious they have access to food. The same can’t be said for the hungry or poor people. They don’t have access to food or the where with all to earn enough to splurge. You would think that we could concentrate on both problems at once. We can deploy troops to three fronts and find money to finance it but can’t figure out how to get people enough to eat.
    cmichaelsny recently posted..Do You Have GAD Symptoms?

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  8. Maryden25
    2 years ago

    Being not sexy is all in the mind.. Of course obesity is one of the causes of being not confident, but we should bare in our mind that we can do it!
    Being hungry is not safe or not advisable to lose weight. Have an exercise, an hour or 2 will do.
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  9. Emily Woodhouse
    2 years ago

    Obesity among young Americans is a serious problem that can have serious ramifications in the long run. I believe in equality for everyone. Obesity is just a problem which is curable. So my friend don’t worry just keep trying. I believe you’ll be succeed. Thanks for such an encouraging post.
    Emily Woodhouse recently posted..All about Bumps with Yeast Infection

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  10. Seducir Mujer
    2 years ago

    It’s so inspiring. Thank you for sharing this.
    - Seducir Mujer

    Reply

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One Trackback

  1. By Something Good | A Thousand Shades of Gray on November 25, 2013 at 9:10 am

    […] Obesity epidemic? Try hunger crisis. from Nourishing the Soul, which ends with “if we can recognize what it is we are truly hungry […]

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