WIN Wyoming and WIN the Rockies
"Body Mass Challenged" - One manís perspective
This month marks the fifth anniversary of the WIN thought bullets. What a
journey! Five years ago I had no idea what a great adventure it would be with
the expanding efforts of WIN Wyoming to include two successful Shaping A
Health Future Conferences, and the USDA funding of a three-state project
called WIN the Rockies. Thanks for coming along for part, or all of the journey.
I would like to dedicate the thought bullets this month to Suzy Pelican, who has
been our beacon of unwavering light and direction for this journey. On behalf of
the entire WIN Wyoming and WIN the Rockies teamsó thanks Suzy!
The thought bullets this month come from an article written by Fred Barbash.
Barbash is a freelance writer who tackled the obesity issue from his own
- Barbash claims he is "body mass challenged," or perhaps
"chunky." He understands he is obese "technically
speaking," but he quotes the Centers for Disease Controlís website
that states body mass index is "only one piece of a personal health
profile." Although "technically obese," Barbash plays tennis,
goes biking and kayaking, works out a gym and generally "feels pretty
good." He notes he has the same stocky build as his father and both
- Barbash says that with all the national attention on obesity and the
potential health consequences, he feels like a "hunted man." He
also asks on behalf of overweight individuals everywhere for the mass media
to "call off the dogs" with the constant bombardment of the
"hysteria" over obesity. He believes frequently quoted statistics
that state obesity costs society $90 - $117 billion a year are "the
crudest statistics" about the very complicated problem of obesity.
- Proposals to tax high fat foods, televisions sets and vehicles are
offensive to Barbash. He wants to play his own version of Letís Make A
Deal. If we choose to tax individuals based on behaviors that relate to
a cost to society, he argues that those who overwork and suffer from office
stress should be taxed because the cost to society is estimated at $30
billion a year. Injuries from recreational activities cost society $26
billion a year so bikers, boaters and others should also be taxed. He
wonders if taxing junk food and TV sets will get anyone off the couch and
eating an apple. Barbash also observes that most of us engage in some form
of risky behavior that bears some expense to society. Taxing that behavior
might be more like "Big Mother" than "Big Brother."
- Barbash states that defining obesity in simple numbers like BMI and
dollars cost to society are needed by policymakers and others to set
priorities and make something very complicated like obesity appear in
simple, understandable terms. The problem? The news media and others find
the numbers "irresistible" and take them "literally"
instead of as estimates; and according to Barbash, the crudest of estimates.
- Simple terms may be used to describe obesity, but obesity is not simple.
In addition, many questions remain unanswered. Barbash quotes the April 2003
issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association to make this
point. The entire issue is devoted to the obesity issue, and yet one
professor of medicine writes in the Journal that "many mysteries
remain" when it comes to understanding obesity.
Barbash F. Itís a Weighty Problem, But A Crisis? Címon. Washington Post.
August 31, 2003, page B01.
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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