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May 30, 2007

Obesity: Fact and Fiction

Posted in: Body Image,Health, Nutrition & Fitness,Pop Culture

BigFatBlog alerted me to a recent article by Courtney E. Martin. Martin, who just released her book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, takes on fat as Public Enemy #1, as fed by a multi-billion dollar a year “corrupt industry that keeps so many of us — women in particular — unsatisfied, obsessed and misinformed.”

In her article, Separating Fact from Fiction in the Age of Obesity, Martin writes that most diets simply don’t work because they can’t override the body’s innate “set point.” She explains:

“In our extreme makeover culture where women are led to believe they could look like Halle Berry if they just had enough will power or money, this is a powerful conclusion. Your body is genetically predisposed to exist in a certain range of weight. Your range might be higher than Paris Hilton’s, or your next door neighbor’s, or even your sister’s, for that matter, but it doesn’t mean anything about your character. In fact, you can diet with utmost determination and your body will continue to adjust your metabolism to fit its genetically determined size.”

Martin tackles the diet industry and the obsession and self-hatred it engenders within women with its deceptive messages:

“Commercials preach the gospel of thinness and equate it with success, happiness and love — the thin girl waltzes through a sunny day with a handsome man on her arm and stacks of her own money in the bank, all a not-so-subtle result of her recent weight loss. The chance to slim down becomes more than a dwindling number on the scale in the world of weight-loss marketing. It becomes an answer to all of life’s problems.”

Although happiness can never be found in the junior’s department, Martin find that “for all of our go-girling, expose-writing and finger-pointing, the diet industry marches on as lucrative and deadly as ever.”

Martin poses a provocative question: with its proven high failure rates – a 97 percent recidivism rate, according to Susie Orbach – and overall ineffectiveness (as well as the health risks yo-yo dieting poses), can the diet industry be prosecuted into warning labels and public education efforts the way the tobacco industry has been?

What are your thoughts?

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