Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oh really?: Cheese and Obesity

From Sociological Images - "New Obesity Prevention Campaign Rife with Fat Shaming"
"The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) sponsored two new billboards in Albany, NY, warning residents that cheese makes you fat in what is possibly most irresponsible way ever. The first features an obese man’s disembodied torso and the words, 'Your abs on cheese.” The second features an obese woman’s butt and thighs and the words, “Your thighs on cheese.” The images make a very clear statement: fat people are disgusting."
"The PCRM advocates for a vegan diet. The aim of this campaign is to get Albany residents to reduce their cheese intake, as cheese is a common source of saturated fat and, according to the PRCM, a major contributor to obesity in the United States. In Albany, home to several dairy farms, 63 percent of adults are obese. This is higher than the statewide obesity level of 59 percent. Obesity prevention is a valid cause, to be sure, but at what cost to other health issues?"
PCRM's message is problematic for a couple of reasons.  The author highlights how the campaign uses fat shaming to further its agenda.  As if men and women aren't already inundated by images of the "ideal" body, we have to deal with images that suggest that we are somehow "gross" if we aren't thin and/or perfectly toned.

I also take issue with singling out one food as a major contributor of obesity to promote a vegan diet.  I browsed the PCRM's website, and I would guess that their advocacy for a vegan lifestyle is more about animal rights than spreading the word about the health benefits of eating less meat and dairy.  (This is not to say that the concern for the ethical treatment of animals is a bad thing, but let's be honest about motives here.)

I cringed more when I read this:
"The obesity epidemic is not caused by inactivity, bread, rice, gluttony, weak will, or a bad childhood. It is caused by a tsunami of unhealthful foods, and one of the worst, perhaps surprisingly, is cheese."  -- PCRM: Cheese and Obesity
I don't know, guys. Getting off the couch, eating appropriately sized portions, and recognizing that cookies - though delicious - are a "sometimes food" has done wonders for a lot people -- myself included. 

Of course, everyone has an agenda. Hopefully, we'll see more campaigns that educate the public about adopting healthy lifestyles without demonizing certain foods. In the end, it's all about making healthy choices. 

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