Dr. Katz’s Got the Fix, or So He Thinks
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Trigger warning: Frank discussion of mainstream anti-obesity rhetoric.
Dude, Dr. David Katz, President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, wants you to know that if we simply treated obesity like drowning or health like wealth, all would be right with the world … meaning that we’d all be thin. You know, because it’s just that easy.
Just. That. Easy.
Because Dr. Katz is a pragmatist.
Close, but no cigar. In this article I found on LinkedIn, Dr. Katz has some good ideas. He even reached into the annals of history with a quote from Aristotle about using analogies (unnecessary, much?):
Aristotle characterized the writer’s “eye for resemblances,” by which he meant the use of simile and metaphor, and the underlying capacity to see similarity in dissimilars — as genius.
Basically, using analogies means you’re smart.
Offering two very simple, yet naive analogies-of-smartness, Dr. Katz begins by saying that we should treat health like wealth because we all worship wealth and want more of it. I partly disagree with this statement because it’s already something that’s going on (society loves those with money, that part was correct).
In the War on Fat, those who are gifted with thin privilege are often treated as more worthy than those of us who are not. Health is already being used as a form of wealth because our society believes that shaming the bad, fat people will magically make them thinner, good people. More ammunition for the struggle between the haves and the have-nots is not a solution. Dr. Katz is not being a pragmatist here, he’s simply blind to the world around him.
His second attempt at analogizing the fat away is the suggestion that obesity should be the equivalent to drowning. This works, in his mind, because drowning is not a disease, but is still something we take seriously. It is medically legitimate. Drowning is treated/prevented in two ways. First, that …
… we tacitly acknowledge — by our actions — that personal and public responsibility are complementary, and both required. Parents need to watch their children at the pool’s edge or beach, and are well advised to teach them to swim. But there are lifeguards just the same. There are fences around pools. [emphasis mine]
And, second, that …
… we don’t focus on the ex-post-facto treatment of drowning. We focus on prevention. Drowning is too common if it happens at all; but it is very much the exception. The rule is prevention, by application of the combined defenses born of personally and publicly responsible action.
I find that making the public accountable is the wrong idea. Public accountability could be easily interpreted as something that’s already going on now with the widespread and open shaming of fat people we see today.
Yet, in this whole article that is simply adding to the whole fat-shaming rhetoric, I did find some nuggets of goodness. Like this one here about what we would actually do if we treated obesity like drowning …
…we would tell the truth about food. We would not market multicolored marshmallows to children as part of a complete breakfast. We would not willfully mislead about the perilous currents in the modern food supply. We would not look on passively as an entire population of non-swimmers started wading in over their heads.
I applaud his statements here, raging against a food industry that has for so long found ways to rid healthy food of its healthy components in the pursuit of profit. In the paragraph above, I was hoping that with that last sentence he was still referring to the food industry, not food policing. But, alas, I was wrong.
Dr. Katz encourages us to continue the fat shaming of others, as well as ourselves, because we should be “personally accountable” which he sums up to an “anti-obesity skill set,” you know, like swimming. Sadly, since obesity isn’t always due to our personal choices, personal empowerment isn’t some magic bullet that’s going to get us all to be thin either.
The good doctor leaves us with this little gem at the end of his diatribe:
Such is the genius, or at least pragmatic potential, of seeing things differently — and acting accordingly.
Yes, Dr. Katz. Here is something I can agree with, hands down. Yet, in spite of saying you are seeing things differently, all you have done is provide us with a continuation of the same old, same old we’re being continually fed.
I have a real view that is completely pragmatic, and includes seeing differently and acting accordingly: ruthless self-love. Encourage us to love ourselves, as we are, in spite of whatever, Dr. Katz. More shame is not the fix. Love is.