Rethinking Healthcare

Is morbid obesity the new normal?

Is morbid obesity the new normal?

Posting in Food

Obesity is to the rising generation what smoking was to the Greatest Generation.

Obesity is to the rising generation what smoking was to the Greatest Generation.

This occurred to me while on a very scary Halloween-eve visit to my local YMCA. I thought I'd seen our widest members, but the parents of these kids put them all to shame. Some were having trouble getting through doors.

And why not? Rather than acknowledge evil, the Civil War or Jesus Christ we have made our holidays into festivals of gluttony.

Halloween candy is followed by Thanksgiving turkey and then the Christmas pig-out. Valentine's Day is about chocolate, not love. Easter is about chocolate bunnies, not the mysteries of God. Even our summer holidays are just a succession of barbecues.

My news peg here is the media storm that followed Maura Kelly's post at Marie Claire attacking Mike & Molly (above), a comedy love story in which the two principals are super-sized. (Mondays at 9:30 on CBS, America's most-watched network and the one that pays the bills here.)

The reaction was so bad the magazine apologized and some analysts wondered whether the publication would survive, let alone the writer's career. I didn't catch a fraction of that for health reform, Steve Jobs and e-cigs put together.

Fact is most of our media does not push back in the super-sizing of America. That would be scolding. Instead we celebrate it. Food Network head Brooke Johnson positively wallows in it, greenlighting shows like Outrageous Foods or (on her new Travel Channel acquisition) Man vs. Food.

Don't think of this as an attack on Ms. Johnson. She is giving the people what they want. Such shows work. They draw viewers who buy what her advertisers are selling. Quality is out, quantity is in.

When in Europe last month I noticed a big difference between how Americans and Europeans smoke. Americans do it fitfully, furtively, even a little guiltily. Europeans do it actively, some constantly, always publicly.

The difference, I feel, came after the November, 1998 Master Tobacco Settlement. Even if most of the money from that settlement was wasted, it seemed to change attitudes. We stopped pretending there was anything good in tobacco. Most of those who continued to smoke saw themselves as addicts.

Nothing like that is going to happen regarding food. But the answer lies on the same side of the market equation. And I'm convinced government can have a role, because it was government policy that created the overwhelming cornucopia that's turning us all into Mr. Creosote.

Having seen what government can do to create problems, I continue to believe it can also solve them. But it will require the cooperation of the private sector and an increasingly overweight public.

How do we get that? Maybe by seeing Mike & Molly for what they are, two good people with a common problem, who deserve love but who also deserve hope for change.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure