As impeachment circus plays on, Congress runs from US obesity crisis

As impeachment circus plays on, Congress runs from US obesity crisis
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As Congress wastes the precious time and resources of the American people on an impeachment circus, many of these same Americans are suffering — and some will die — because politicians, the media and even doctors don’t want to be accused of “fat shaming.” 

The opioid crisis? Sure, they’ll pontificate on that non-stop. But the obesity crisis? Few want to go there.

But somebody needs to scream about it. 

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The Journal of the American Medical Association just reported that, yet again, the average lifespan for Americans has declined.

Two doctors with whom I recently met said the obesity crisis in our nation is the leading cause of that now yearly decline, but it gets swept under the rug by those choosing to put political correctness before the actual health of the American people.

Rather than be accused of fat shaming, those who could positively affect the obesity crisis — members of Congress, for example — look the other way out of self-preservation.

A reminder about why this is: the recent feud between HBO talk show host Bill MaherWilliam (Bill) MaherBill Maher to Joy Reid: 'Very nervous' about Biden's chances after GOP convention Bill Maher revives QAnon gag: 'I am Q' Oliver Stone, Bill Maher tangle on reliability of US intelligence on Russia: 'You think they're lying?' MORE and CBS talk show host James Corden over obesity and fat-shaming. Maher used his platform to rail against the epidemic of obesity in the U.S. in the most politically-incorrect way, saying in part: “Being fat isn’t a birth defect. Nobody comes out of the womb needing to buy two seats on the airplane. We have gone to this weird place where fat is good. … Fat shaming doesn’t need to end. It needs to make a comeback.” 

Corden then used his platform to fire back at Maher, at what he perceived to be hurtful words, saying he knows what it’s like to be overweight: “There’s a common and insulting misconception that fat people are stupid and lazy, and we’re not. We know that being overweight isn’t good for us.” Corden called fat shaming “bullying,” and then addressed Maher through the camera: “While you’re encouraging people to think about what goes into their mouths, just think a little harder about what comes out of yours.”

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With regard to their very public disagreement, I strongly agree with the partial arguments of both men.

Maher was right to raise the subject of obesity and point out that it is a national health crisis. But he was wrong to say, “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end. It needs to make a comeback.” No one should ever have to feel ashamed about their weight, and Corden was correct when he said fat shaming is “just bullying.”

Both talk show hosts make valid points. Maybe both should join forces to fight against the  increasingly deadly epidemic of obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 71 percent of adults are overweight or obese. Eighty percent of adults don’t meet physical activity guidelines.  Those are not statistics; they’re death sentences-in-waiting.

To that point, the CDC notes that those who are obese have a much higher risk of heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and other chronic conditions that cut life short.

This alarming trend has spread into our military ranks. A 2018 Rand report stated that approximately 66 percent of service members are overweight or obese. This report comes after a 2015 study that found one out of three young adults is too overweight to even enlist in the military.

And yet, out of an abundance of caution, many in the media still attribute the shocking decline in our life expectancy to the opioid crisis, suicide, the flu, and other conditions. Or, they might use politically correct explanations such as “more exercise is needed,” or “heart disease can be lowered with the proper lifestyle,” or “diabetes is on the rise,” or “joint and back issues are plaguing more and more Americans.”

But such rhetoric doesn’t acknowledge obesity as a main cause of all those medical issues and a great many others. Even a casual review of some media stories on the decrease in life expectancy in the United States reveals that the word “obesity” does not appear.

The two doctors I consulted told me that it has gotten to the absurd point that even some doctors speaking with their patients in private often are afraid to directly raise the issue of obesity, so they talk around it to avoid offending patients and possibly being sued. 

The plain and simple truth, as Bill Maher so bluntly pointed out, is that most Americans who are overweight are directly responsible for that weight gain. Are there conditions that contribute to obesity? Absolutely, and they should be factored into the discussion. But, for the sake of us all, we must have that discussion. Our political and health care leaders must rise to their responsibilities and lead it.

Fat shaming is indeed wrong, but allowing thousands of Americans to die from obesity-related causes just because some find the subject offensive and politically incorrect is not only insane, it’s leadership and medical malpractice.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.