Who gets to talk?

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Back again today with the Center for Consumer Freedom: This post from yesterday, in their "Big Fat Lies" section, has several points worth commenting on, but I'm going to focus on one:

Who has the right to speak on questions of health? Is there a prerequisite, or can anyone chime in? The CFC's strong opinion is, people who are overweight should keep their mouths shut on questions of overweight. 

Their specific target is Ivan Royster, who runs the Facebook group “The ban of high fructose corn syrup in the U.S," which has 126,000 followers. His photo does indeed show an overweight guy. Royster was one subject of a story in the New York Times Sunday about the HFCS controversy.

I am on the fence about HFCS, since the science seems to be. It came into use in the '70s, when the obesity epidemic really took off. It sure seems more than coincidental, but it may be only that.

Dr. Richard Johnson, an acquaintance who is a researcher at the University of Colorado, Denver, says the issue is less about HFCS than it is about all fructose, which causes hypertension, vascular disease, and inflammation, he says. 

"Our research further shows that consuming too much fructose causes and worsens kidney disease. It also increases levels of compounds called advanced glycation end products, which may cause diabetic complications including eye and kidney disease," he writes in "The Sugar Fix," the book he co-authored with Timothy Gower.

That aside, the question is, do overweight people have anything to say of value, or does their body size disqualify them? The CFC doesn't come out and say it directly, but their attitude clearly is, "he's a big fat pig, so don't listen to anything he says."

Though perfectly in keeping with their schoolyard-bully banter, such an attitude is wrong, for reasons even beyond basic decency. So many times, CFC assertions have revealed a complete lack of sympathy and understanding for what obesity is like. Who is more capable of speaking knowledgeably on any topic, those who have experienced it or those who haven't? I don't say that experience is the only qualification, I just say it is one of them.

I can think of a reason that one wouldn't want to listen to a fat person about the pertinent issues, but it's not going to serve voices like the CFC's: I am certain that food addiction exists; I know this because I was obese, and didn't overcome my obesity until I got long-term treatment reserved for addicts. Active addicts, to put it scientifically, have a few screws loose. Their positions shouldn't be discredited entirely, but their credibility should be measured, at least.

If the CFC wants to say that we shouldn't listen to fat people on fat issues because they're not thinking straight, then they are tacitly acknowledging food addiction. We know they don't want to do that, for they have ridiculed the concept, which is another signifier of their ignorance.

A handful of my usual, though heartfelt, disclaimers: I am not saying that Royster, or any other overweight person, is an addict. I knew nothing of Royster before today, and I'm in no position to judge anyone anyway; my experience is that such judgements are best left to each individual. Also, I am not saying that all or even most fat people are food addicts. There are many reasons for overweight, and food addiction is one of them. And: whether a food addict or not, each individual is responsible for what he or she puts in his or her mouth.

What do you say, boys: Is the issue the issue, or is the messenger the issue? Perhaps they both are, but at the very least, let's not judge messengers on their waist size.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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