And yet, I remain committed to what *I* can change

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This is a reply to Dr. Jon Robison, with whom I occasionally spar gently on the LinkedIn platform. I began it as a comment on the platform, but it said I’d exceeded the allowable character count.

The conversation began over a post I shared about a sugary-soda tax being implemented in Catalonia, Spain. His most recent comment was …

I am so glad you can see that Michael - It is a huge problem in the health promotion industry and has been for decades. All of the focus on personal responsibility for health ignores the reality that our individual health behaviors account for only about 25% of the disparities in health across our nation -and of course eating (food) is only one of those behaviors. No on will ever get away with taxing Starbucks and other expensive sugar and caffeine laden drinks because rich people will never permit it. And ongoing pressuring to get people to eat mostly fruits and vegetables, organic, lean meats etc. will continue to fail as well until there is social justice and equity in this country. Until that time - all of this just ends up heaped on the backs of people with little ability to follow through - creating more stress and less health. Health and weight issues are much, much more complex than we make them out to be and it is easy to do more harm than good if we are not very careful. For example 1/3 to 2/3 of people who participate in weight loss programs gain back more weight than they lose. How is it possibly ethical to subject people to these without advising them of the likely outcomes and potential iatrogenesis? - Dr. Jon

This begins my reply:

Jon, I am familiar with your slant, as I'm sure you are with mine. I don't say you're wrong about anything you say. I just have a different perspective.

Absolutely, financial ability dominates the options people have, for food as in for all things. Instead of considering all those who can't eat more nutritiously under current conditions, I consider all those who can, and who might do so more often if encouraged to. Not only would that help them, but the increase in demand for healthy foods would bring their prices down, a boon for everyone.

You excoriate dieting not only as a non-working institution, but as something worse. I agree with that, wholeheartedly. I also agree that prospective dieters should know the success rate of what they're attempting. You refer to "weight loss programs," but I do not. I never benefitted from one, and I endorse none.

And yet, I'm maintaining a 155-pound loss for more than a quarter century. I did it without dieting, although what went on my plate has changed substantially. It's not just word gymnastics; there is a clear difference between "going on a diet" and "changing what I ate," and I can explore that more deeply if that would be useful.

My view is that I'm not that special, and if I could do this, after decades of inability to do it, then others can too. The loss I've sustained began in an even more draconian food environment, when organic was far less available, when "builds strong bodies 12 ways" was credible, when the processed-food backlash had nowhere near begun.

Instead of bemoaning all that is wrong — and yes, a lot is — please consider that humans have always been subject to hostile environments, and that with sufficient understanding of the challenge and a commitment to overcome it, we have thrived.

We should especially be able to do so under this challenge, since the hostile environment is of our own making.


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