So now obesity is a disease, huh? As I first wrote last July (“Obesity isn’t a disease, but it still sucks”), I can’t say I agree.
Yes, my declaration carries substantially less weight than the American Medical Association’s, because, you know, they’re the big market movers in the disease business. But that’s how it strikes me.
Welcome to another installment of “10 Words or Less,” in which I ask interesting people for brief answers to brief questions. Today’s participant is one of the world’s most accomplished researchers in food and addiction. Remember, please: No counting! “10 words” is about attitude, not addition, and besides, let’s see you do it.
Name Nicole Avena, Ph.D.
Family status Lives in New Jersey, married, one child
Occupation Assistant Professor at University of Florida, Department of Psychiatry, and Visiting Research Associate at Princeton University, studying neuroscience, appetite, and addiction
Born when, where Point Pleasant, N.J., Oct 5, 1978
A formative event from your childhood “I was in a spelling competition in elementary school and that engendered a fondness for academic reward.”
Where’d you place? “I came in 2d.”
First paying job“Lifeguard at a yacht club.”
Something you took from that job “Aside from a nice tan each summer, I had the chance to teach several children to swim, and that taught me patience and how to negotiate.”
Someone outside your family who influenced you particularly “Bart Hoebel, who was a professor at Princeton and one of my mentors.”
If there ever was a sober voice in this world’s considerable madness around weight loss, it’s the National Weight Control Registry. Based in Rhode Island, it tracks more than 10,000 people who’ve been keeping an average of 70 pounds off for more than 6 years, and its purpose is to learn what helps these people keep it off.
I'm not exactly sure why, but I feel it's part of my portfolio at least to acknowledge yesterday's story that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had "secret" lap-band surgery. This is what I got:
If you've visited here before, you may have read this recent post in which I reacted to a Ragen Chastain post the deployed some of the same illogic that Big Food uses to undercut its foes.
When I saw the tweet a few mornings ago that Taco Bell would offer healthier fare, I RT’ed in a knee-jerk way, celebrating it and even claiming it as progress against the flood of food-like substances.
In a window-dressing sort of way, it was progress. Taco Bell puts sugar in its meat and is the contemptible promoter of “fourth meal,” so even if they're only flapping their gums about healthy food, it acknowledges that not everyone wants to eat total crap.
I used to skewer the brazen flaks at the "Center for Consumer Freedom" a lot more than I do now — or perhaps I just think that's true because of all the times I feel moved to expose their flabby logic, and then allow my cooler self to prevail. How many times can I link to an organ I want to disappear before I realize I'm making them more visible?
Friday, I argued against soda-tax proposals because I don’t see how proponents could win a high-enough tax to affect consumer behavior, which should be their only justification. And while weaker versions that were doomed to failure were being tried, industry would use them as justification to not try other measures.
Sorry, but I just don’t believe in them. Not penny-per-ounce soda taxes, not front-of-nutrition labeling, not vague industry pledges to make their food healthier ... at some specified time far enough into the future that everyone will have forgotten.