“All the News That’s Fit to Print” has been the slogan of the New York Times since it’s founding in 1851. Kicking off a brand new year, the Times has issued three excellent articles on the tragically unfit state of America.
First, the cover story in the Magazine, “The Fat Trap” by Wellness blogger, Tara Parker-Pope, who has struggled with weight issues herself. But the admission of defeat is easy: recent research points to a fat gene that explains why she and 140 MILLION other Americans are unable to lose weight permanently. It’s easy to forget that just 50 years ago, obesity wasn’t even on the radar. And yet the american diet was far from “healthy” (anyone who remember their grandmother’s meatloaf and casserole can attest!). What was the secret? Back then, people were slimmer because they ate less food, less often. Of course, 50 years of dieting since then has consequences that no one wanted to examine – until now.
We’re hesitant to chalk obesity up entirely to genetics, so we were enlightened by Natasha Singer’s article, ”Those Recycled Resolutions Are a Boon forBusiness” in the Times Business section. Singer explains that the body biz prospers from our own body failures. It’s simple – follow the money. Our buy-eat economy needs consumers who consume. And consume some more. Health clubs, diet companies, water purveyors, diet food suppliers and everyone else selling advice on how to lose weight only benefit when dieters fail. After all, Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers reportedly have an 87% repeat rate. That’s success for their bottom line.
A great article by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the Sunday Review, “A World in Denial of What It Knows”, ties it all together. Wheatcroft explains that even a child would understand that subprime mortgages could never make economic sense. Why lend money to people who can’t pay it back? Of course, we try to hide behind the complexity of the system itself. It’s easy to be in denial about the economy – who but a few mathematical geniuses can understand derivatives and other financial instruments? And it’s tough to tell at first glance if someone’s mortgage payment is late or their credit card is maxed out. But everyone can see, without special insight or genius, that the six billion extra pounds carried by overweight Americans is the product of over consumption. Our $14 trillion economy is fueled by people buying and eating stuff they don’t need with money they don’t have. American overconsumption is a recipe for continual disaster—and there’s nothing low-fat about it!