My freshman composition class just wrapped up a unit of readings about food. We read a wide variety of articles and essays: classic Michael Pollan fare ("Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much."), arguments for vegetarianism as the most environmentally friendly way to eat, advocates of conventional industrial agriculture, articles about America's obesity crisis, and arguments for genetically modified plants as the future of sustainable agriculture. We also watched Food, Inc. and had a local organic farmer visit our class as a guest speaker.
Our readings on food discussed several perspectives on obesity. Some encouraged better individual eating choices as the solution to unhealthy bodies. Others pointed fingers at US food policy that subsidizes overproduction of corn and thus floods the market with cheap corn-derived foods. Some noted that while cheap, unhealthy food isn't good for our bodies, it is deeply enmeshed in the American economy and thus will be hard to change.
Last class, I did an activity about reducing excess wordiness, which I called "The Biggest Loser." I had never seen the TV show before, so I did some "research" and watched a few episodes. I found myself simultaneously fascinated and cynical. It was incredible to see the physical transformations the contestants undergo. Despite the annoying reality TV genre, I still felt motivated when I heard the contestants' success stories. You can do it! Rah rah rah! At the same time, I felt cynical because only a tiny minority of people struggling with excess weight have access to a team of personal trainers, dietitians, and physicians--not to mention an all-expenses-paid stay at a weight-loss camp. "The Biggest Loser" both inspired me and deepened my skepticism.
Obesity has its own controversies in the world of maternity care. On one hand, maternal obesity is associated with many pregnancy & birth complications. But we don't know how much of this is simply self-fulfilling prophecy and/or care provider bias and how much is due to inherent risk of obesity itself. Should we strive towards fat acceptance and the concept of being healthy at any size? Is there some kind of reasonable BMI benchmark we should encourage women of childbearing age to reach? Will focusing on individual choices make more of a difference than trying to change systemic failures? Or will it just make overweight women feel more guilty?
Links to articles you'd like to share?