On nutrition

I’ve written a number of times about fatness and obesity. I don’t think it’s wrong to be either one of those, but I do think there is a moral argument that underpins the necessity to attempt to avoid being those things. You get one life. I think people should give it quality.

Of course, this doesn’t mean a person can’t enjoy something other than a diet half-salad once in awhile. That’s why the political (and often dishonest) arguments against drives like Michelle Obama’s pro-fitness efforts bother me so much. It’s also why I really like this post from Mike:

See what I’m getting at? Guess how much guilt I felt eating that [“prime”] burger the other week… that’s right, none. That’s because I don’t eat that way very often. My diet consists of whole grains, seeds and nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean meats. I watch my portions carefully. That means that now and again, I can splurge. And it just so happens that last week I was in Oklahoma City for a concert with some friends, and we grabbed some McDonald’s beforehand. I had a Big Mac, and it tasted awesome (not remotely as good as the prime burger, but still tasty). On the way back to Tulsa, I got hungry and had McDonald’s again… a grilled chicken sandwich. It also tasted good and I’ve lived through the experience.

This is what a lot of people don’t realize about nutrition. Eating right doesn’t mean avoiding every bad thing out there every second of every day. A person’s health doesn’t hinge on a single meal. A proper diet takes place over time; it’s an ongoing effort. Grabbing that doughnut once in awhile isn’t a sign of hypocrisy for someone who advocates eating well. (More importantly, we shouldn’t dismiss an argument simply due to hypocrisy. Think about it: If a serial killed said murder is wrong, would anyone reject the truth of his argument?) It’s perfectly possible to be healthy and enjoy life at the same time.

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The military war on obesity

Now here’s a war I can support:

The Pentagon spends more than $1 billion a year on medical care relating to weight and obesity. And America’s growing weight problem means finding new troops fit enough to fight has never been more challenging.

Army recruiter Sgt. Laura Peterson says America’s growing waistline is shrinking the pool of those qualified to serve.

“I’ve definitely seen the problem getting worse,” she said. “The population has gotten bigger. They don’t move as much.”

Among 17- to 24-year-olds, 27 percent are too overweight for military service. Over the past 50 years, the number of women considered ineligible due to weight has tripled, and the number of men has doubled, officials say.

Retired Rear Adm. James Barnett has said of obesity, “(It’s) not just a major health issue for our nation; it’s also become a national security issue.”

I was tickled pink when I first heard this story even though it was just a small piece I had caught in passing. Now that I’ve had the chance to read a full article, I’m even happier because of the big name they have involved:

And these days, it’s a battle the military is taking up. Teaming up with more than 300 of his colleagues, Barnett is fighting the war against obesity with a powerful ally: first lady Michelle Obama.

In February, Mrs. Obama announced sweeping changes to improve nutrition standards for 1.5 million troops and 1,100 military dining facilities across the country.

The Army now requires nutrition education as part of its basic training.

Barnett said, “When you talk about nutrition, you talk about healthy bodies, but you also talk about healthy minds. Nutrition affects strong bodies, strong minds. We need both.”

Military officials monitor soldiers to make sure they’re fit enough to fight on a consistent basis. Recruits who can’t keep the weight off may be kicked out of service.

As I’ve said in the past, I don’t inherently support the troops. I just can’t make myself become another mindless, ‘patriotic’ goof who falls for such obvious propaganda. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a certain respect for service members. I recognize that there are many parts of the military that are physically demanding – I respect that. (In fact, I’ve always been interested in the idea of doing basic training merely for the sake of doing it.) I like and value fitness, so when presented with something which has always been associated with high physical rigor, how can I not appreciate it? Well, as it turns out, it’s pretty easy to not appreciate a mass of people who have became masses in their own, individual rights. A billion dollars a year? Come on.

Now excuse me while I actually leave for the gym right now.

The attacks on Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama has done an excellent job in her role as the First Lady. Her efforts to curb obesity deserve nothing but praise. Being fat is terrible. The only thing worse is being proud of it – I’m looking at you, America.

Unfortunately, in its faux-libertarian, blatantly dishonest attacks, the right has been going after Obama. We have morons like Michele Bachmann who whine about efforts to make poor women aware of tax deductions they can claim in caring for their infants. Then we have the other side of the moron coin, Sarah Palin, claiming that it’s okay to eat, eat, eat all sorts of shit food – despite the heavy evidence that Americans are dying because of the crap they eat. (Do dead people have liberty?) And, of course, there’s Limbaugh. He attacked Obama for eating healthy by lying and claiming she was eating shitty food.

This almost all stems from Obama’s effort to push through a bill last year that decreased the number of hungry students while at the same time funding healthier food for public schools. Conservatives, more willing than ever to lie, keep saying over and over and over “I don’t want to be told what I can and cannot eat!” (Or maybe they’re just that fucking stupid. I don’t know.) The bill changed some government standards for food in public schools. If these people weren’t against the government giving kids shit food, then they shouldn’t be against the government giving them good food. The difference is in quality, not mandates or forced diets or any other nonsense.

What brings this on is the polemics of the argument. Limbaugh showed them perfectly: Michelle Obama had shitty food? SHE HATES YOUR FREEDOM AND IS JUST AN ELITIST!!1!! It’s annoying. We can’t have an honest discussion about this stuff. People who actually give a damn about health are over here saying, hey look, nutrition starts at birth. We need to make sure every child is as healthy as can be. And we also need to make sure we continue those good habits. That doesn’t mean being perfect or not having that big meal at Thanksgiving. It means keeping the salt down, cutting out the trans-fats, boosting the minerals and vitamins; it means exercising – go for a run or a walk, lift weights, play tennis. Every day? If you can, sure. But anyone who isn’t a polemic asshole knows that one doesn’t need to train like a star athlete to be healthy.

Take a look at this typical conservative response I got (via Facebook) about Limbaugh’s failed attack on Obama:

1) You’re right. Ribs are healthy.

2) “Individual splurges”? WAIT a minute! You just said it was healthy? Let’s take a poll: Ribs for dinner – healthy or unhealthy?

It’s this sort of polarization of which I am becoming increasingly intolerant. Anyone who bothered to follow the links from the Limbaugh story knows that Obama had a small serving of lean ribs with a series of healthy sides that most Americans would never touch; she went to that restaurant specifically because it was healthy. What’s more – and I’m sure I’ve lost the polemic audience at this point, what with my use of facts and junk – she was skiing. I personally make it a point to eat some fast food before I take the mountain. I want to give myself the most energy I can for the day because I know how quickly I’m going to burn it off – just because a food is generally not healthy does not mean it is always not healthy. Not that Obama ate unhealthy or had a fatty meal because she went skiing. She actually had a healthy meal. Limbaugh and every supporting conservative either just lied or was willfully ignorant.

That brings me to my next point: fast food. Yes, once in an absolute great while, I will indulge without the reason of some major activity. As shitty as the food is, I’ve never had a problem with admitting how great it tastes. I have it maybe once or twice a month. I’m sure I’ve also gone three or four months without it. And even if I wanted it twice a week, I could get away with it because of my metabolism and healthy activity. Does that make me a hypocrite? Does it make my pro-health arguments invalid? Does it mean Obama would disapprove? Nope, nope, nope. But despite that, I hear one conservative I know give me a shit every time he sees me with a fast food burger. I hate it. Not because it exposes some double-standard – I don’t have that in regards to health. I hate it because it’s an example of the sort of polemics that are more comfortable on conservative radio than in rational discussion. I wish we could banish these arguments wherever they rear their ugly little heads.

But don’t think my motivation here is personal. I’m seeing these pro-fat arguments being made all the time, not just by friends or on Facebook. Polemics are the annoying surface of the issue, but the real problem is that all these conservatives are promoting fatness. It is wrong to not try and be healthy. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to be fat – though fat people tend to be the chubby face of the problem. It means people ought to make an honest effort to be healthy. That will vary from person to person. (It’s especially frustrating when the lying conservatives pretend like that isn’t true.) America faces a terrible problem right now: we’re getting fat and not enough people are angry about it.

Forcing one side to argue an extreme hurts a very noble cause. And despite the lying and unwillingness to engage in an honest dialogue, I think most conservatives also recognize that obesity is a serious problem. We need to tackle it. If we can get our arms around it. We need to take the politics out of all this, get rid of the asshole-ridden polemics. Michelle Obama is making a very good effort and everyone should be thanking her. We need to follow her lead. Fill our schools with healthy foods. Discourage kids from getting fast food. Make restaurants disclose what they’re feeding us. Encourage more activity. These are good things. Let’s not fight against them because of some unrelated ideology.

The ease of tearing apart Rush

Rush Limbaugh recently had this to say:

The problem is, and dare I say this, it doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice,” Limbaugh said on his radio program. “And then we hear that she’s out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving.” “She is a hypocrite,” Limbaugh continued. “Leaders are supposed to be leaders. If we are supposed to go out and eat nothing, if we are supposed to eat roots, berries, and tree bark, show us how.”

Isn’t Limbaugh and co. the ones always complaining that they don’t need government telling them how to eat, that they can make the decisions for themselves? Strange then that he would whine that Mrs. Obama isn’t giving him adequate instruction.

But, hey, despite the massive irony, I agree with Limbaugh. Being a fat ass is a problem in America and if our leaders want to remedy the situation, they’ll be significantly more effective if they adopt healthy behaviors. But as anyone who isn’t a freakin’ moron knows, that doesn’t mean eating healthy 100% of the time. In fact – and brace yourselves for this one – different people have different bodies. I can get away with eating McDonald’s several times a week if I want. I don’t, but I could. And actually, I did throughout much of high school. That’s because I have a high metabolism. The reasonable effort it takes for me to be healthy is going to be different than the reasonable effort it takes for a lot of other people. That doesn’t mean I can always eat a bunch of crap food. But it does mean that if I decide to have a big meal at a restaurant once in awhile, I won’t be adversely impacting my health in any significant way.

Furthermore, I’ve lifted weights at various times throughout my life. I started toward the end of junior high and went into high school with it (pre-McDonald’s days, what with being 14 and having no money). When I started out, my gains were slower than they should have been. The reason? I wasn’t taking in enough fat and protein, among other things. When I returned to valuing my health, I became aware of the sort of foods I ought to be eating if I want to make certain types of gains. That involved eating a lot of stuff that would have made a lot of people fat. But my result? Faster and more significant lifting gains.

In short, different people have different requirements in order to become healthy, and effective leaders (on healthy living) need to do what is right for their own bodies in order to become healthy. Michelle Obama can get away with a bad meal here or there. A Mike Huckabee, who is a great example of someone who did a lot for his own health, has less leeway. George W. Bush, another healthy guy, has different requirements. So I agree with Limbaugh’s point, but I, of course, must dismiss his piss-poor ideological reasoning for making it.

Oh, and as regular FTSOS readers will know, I always enjoy granting as many points as possible to conservatives before still taking down their arguments. That’s what I did here, because as it turns out, Mrs. Obama’s meal actually looked more like this:

The Vail Daily earlier reported the first lady and friends went to Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail Village for dinner. The FLOTUS reportedly ate “a pickled pumpkin salad with arugula and a braised ancho-chile short rib with hominy wild mushrooms and sauteed kale.”

She’s sure to be waddling around the White House any day now.

Why does Bachmann love to say stupid things?

This woman says the dumbest shit.

Speaking to conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham Tuesday, the Minnesota Republican said [Michelle] Obama’s efforts to promote breast-feeding and the IRS’s announcement that nursing supplies that aide in the practice can be deducted from tax returns amounts to a “new definition [of] the nanny state.”

“This is very consistent with where the hard left is coming from,” Bachmann told Ingraham. “For them, government is the answer to every problem.”

I’m not convinced Bachmann even knows what “nanny state” means. All Michelle Obama did was promote a healthy practice – one with which the nitwit congresswoman agrees. All the government is doing is giving incentives for people to make an economically (and physically) healthy choice. It’s no different from when it gives incentives for people to become new homeowners or to invest in a hybrid vehicles.

But maybe I’m being too critical. After all, perhaps I’m ignorant and Bachmann’s politics run deeper; perhaps she is just in step with the greater politics of our founding fathers. Like John Quincy Adams. But she’s the history buff. I’ll wait until she clarifies why she comes across as such a moron.

Fighting obesity

Laziness and greed are cloaked in “liberty” and “freedom” by fundamentally stupid and effectively bad people like Sarah Palin and many of her fellow Republicans, but sometimes pragmatic, common-sense ideas are still able to break through the bullshit.

US lawmakers on Thursday passed a 4.5-billion-dollar bill that will give more US kids school meals and let the government set child nutrition guidelines.

The bill pledges 4.5 billion dollars over 10 years to child nutrition programs, increases the reimbursement paid to schools by the federal government for free meals provided to children, and expands access to school lunches and after-school meals.

It also allows the US Department of Agriculture to set nutrition guidelines for foods sold in schools, including in coin-operated vending machines, and provides money for school gardens and farm-to-school programs.

The most common legitimate objection to this bill is that it might not help in the fight to keep kids from getting fat and disgusting. But a quick look at the facts ought to remove such an objection: Most kids are going to eat between 160-180 lunches a year at school. They’re going to eat a total of about 1100 meals a year. That’s (conservatively) about 15% of a kid’s meals every year. I would say that making those 160-180 meals healthy is a good and it will make a notable difference. And if that wasn’t enough goodness, this bill also provides for kids who otherwise go without or, at best, with something even less healthy than the shitty Lunchables every other kid gets for lunch.

Or we could just be polemic assholes and feed them plates of cookies, a la Palin.

Republicans and being just a little fat

In my daily news trawl, I came across two articles listed right next to each other. Here’s the first:

House Republicans have temporarily blocked legislation to feed school meals to thousands more hungry children.

Republicans used a procedural maneuver Wednesday to try to amend the $4.5 billion bill, which would give more needy children the opportunity to eat free lunches at school and make those lunches healthier. First lady Michelle Obama has lobbied for the bill as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has also taken a swipe at the first lady’s campaign, bringing cookies to a speech at a Pennsylvania school last month and calling the campaign a “school cookie ban debate” and “nanny state run amok” on her Twitter feed.

It has been abundantly clear for a long, long time that Sarah Palin is intellectually inferior to most people. I really don’t see how this can even be debated. But it hasn’t always been clear that she’s also just a bad person. Now it is.

Now, if she was scientifically literate, maybe this second article would have an impact on her thinking:

The latest research involving about 1.5 million people concluded that healthy white adults who were overweight were 13 percent more likely to die during the time they were followed in the study than those whose weight is in an ideal range.

“Having a little extra meat on your bones — if that meat happens to be fat — is harmful, not beneficial,” said Dr. Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society, senior author of the study.

The study’s conclusions, published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, are similar to three other large studies, said the lead author, Amy Berrington of the National Cancer Institute.

“Now there’s really a very large body of evidence which supports the finding that being overweight is associated with a small increased risk of death,” Berrington said.

This is what I’m talking about when I say human beings are more important than the abstract ethical principle of liberty. Letting kids get fat is going to have real world consequences that no one wants. Human lives matter.

But kids do like cookies.