Obesity

May 31st, 2009 at 9:49 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday quotes Professor John Birkbeck, an expert in human nutrition who has caused outrage:

The 76-year-old, who moved into semi-retirement this week after 50 years in his field, rejected the notion that some people will get fat regardless of their efforts to keep weight down.

While acknowledging that some may have a genetic propensity to , he said: “You can’t get over-fat without eating more calories than you expend.

He is right, even though some of his examples are over the top:

Birkbeck caused further outrage by saying methods used to reduce obesity rates had failed.

“In a dictatorship, you say ‘everybody that comes back in a year’s time with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30 will be shot’ – and you’ll find hardly anyone has a BMI over 30.

“But you can’t do that in society, so what we have to do is find a way to cajole and coerce. And I don’t think they’ve done enough of that.”

But what interested me so much, wasn’t Birkbeck’s views, but that of the taxpayer funded Obesity Action Coalition:

Obesity Action Coalition director Leigh Sturgiss said the condition should be blamed on environment rather than the individual.

“While there is some aspect of people making choices for themselves, we do live in an environment that doesn’t promote healthy eating,” she said.

Thank God we have stopped taxpayer funding to this group. As someone overweight myself, I find it outrageous to have Leigh Sturgess saying it is society’s fault – rather than my own. Bullshit – it is nothing to do with society or the environment – and everything to do with personal choices.

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41 Responses to “Obesity”

  1. Ryan Sproull (7,027 comments) says:

    Obesity Action Coalition director Leigh Sturgiss said the condition should be blamed on environment rather than the individual.

    Human behaviour is the only thing in the world where we draw this kind of distinction and think we’re going to get anywhere.

    No one argues about whether rain should be blamed on a cloud or its environment; no one argues about whether fruit should be blamed on a tree or its environment; no one argues about whether a light turning on should be blamed on the light or its environment.

    Environments and individuals are flip sides of the same coin. Environments give rise to an individual’s choices. Individuals constitute social environments.

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  2. Christopher (425 comments) says:

    By belly is definitely my fault – and my business.

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  3. Patrick Starr (3,675 comments) says:

    Listen – If McDonalds hadn’t opened their oulet on Queen Street during the Hikoi then Parekura Horomia would probably be an ironman competitor by now

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  4. Viking2 (11,125 comments) says:

    Way toooo much wine and not enough beer and work.

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  5. brucehoult (188 comments) says:

    Of course it is true that if your weight is increasing then you’re eating more calories than you’re using. But he fails to consider people whose weight is remaining stable at some level that happens to be one he doesn’t like.

    I’ve been around the same weight for many years – around 118 of at the end of summer and 123 of at the end of winter. It takes zero effort to maintain this. Once I get to 123 I’ve never seen it increase further no matter how much mac&cheese I dig into. There is most definitely some kind of natural feedback loop happening to maintain this weight, which I’ve had for twenty years.

    I *can* get lighter, and have at times, but it requires huge effort, and any slight lapse sees me back at this weight within months. And yet I have never gotten bigger. There must be a reason for this. And I don’t mean threats of being shot.

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  6. infused (636 comments) says:

    Thanks David. My views exactly. It is purely ones fault. You choose to eat mcd’s, you choose to eat bk, you choose to sit on your ass watching TV.

    All is good in moderation. If these fatties did some exercise having shitty food every now and then is ok. I really hate these people that say its their body type or whatever.

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  7. Lindsay (141 comments) says:

    I blogged about Sturgiss in May when this was reported;

    “She questioned where responsibility for nutrition, physical activity and obesity fell if not with DHBs. “It’s too big for the individual person to cope with. You need a supportive environment.” ”

    My reaction matches yours DPF. What utter bullshit.

    Trouble is would appear that most NZers want a public health system. BUT then they don’t want to pay for the health costs of people eating themselves into ill-health and want to spend zillions trying to stop them. (All of this would disappear if people were individually responsible for their own health needs.) But the good news for the socialists is, if people want to eat themselves to a premature death, what they forgo in Super compensates for the extra health costs they incur on the way. Get off their backs or change the system.

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  8. He-Man (270 comments) says:

    I’m not sure it can come down to the choice of the individual when the conditioning on children begins at school where National allows junk food back into schools.

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  9. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    “Thank God we have stopped taxpayer funding to this group.”

    Why the fuck did we ever start it??? Jezuz there needs to be some fucken accountability some day. Hard working NZers struggle to make ends meet while politicians hand out the money they steal from them to useless outfits like this .

    Where is the FUCKEN OUTRAGE ?????????????

    I tell you, the average NZer makes a sheep look like an avenging flesh tearing cyclone of violence.

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  10. backster (2,076 comments) says:

    HeMan……….I agree with you parents should be able to send their children to a school of their choice, the type of food available for purchase being one of the criteria in making that choice.

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  11. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Would have to disagree with the professor, I have a mate with the build of a sumo wrestler but he works like a dog. He’s been big all his life and it doesn’t matter what he does he can’t lose it. The quack says he is fit as an ox, he can drink piss like one to. We are all different, the world would be a bloody boring place if we were all the same.

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  12. infused (636 comments) says:

    Thats not what he’s saying side show bob. He does admit that there are some people that are not the norm. But for most fat asses out there, it’s not.

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  13. Patrick Starr (3,675 comments) says:

    he-man. The parents have the choice of giving the kids money to buy that junk food , and also giving the kids a lunch to take to school with them

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  14. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    Funny this gene thing doesn’t seem to occur other than in comfortable western style environments where losers get money from the government. I didn’t see any generically fat arses in the tribes of the Sahara, the subsistence farms of Indonesia, or the Bedouin of the Middle Eastern deserts.

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  15. dime (9,392 comments) says:

    heh he used the same example ive been giving for years “didnt see many fattys in the nazi concentration camps”

    this whole body type scam is just more left wing PC bullshit.

    hit the gym, eat clean.. you wont be fat. its a fact.

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  16. Brian Smaller (3,984 comments) says:

    Too true David – And the strogonoff I am making for lunch with loads of butter is not helping the nation’s BMI index either. I guess we could have had a mung bean casserole but shit, if it was good enough for 19th C Russian peasants it is good enough for me

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  17. MT_Tinman (2,985 comments) says:

    As a fat bastard I can assure anyone interested that my figure is entirely attributable to the input hole being larger than the exit one.

    I can also assure people that as I worked for many years at a very physical job and played active competitive sport at the same time while being fat that fatness and fitness are not mutually exclusive.

    Growing old and fat is one of life’s pleasures.

    Let the skinny pricks enjoy two more years of staring mindlessly at a resthome wall between weekly visits to the mall, I’ll take fat and happy any day.

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  18. Ross Nixon (607 comments) says:

    A high BMI is only suggestive of a problem. Apparently some All Blacks (or league players) are grossly obese if you look just at their BMI. If you stay super fit, then there is no real problem. Being skinny and very unfit is more dangerous.

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  19. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    What is it about fat stories and this blog! It almost seems to be an obsession. You can just about feel the blubber shifting whenever the word ‘obesity’ is mentioned.

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  20. Simon J Taylor (31 comments) says:

    Yes, I’m with many on this group: I am quite fit and seem to maintain a weight of around 93-97 kgs, quite above the BMI, difficult to lose and difficult to put on. It is a mark of an advanced society to have enjoyable processed or semi-processed food available everywhere. I daresay that if a disaster forced us onto only bean-sprouts and rice we would lose weight alright, but best enjoy what you have. It’s just a question of common sense and self-control.

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  21. Jcw (97 comments) says:

    to Ross: yes but what proportion of the population are super fit bulky sports players? High BMI is a definite risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and other more.

    IMO personal responsibility does reign supreme, and I really hope that the overweight/obese amongst us are aware of the risk they are taking so they can make informed decisions. I do dislike paying for health care of those who chose not to act on their weight issues, and if it were cost effective to try and promote aspects of diet/exercise I wouldn’t necessarily be ideologically opposed.

    It is always calorie intake/expenditure that determines weight, although of course expenditure varies from person to person and not just with exercise; hereditary factors, early nutrition and the in uterine environment all contribute to your personal metabolic rate – so there are some influeces out of the individuals control.

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  22. Comrade MOT (59 comments) says:

    To attempt to separate environement is personal choices is silly. I agree that it is about personal responsibility. If someone lives with flatmates that eat salads and play lots of social sport to which they are invited, someone is likely to be a lot healthier that if the same person lives at a flat with sedentry flat mates and has lots of takaways, lots of drinking. Obviously in both situations the indevidual has personal choice, and may well choose to go against the trend, but to suggest that environment has no influence is wrong. The environment however doesnt take away personal responsability, particularly since the indevidual in my example can choose where he lives.

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  23. Kingi (142 comments) says:

    As said previously, the director didn’t say it was SOLELY societies fault that people get obese, but simply that we live in a world where it lends itself to becoming overweight! Advertising, price of healthy food vs. unhealthy food, ease of access and more factors, are all part of the problem!

    The fact that the National led government have scrapped healthy eating in schools and the obesity coalition just show they don’t give a crap about trying to fix these issues and are letting their ideology of “individual choice” override common logic. Ridiculous.

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  24. James (1,338 comments) says:

    “The fact that the National led government have scrapped healthy eating in schools and the obesity coalition just show they don’t give a crap about trying to fix these issues and are letting their ideology of “individual choice” override common logic. Ridiculous.”

    What do you prefer….fascism? Oh wait…..

    Politicians have no business telling anyone what they may eat.

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  25. Kingi (142 comments) says:

    James if the government doesn’t promote healthy eating, we will see the impacts in our public health system. Everything within health is interrelated, to look at one issue in isolation is a foolish notion.

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  26. Brian Smaller (3,984 comments) says:

    Kingi. Guess you don’t eat many boil-ups, dough boys, fried chicken meals, fish n chips, burgers, steaks with garlic butter sauce, cheesy pizzas or rewana bread dripping in golden syrup.

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  27. Kingi (142 comments) says:

    Brian your use of stereotypes to make sarcastic and ill informed posts is disgusting and only degrading of yourself.

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  28. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    ” letting their ideology of “individual choice” override common logic.”

    You mean override your ideology of communism.

    BTW, don’t bother chiding me for ill manners or whatever, (as you seem to be so eager to do). I don’t give a flying fuck what commies think of me, and the more offended they are the more I like it.

    In fact my tagline used to be-

    Redbaiter
    In the leftist’s lexicon, the lowest of the low.

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  29. Kingi (142 comments) says:

    Who was ever posting to you redbait? The world unfortunately for you, doesn’t revolve around you and your hateful views.

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  30. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    James is quite right. If the health system was user pays, then, as Howard Morrison once said, we wouldn’t have so many fat horis clogging up the damn health system at everybody else’s expense.

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  31. billyborker (1,102 comments) says:

    Red, I thought your tagline was “ankles”.

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  32. James (1,338 comments) says:

    “James if the government doesn’t promote healthy eating, we will see the impacts in our public health system. Everything within health is interrelated, to look at one issue in isolation is a foolish notion.”

    There won’t be a public health system if I have my way.Even with one its still no business of the States what we eat.

    A fully private system incentivises good eating choices and penalises bad ones….and its practical and moral too.

    I realise that as a Maori you are basically at the mental age of a retarded child and need someone to make your choices for you and to wipe your botty.

    Well…isn’t that what you have been claiming in other posts?

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  33. Sean (299 comments) says:

    David: you’re overweight? I just thought you were cuddly…

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  34. Pmoney (13 comments) says:

    If having a user-pays health system reduces obesity levels, then why is the USA one of the fattest countries in the world?

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  35. paradigm (507 comments) says:

    “You can’t get over-fat without eating more calories than you expend.”

    Its hard to break the first law of thermodynamics :)

    What happens when someone who is used to having decisions on what to eat made for him, suddenly leaves school, gets a job and has to make decisions for himself? Maybe we should introduce the kiddies to making responsible choices for themselves? After all the majority of the current greens (as well as most of labour), the champions of food regulation, seem unable to shed their famine resistance. Perhaps we should do the opposite of what they say…

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  36. RainbowGlobalWarming (295 comments) says:

    Kingi,

    You been fired from the library yet??

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  37. Alfred (52 comments) says:

    Sturgiss rorted the health system to the tune of nearly $1million dollars. Wonder which “cuase” she will pick up now? back to tobacco control or perhaps booze where there’s millions being given to booze control NGOs. Or perhaps even better she should go to the Health Sponsorship Council which receives over $18million a year. Hell even the CEO signs off contracts without even checking the figures…

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  38. Brian Smaller (3,984 comments) says:

    Brian your use of stereotypes to make sarcastic and ill informed posts is disgusting and only degrading of yourself.

    Not really as I eat all those things. Have a big batch of rewana bread bug maturing on the bench right now. When we have bring a plate meals at work I always bring a boil up (and my dough boys are to die for). You know nothing, Kingi, of my cultural culinary roots so you should watch your sterotyping of my stereotypes.

    Still doesn’t alter the fact that most studies seem to show that food eaten by Maori is high fat, high calorie. I am assuming that you listened to the last government’s health warnings and no longer partake of those delicacies I mentioned.

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  39. Brian Smaller (3,984 comments) says:

    If having a user-pays health system reduces obesity levels, then why is the USA one of the fattest countries in the world?

    Having been in the States I saw some real whales waddling around there. However, it was not anywhere in the numbers I thought. When the BMI index was introduced as a measure of obesity it automatically turned tens of millions of Yanks into Fatties overnight. It is also doesn’t take into account ethnic diversity in body types. You seen all those Latinos from central america? The ones with lots of Indian blood are usualyy short and stocky. Any system that is based on height and weight alone is fucked up for them.

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  40. Dave Mann (1,168 comments) says:

    “As someone overweight myself, I find it outrageous to have Leigh Sturgess saying it is society’s fault – rather than my own. Bullshit – it is nothing to do with society or the environment – and everything to do with personal choices.”

    Kudos to you DPF or your honesty and integrity in taking personal responibility. Its not easy to keep your weight down in today’s society because, for the first time in 10 million years, we humans have more food avbailable than we can possibly eat. Many species would literally kill to be in this position (in fact, they DO!)

    Just like Prof Birkbeck said, its simply about calories burned off matching calories put in. Simple stuff…. but hard to discipline yourself to do.

    I lost 17 kgs using the simple weightwatchers points system and my BMI is 24 now and I have kept it that way for a couple of years. I ride a bike and I feel good. Its like being an ex-smoker…. a great feeling of self control and wellbeing – but initially a hard one to kick start. if only more public figures were as honest and bullshit-free as John Birkbeck.

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  41. jackp (668 comments) says:

    Kingi, I have seen some very fat people eating at Mcdonalds or Burger King. It does discuss me when they don’t want to change and you know they will be a burden on the health system. I think watching their eating habits and knowing full well they won’t change unless something tragic happens such as turning off electricity to their oxygen, the Obesity Action Coalition won’t change it. It is like the 14 year old killer being let out on parole THREE TIMES and hoping he won’t reoffend putting the public in jeapordy AGAIN!!!

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