Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Very, very stupid

The end of the war on fat?:

John Tierney asks how long it will be until we have a drug that can make everyone thin. I wonder whether, if we got one, everyone would still want to be thin. The obsession with thinness is a wealth marker. Just as it only became cool to get a tan when most working stiffs were pasty white from long hours indoors, the easier it is for poor people to get fat, the harder rich people work to get thin. The rate of obesity is twice as high among the poor as among the rich.
Obsession with being thin is NOT a wealth marker. Being able to afford it is. Few people are genetically thin no matter what, especially not in a context of non-nutritive caloric overabundance such as we live in here, today. One of the many reasons poverty and obesity are linked in the US is cheap food lacks the nutrients we need to be healthy and thrive, so our bodies don't stop being hungry for them after eating overprocessed industrial food. All calories are not created equal, but you won't hear Megan acknowledge that. (Forgive me for not tracking down a reference for this claim, but I lent out my copy of Omnivore's Dilemma.) Speaking of Megan, I interrupted her in mid stupid.
I confess I still don't understand why poverty is so increasingly linked with obesity. The common explanation is to blame the paucity of excellent cheap grocery stores in urban neighborhoods. But poverty is not exclusively an inner city phenomenon; poor people in more rural areas share grocery stores with the rich. Besides, while this explains the latitudinal data, it does not account for the longitudinal issue. No one thinks that New York's grocery stores, even in poor neighborhoods, have gotten worse since the 1970s; the evidence is that they've gotten better. But the obesity rate has gotten much worse.
What evidence is there the supermarkets in poor neighborhoods in NYC have gotten better? My own anecdotal experience of living across the street from an extended area of huge projects is that the supermarkets and delis are pure crap. If they've gotten better it's in the sense that they're not selling brown, expired meat anymore, not that their selection is any healthier for the people eating it. Besides which, back in the 70s you could get grass fed beef at non-premium prices, and that's quite probably a great deal healthier for us. And the soda was made with sugar, which is practically a health food compared to high fructose corn syrup.
But Megan has been told not to worry about what her maid's kids are eating anymore, and to blame her maid for their poor nutrition if she has to lower herself to thinking about it. Businesses and the market can't have a role in this problem, obviously, so it must be the fault of the people suffering, not the ones providing them the means to suffer.
Megan dribbles out much more stupidity in the rest of the post, but I'd like to close with a pair of comments left in support of Megan's argument. Fred is a regular, and an asshole
...
Welfare mothers don't have a "$0 budget". They have free cash flow thanks to transfer payments and having the necessities of life (housing, medical care, food) provided for them either heavily subsidized (housing) or free (medical care, food). And walking is a great form of exercise that's free.

Posted by Fred | October 28, 2008 3:54 PM
MikeF is new, to me at least, and seems not so much an asshole as truly ignorant (if you care to make a distinction).
Megan points to gyms as one luxury that the well-off can afford to help stay thin. But I wonder if that isn't offset by the fact that a disproportionate number of poor people work at manual labor jobs - I bet a day on a construction site burns way more calories than a 90-minute gym session.

Posted by MikeF | October 28, 2008 4:51 PM
These are the people Megan is writing for, when it isn't David Bradley. Birds of a feather.

1 comment:

Chad said...

poor people in more rural areas share grocery stores with the rich

It really doesn't need to be said, but...as someone who has lived most of his life so far in rural and semi-rural areas, this is so not true. While in my experience there really aren't many of the gourmet chain grocers that you find in suburbs and even in small cities nowadays, there's still a considerable gap in price and quality between what you find in lower-end chains (or, well, any Wal-Mart) and what you see offered by farmers' markets and just higher-end chains. In other words, rural America ain't some kind of egalitarian consumers' paradise from the Libertarian handbook, Meg.

Of course, I'm sure Megan is convinced she's right, due to the two or three hours she spent riding through central Virginia that one time.