Obesity,Diets#Eating Disorders#Bullying#Fat Acceptance#Please Share
Dialogue on obesity still being pushed
By Duane Hicks
FORT FRANCES—A Thunder Bay man is making headway in his mission to create dialogue about building healthy food relationships through education, awareness, and advocacy.
Touting the message “Against Obesity, Not Against Obese People,” Paul Murphy, a recovering binge-eater, is continuing to try and raise awareness of obesity-related issues through the group, Obesity Thunder Bay.
Always keeping his finger on the pulse of any news related to obesity and weight loss, Murphy most recently extended an invitation from Obesity Thunder Bay to the new Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation that was launched last Monday (Oct. 5).
Nestle USA, ConAgra Foods, Kraft Foods Inc. and Mars, Inc., Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., Hershey Co., Sara Lee Corp., and other major food manufacturers, as well as several non-profit groups, such as the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition Foundation, PE4life, and the American Dietetic Association Foundation, have joined forces to form the foundation—the goal of which is to reduce obesity, particularly in kids, by an unspecified amount over the next six years.
“I sent an e-mail to them saying I want to participate, I want to work with them,” Murphy noted Thursday. “You know what’s going to happen, but in all fairness, stranger things have happened.
“We have no alliances anywhere else, so maybe Coca-Cola or Nestle may express an interest,” he added. “I think what they have to understand is instead of circling the wagons, they need to start being responsible.
“But anyway, I sent them an e-mail indicating what we’re working on.
“I called Coca-Cola in Atlanta this morning . . . I want them to know Obesity Thunder Bay is eager to create partnerships and we look forward to addressing childhood obesity. That’s what we’re about,” Murphy remarked.
“We don’t want to fight,” he stressed. “It’s certainly not in Obesity Thunder Bay’s interest to be in conflict.”
Another recent headline that caught Murphy’s attention was a penny per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages that may be implemented in California as a means to fund health care costs.
“If this goes through, everybody everywhere is going to follow simply because there has to be a way to recoup the health costs,” he argued.
“The implications are beyond belief.”
Closer to home, an article about Murphy just was published last week in Lakehead University’s “Argus News,” which has resulted in dozens of hits at the Obesity Thunder Bay blog site.
He’s also made it known he’d be willing to do speaking engagements at Lakehead U., and has been in contact with a number of other universities in the province and elsewhere in Canada.
Murphy also has been taking advantage of the power of the Internet, and has been busy networking every chance he can get.
“Our web presence is very, very strong,” noted Murphy, adding the Obesity Thunder Bay website (www.obesitythunderbay.ning.com) has seen nearly 3,000 visits since February, with visitors hailing from Canada and the U.S., as well as the Philippines, Brazil, England, New Zealand, and even Ukraine.
As of this month, the site had 80 registered members “from all walks of life,” Murphy said.
They range from health-care professionals to individuals who have felt the stigma of being overweight.
“They’re tired. Tired of the messages,” he said of the members.
Murphy said he’s hopeful continued online networking, as well as media coverage and direct contact with area leaders and politicians, will foster relationships with larger agencies that will band together to build working platforms and dialogue.
“The best-case scenario would be, in the next year, to raise awareness while lowering ‘fat hatred,’” he remarked.
“We want people to create healthy food relationships, but they need to know what that is,” he stressed.
Murphy said obesity is definitely a hot topic right now, whether it’s in relation to the health-care reform debate in the United States, controversial ads like PETA’s “Save The Whales. Lose Blubber. Go Vegetarian” campaign, or the number-one trending topic on Twitter back on Aug. 25: “Fat people are sexier.”
As such, he feels the time is right to get a dialogue going in Northwestern Ontario—and further abroad, if possible—to work towards change.
A major part of that is altering the blame-based model of obesity, which links it to lack of willpower and laziness.
Citing one example, Murphy said too much emphasis is put on the “activity model,” which pushes physical activity as the solution to eliminating obesity.
He noted that, suspiciously, this same “activity model” often is funded by major industry, including soft drink companies, who benefit from shifting the blame for obesity away from their junk food products and towards activities like television viewing and computer use, which supposedly result in people becoming overweight.
While exercise certainly can be beneficial, Murphy feels building a better relationship with food is even more important.
He added the oft-heard mantra of eating healthy and exercise as the key to weight control is “a nice message, but it misses a step, and that step is the food relationship,” he argued.
“For children who are using sugar and salt to self-medicate, how much is a pair of runners going to make a change?” he asked.
“You know there’s people that go to the gym five or six times a week. Not to say it’s bad, but sometimes you go from one extreme to another,” Murphy continued.
“For a person who is three-, four-, or five hundred pounds, that’s really not an option because they’re beaten down,” he reasoned.
Murphy said the door for discussion is opening more all the time, and hopefully public perceptions will begin to change and that the “blame game” will turn into something more constructive.
“When 90 percent of people believe obesity is caused by laziness, unhealthy lifestyles, no willpower, that feeds the diet industry, that feeds the ‘try harder,’” he remarked.
“What we’re saying is, ‘Sit down. Relax. Enjoy your food, but be mindful of what you’re eating.’”
(Fort Frances Times)