“The Fat of the Land” by Mark Erik Meijer, MD
First published as “If Losing Weight Was Easy, There Wouldn’t Be So Many Fat People” in Aynor Journal, vol. 12, #48 (September 14, 2000) Aynor, South Carolina.
Renamed “The Fat of the Land” for the Web version.
Republished as Chapter 28, “If Losing Weight Was Easy, There Wouldn’t Be So Many Fat People,” in TEN STEPS to Control Diabetes [Tampa, Fla.]: MeMend Books, 2004. ISBN: 0-9761572-0-9
- What does watching a football game have in common with watching a baseball game?
- What does a bar mitzvah have in common with a baptism?
- What does a funeral have in common with a wedding?
- What does Christmas have in common with Thanksgiving?
- What does a billboard have in common with television?
- What does breakfast have in common with dinner?
- What does a birthday have in common with New Year's Day?
- What do planes have in common with trains?
- What does Mother's Day have in common with Easter?
- What does Valentine's Day have in common with Halloween?
- What does going to the movies have in common with going to a circus?
- What does a wedding anniversary have in common with a family reunion?
- What does a country fair have in common with a city festival?
- What does the Fourth of July have in common with Labor Day?
The biggest health problem looming in America today is obesity. More than half of all Americans are overweight. In poor countries, many people starve to death. In America, we are eating ourselves to death. Eating and drinking without regard for nutritional needs is catching up with more and more Americans.
Many people seeking medical care want to stay young and healthy. Most patients do not want to die. It’s pretty amazing that the majority of diseases we see are at least partially self-inflected. It’s not that death isn’t inevitable. It’s just that we tend to speed it up. Rarely do any of us die without lending a hand to our own demise.
“To err is human...” Part of the problem with diseases is our difficulty in correcting problems that we are responsible for creating. It never would have been a problem if it were easy to change. Smokers with bad lungs find it hard to stop smoking; alcoholics find it hard to stop drinking; and overweight people find it hard to lose weight.
Mistakes are unavoidable. We are all guilty of doing stupid things. There is no cure for stupidity. Doing dumb things doesn’t mean you are stupid. Everyone makes dumb mistakes. The fact that the majority of Americans eat improperly is another example of how stupid we all can be (myself included).
When the overwhelming majority of people make the same dumb mistakes, it becomes difficult to recognize that what they are doing is stupid. America is the fattest country in the world and it’s getting fatter faster. The need for physicians to condemn patients about their diet and lack of exercise will increase. More and more patients need to be told that what they are doing will harm them.
No one needs to be condemned for being human.
Condemn the mistake — not the person who made it. Without condemnation, there can be no motive for change. But to get better, patients have to be part of the solution.
Physicians diagnose and treat disease. When possible, we prescribe medications to patients to treat their illnesses. Pills that work provide proof to the old adage that “we are what we eat.”
Medication is the most potent example of how food and drink can affect our health. It should be no surprise to anyone that excessive amounts of food and drink will cause problems. Other bad “habits” (e.g., cigarettes, alcohol, etc.) are also things that we put in our mouths.
It’s very common that while the physician is trying to get the patient better, the patient isn’t (trying). “Common things occur commonly.” Too much fat, sugar and protein without enough fiber clearly contributes to all the important diseases in America.
Because patients can choose what goes into their mouths, teaching patients dietary changes, to stop smoking, etc., are all important components to treating many diseases. I always tell patients that the first step in treatment is to stop killing yourself.
Therefore, a good physician is also a good teacher. Good patients are good students, willing to learn and change destructive behavior. Since both are human, neither is expected to be perfect. But the effort needs to be there.
No one depends solely on his/her doctor to decide what goes into his/her mouth. The majority of what we eat and drink is taught by the society in which we live, not medicine.
In a democracy where the majority rules, it can be hard for a patient to remember what one physician has taught them. Nevertheless, it always matters why you eat, what you eat, and how much you eat. Patients — not doctors — pay the price for failure.
Historically, preventing self-inflicted disease has always been a difficult
task. Nevertheless, America has been successful in increasing the number of smokers who have stopped smoking. This success can be expected. In the past, tobacco companies were successful in increasing the number of people who smoked. If we can change in the wrong direction, we can also change in the rightdirection.
We don’t have solutions for all problems. Some problems, like dumb mistakes, never seem to go away. But there should be solutions for any problem that is changing and becoming worse. If we are doing things to make obesity more common and severe, we can also do things to make it better.
For modern medicine to be successful in providing Americans with good health, not only do patients have to take medications as prescribed, they must learn from their doctor what they need to do to make themselves better. A lot depends on what you put in your mouth. You can only feel as good as you take care of yourself.©
ANSWER: The answer is the same for each question:
food and drink!