The Big Picture: Arch-Villains

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Tricky topic, I think Bobs position is just as wrong as the one of the McDonald's haters, as just blaming it on personal responsibility isn't going to fix the issue any more then getting rid of Ronald McDonald. The core problem with obesity is simply that evolution hasn't build us to live in a society where food is in oversupply and thus naturally a lot of people end up getting fat.

How do we fix that? No idea, it is certainly not easy to correct for natural traits that no longer fit our time, but I really doubt that you will have any large scale social behavior change without having the food producers play their part and a bit of government regulation. That of course can mean anything from better education at school, banning certain advertisment or putting warning labels on soft drinks (those are actually a much bigger problem then the burger). That of course also means that we shouldn't go witch hunting, if there is a change in regulation it should be based on solid evidence, not just guess work.

One thing where I think current "healthy lifestyle" advertisment is completly wrong for example is the focus on exercise. Exercise doesn't fix obesity, unless you go into professional sports you are never burning the calories you get by drinking a bottle of coke with sports. The way to lose weight is to not drink that bottle of coke in the first place and replace it with water, easy to remember and much easier to do. Lack of exercise is a result of being obese, not a cause. If I go by what I hear in the mainstream media I would think its the other way around.

You know why I love this show and your opinion in general Bob? Because you are a huge proponent of personal responsibility, and I am as well. It's not easy to do most of the right things in life. Staying healthy is a prime example. It does however end up being the choice of the individual 99 out of 100 times whether they embrace the right path or not. This is of course negating the overwhelming amount of gray in the world but hey for the sake of not ranting too much we'll keep it simple.

dex-dex:
I was not old enough to see the Joe Camel ads first hand but my dad did use to work for them(he worked in their IT department and he even remembers recieving packages of cigarettes with his pay cheque) and there for some reason advertisements of Joe Camel in our playroom. He always told my brother and I to never smoke cigarettes.
I think that blaming mascots for fast food companies a little bit annoying. I mean I know plenty of people (including myself) who grew up having mcdonalds probably more than they should as children but they are not obese and neither am I. four or five of them I wonder how the hell they appear underweight when they always eat poorly. The responsibility is within the parents and the sooner they can get that through dumb ass parent's thick heads the better we will all be.

The problem wasn't with the Joe Camel mascot himself, but that there was ridiculously creepy conspiracy behind him. Camel not only placed the Joe Camel mascot in media that was in all intents and purposes children's fare, they made toys of him marketed for children, and internal documents that were subpoenaed showed that Camel had intensely researched how to increase their customer demographic with the "14-24 year old" crowd.

Yes, parents are responsible for their children but they can't be held responsible for everything.

How many of us here view R-rated movies or pornographic movies? How many of us play M-rated games? How many of us smoke or drink?

How many of us only did any of that only after we reached the legal age? I sure as hell didn't.

Was there anything the companies or parents that could've done to stop me? Probably not.

When it comes to children, organizations are only partly responsible. Parents are only partly responsible. The children themselves are responsible for the rest, but more often than not are not treated as such.

A quick note, your understanding of natural selection is lacking. You seem to believe that making stupid decisions, like the decision to smoke, somehow influences our species. Most smokers who end up dying of a smoking related illness (a set that does not include all smokers mind you) will have already procreated and created as many children as they would have otherwise. Maybe more, what with all the tail they got from looking cool while smoking, right?

That of course was a joke but the so called Darwin award has very little to do with natural selection of our species. Also keep in mind that when talking about the "fittest" one is not referring to the best or strongest or smartest necessarily, rather whatever traits best allow one to survive and procreate. Imagine our ozone is destroyed completely by something and it causes most people to die as children from cancer. Now imagine a rare genetic disorder linked to low IQ also provides protection against this cancer. After enough generations in that environment the human race would end as a bunch of Forest Gumps, sans meeting the president.

Anyway, I could go on but you get the picture. You are using this argument of "removing the wheat from the chaff" as a way to attack those who engage in behaviors you don't like, ie smoking. So while smokers and light socket fornicators are doing nothing to harm the species you make it seem that way in order to put them down for making choices you disagree with. I hate smoking myself but lets not make specious arguments please.

I do agree that we can't blame fast food sellers. If the food is legal to eat in the US and they disclose all nutritional information then they've done all they can. We know these foods are not healthy to eat. It comes down to personal responsibility.

The way I see it, there are 3 reasons for the obesity rise, primarily but not exclusively, in the USA. Unhealthy food is one of them, but the importance of the other two should not be understated:

1. Lack of Excercise
2. Eating too much

1. In the facebook comments someone pointed out that the USA has a "car culture" that has reduced walking in urban centres. I know the Republicans there hate it, but taxation should be increased to reduce this.

2. US restaurant servings are HUGE. Perhaps you don't realise it, but restaurants serve you insane quantities of [unhealthy] food. I hope, but doubt, that it's different in a home environment.

I think that the reason so much focus is put on fast food is, and this was brought up in the video, these 2 things can be directly blamed on the parent. There isn't an industrial lobby for eating more food, and the government isn't carefully stripping away paths while tying you to the sofa.

InevitableFate:
1. In the facebook comments someone pointed out that the USA has a "car culture" that has reduced walking in urban centres. I know the Republicans there hate it, but taxation should be increased to reduce this.

That might not be enough. I've lived in the US as a pedestrian, let me tell you it's a pain. It's just much easier to be in a car. And it's not just about distance. To go to the mall next block I had to cross an highway and then walk five to ten minutes in the parking lots, without any pedestrian specific area to walk. It was dangerous and a pain.
Even the products are assuming you're driving. I bought 20 pounds or so of cat litter in a solid plastic bin with a handle. The handle broke before I got home. Once again, next block from the mall.

In France however where I was raised and where I'm back, driving is more complicated, MUCH more costly and takes longer than being a pedestrian. It's still a matter of convenience. French people don't walk more because they're less lazy, they walk more because that's the convenient option here.

InevitableFate:
2. US restaurant servings are HUGE. Perhaps you don't realise it, but restaurants serve you insane quantities of [unhealthy] food. I hope, but doubt, that it's different in a home environment.

Oh, yes, definitely. In US restaurants I ask them to bag half of it the second it arrives, and I still can't always eat what's left. Huge portions.
It's not just that though. After spending 3 years in North America, being back in France I was surprised that the plates and bowls were so small. Yours are bigger, and as a result you fill them more. Honestly, I see just with cereals, a pack lasts me close to twice the time, and I'm not hungrier, I feel like I'm eating the same amount. But because my bowl is much smaller, I'm actually eating much less.

If I had to restrict myself to only filling up my US bowl halfway, I'd feel like I'm depriving myself. But eating the same quantity in a bowl that's just smaller, I've never felt like a second serving. I think psychology has a lot of influence there too.

So it's a combination of a lot of things: unhealthy food, too much of it, and too little exercise. Sadly a lot of it would be completely different with only small changes that you don't really notice. I don't even know where there is a fast food place in my town, so I'm not likely to go there. Even when I was in Paris, the places I knew didn't have a drive in. And with smaller streets that are way less straightforward (a bunch of one-ways because the streets are too narrow for two sets of cars, for instance), you're much better off walking or taking the bus (which still requires walking to the stop).
Older buildings often don't have room for an elevator so you get used to climbing the stairs to your floor.
Etc, etc, lots of small things that add up to make a difference in the end.

And exercise is still important. If you don't exercise at all and eat little, you might not be overweight but you're likely to still be unhealthy. If you exercise and eat a bit too much, you might be overweight and still have less health problems. It's not all about the weight, it's just our clearest visual sign that something might be wrong. A healthy lifestyle isn't there to "fix" obesity or weight issues, it's just a good idea in general if you want to be healthy, whether your weight is considered average or not.

rddj623:
It does however end up being the choice of the individual 99 out of 100 times whether they embrace the right path or not.

The problem is that it isn't a choice. You don't chose to get fat, you just get fat and once there it is incredible difficult to get away from it. Even if you decide to lose weight the success rates are abysmal, apparently in the 5%-10% range when it comes to long term weight loss. Those numbers seem to be even worse then those for quitting smoking, which appear to be in the 10-25% range.

So essentially personal responsibility gets you nowhere, it might produce a nice anecdote here and there, but it helps little in actually reducing the problem at large.

grumbel:

rddj623:
It does however end up being the choice of the individual 99 out of 100 times whether they embrace the right path or not.

The problem is that it isn't a choice. You don't chose to get fat, you just get fat and once there it is incredible difficult to get away from it. Even if you decide to lose weight the success rates are abysmal, apparently in the 5%-10% range when it comes to long term weight loss. Those numbers seem to be even worse then those for quitting smoking, which appear to be in the 10-25% range.

So essentially personal responsibility gets you nowhere, it might produce a nice anecdote here and there, but it helps little in actually reducing the problem at large.

I tend to disagree unless there is a physical problem (i.e. something glandular etc. that makes it physically impossible to lose weight). I have known many people who have been "fat" (some by a couple hundred pounds over their suggested healthy weight) who have lost weight simply through fully engaging in taking personal responsibility for their exercise and eating habits. It is a choice, it's just that people aren't disciplined enough to make that choice and stick with it. It's just easier to let yourself go and become overweight. Physical exertion isn't so much fun for some people, but it still needs to be done to take optimal care of oneself.

Take me for an example. I have never been a big sports fan, and when I was younger had pretty bad asthma so I never really was as active as my peers. However now I exercise to keep in shape despite my distaste for it. Personal choice. I would much rather be reading a book or playing a video game then running around the block or doing crunches, but the exercise helps me maintain my health. So it's worth it to me to push myself by doing things I don't like in order to achieve goals I do like.

I love how you used Pinky and the Brain as the reference for the difference between ignorance and intelligence.

rddj623:
I have known many people who have been "fat" (some by a couple hundred pounds over their suggested healthy weight) who have lost weight simply through fully engaging in taking personal responsibility for their exercise and eating habits.

That's all nice anecdotes, however none of that makes "personal responsibility" a cure that works on a large scale. The reality is that you have lots and lots of fat people and lots of them who tried to lose weight and failed at it, especially in the long term, as losing weight is the easy part, the tricky one is keeping that loss for the coming years.

You can call the people weak minded or whatever, but the simple reality is that the way that society is structured and the way you have an oversupply of food will make a lot of people overweight. Pretending that it is their own fault might make you feel strong an might, but it is really not very helpful in fixing the issue.

grumbel:
That's all nice anecdotes, however none of that makes "personal responsibility" a cure that works on a large scale. The reality is that you have lots and lots of fat people and lots of them who tried to lose weight and failed at it, especially in the long term, as losing weight is the easy part, the tricky one is keeping that loss for the coming years.

You can call the people weak minded or whatever, but the simple reality is that the way that society is structured and the way you have an oversupply of food will make a lot of people overweight. Pretending that it is their own fault might make you feel strong an might, but it is really not very helpful in fixing the issue.

I agree that society (especially western society) regards moderation and balance as something to look down upon. Having said that the "society made me do it" argument is one of the flimsiest out there. I don't see anyone (except for maybe some irresponsible parents) shoving too much unhealthy food down anyone's throat. It still comes back to a person to person choice whether or not to eat more than one ought to eat.

A wise uncle once said with "great power comes great responsibility", this holds true with wealth as well. In this case an over abundance of food simply means we must be more responsible in our use of it. The more one has the more one must be responsible for it all. I agree that there are many people who choose not to take that responsibility, but that does not negate that it is their responsibility. I guess I'm just saying it's always easier to blame someone/something else rather then buck up and recognize that one's own choices are the problem.

I whole heartedly agree with you that it is very difficult when society makes it so easy to keep doing the same things over and over. However ultimately the responsibility rests on the individual.

I would just like to reiterate how the quasi-scientific statements made about natural selection in this episode are actually quite illiterate. Bob seems to be referring to a kind of Lamarckian inheritance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarckism), or "the heritability of acquired characteristics." This bears repeating, because even some of the scientific defenses in the replies don't quite have it right. To the point: even if natural selection DID work as described (it doesn't), natural selection is not the same thing as evolution. Evolution is driven by many processes, of which natural selection is only a part. These processes include gene flow (migration), genetic drift (random chance), mutation, and, of course, natural selection. Bob is also guilty of the sin of teleology, which is the thinking that evolution has some kind of goal or purpose, or is going to someday culminate in something eventually "greater." Any introductory college life sciences course will (er, should) warn you away from this kind of thinking.

Natural selection SOUNDS simple, but it's not. As part of broader evolutionary thinking, it informs and is informed by every subdivision of modern biology. That said, it's not impossible to know about. It's complex, but like any well-documented science, clarity and consensus can be found. If you're interested, I'd be glad to make some book recommendations.

Now, normally I wouldn't care that somebody made brazen claims on the internet about a technical field they don't understand very well. It has grim implications for our countries educational system, perhaps, but that's neither here nor there for this discussion. I'm only made uncomfortable by it, because - intentionally or not - the ideas have a history in eugenic thought in the early 20th century United States and, more dramatically, mid-century Europe and Russia. They still have some influence. Idiocracy, while a hilarious movie, is an example of this. Intelligence is largely an acquired characteristic. Its primary descriptor is likely environmental, not genetic. Long story short, if poor people had better access to broad culture and education, they'd seem smarter to the middle class. Maybe that's a crass way to put it. But really, it's a socioeconomic issue, not a genetic issue. But people read it as a genetic, because they imagine that certain acquired characteristics necessarily stem from underlying biology. They almost never do.

InevitableFate:
The way I see it, there are 3 reasons for the obesity rise, primarily but not exclusively, in the USA. Unhealthy food is one of them, but the importance of the other two should not be understated:

1. Lack of Excercise
2. Eating too much

1. In the facebook comments someone pointed out that the USA has a "car culture" that has reduced walking in urban centres. I know the Republicans there hate it, but taxation should be increased to reduce this.

2. US restaurant servings are HUGE. Perhaps you don't realise it, but restaurants serve you insane quantities of [unhealthy] food. I hope, but doubt, that it's different in a home environment.

I think that the reason so much focus is put on fast food is, and this was brought up in the video, these 2 things can be directly blamed on the parent. There isn't an industrial lobby for eating more food, and the government isn't carefully stripping away paths while tying you to the sofa.

There are problems with each of these.

1. "We are the first nation in the history of the world to go to the poor house in an automobile." (Will Rogers who died in 1935). Yet the obesity problem didn't really start becoming a major issue until the 1980s nearly a HALF A CENTURY after Will Rogers made his comment.

2. If you visit the handful of living museums in the US that serve food in authentic portion sizes (to the period they represent) you will realize that serving sizes have actually DECREASED compared to those seen in the 18th and 19th century US. Furthermore restaurants and fast food places are two VASTLY different things comparing portion sizes between the two is comparing apple and oranges.

The elephant in the room is that the obesity problem is a COMBINATION of factors rather any one cause:

1) less reliance on home cooked meals (TV dinners as well as fast food)
2) decrease of outdoor activities for various social reasons.
3) the replacement of sugar with High-fructose corn syrup in the 1970s which Bray (2004) and Bocarsly (2010) showed in rats a greater weight gain per calorie **over the long term**.

Fast food is far more expensive then the quick fix stuff in a grocery store and is exceeded in cost only by convenience store food.

Cocamaster:
I pretty much agree with the central theme of the video, but then he goes and rambles about how scientists should replace bad parents, which is pretty much the opposite of personal responsibility, and then uses a picture of three of the people that would most agree with the central theme of the video to demonize those who would rather have their parenting rights respected, which I assume would include him if the situation presented itself. (...and it's always the same people...)

I somehow don't believe he thought this through.

When using the Darwin argument of natural selection to point out the importance of personal responsibility, you must remember that you're also basically saying that someone that has the "insight" to remove himself from the gene pool can't be blamed for doing the same to his offspring.

This is why demonizing those who do not think the way you do with broad brush strokes is a bad thing.

You have not watched much of Bob, have you? He is hypocrisy incarnate.

Bob said fast food won't kill you unless you over-indulge. Isn't that also true with cigarettes, booze, and anything else that's fun?

Food is supposed to be nourishing and by and large not bad for you. Most fast food, and lots of pre-processed food, is actively bad for you.

I don't know you can necessarily argue that all (or any) fast food needs to be banned or regulated as a health hazard, but these guys target youth in ways that amount to brainwashing. Targeting advertising at youth is dangerous and in many cases criminal. However if parents really cared they should just monitor and moderate what they let their kids watch.

So - if something is innately toxic or hazardous perhaps it shouldn't be marketed. Not - it shouldn't be marketed to kids, but many adults are little better than kids anyway. On the other hand, perhaps folks should just be aware of what media they are consuming and educate themselves on the douchebaggery in which advertising agencies engage.

Well said, Bob. I seriously think that parents should take more responsibility for their kids instead of just blaming everyone else.

But I honestly doubt that they'll do it...

Enosh_:
"blaming master chief for lack of civility" this line is killing me, given that he himself made the agument that halo is to blame a billion times

When did he say that?

I think he might've said it started with Halo which makes far more sense.

I agree with Greg Downing (who I've just realised only commented on the 'facebook' section of the comments that I've just disabled...er...): the correlation between poverty and obesity (as counter-intuitive as this might have seemed any time in history before, say, the the middle of the last century) can't be denied and is often overlooked on the slow news days when the mass-media recycles last year's story about the growing obesity "epidemic." However, Steve Powell's also right to say urban sprawl and U.S. car culture doesn't help..

...On an unrelated note, though, did anyone else find it a teensy bit disturbing to hear Bob talk about evolution as if it's got a kind of in-built 'onwards and upwards' tendency that weeds out crappier forms of life and pushes towards superior ones? I mean, I know he's mentioning it in the context of a joke, and I'm certainly -not- suggesting that he was expressing some kind of half-fascist social Darwinist vision (he explicitly mentions that he disagrees with such things) but...I....just.... l...can't...fight...pedantic...urges... So...:

Surely, Bob knows that 'survival of the fittest' (Herbert Spencer's phrase not Darwin's) is a near tautology, i.e. that 'fittest' means 'most capable of surviving and reproducing' and is in no way synonymous with being "amazing, intelligent, powerful, innovative, creative et cetera." From an evolutionary point of view, not only are mosquitoes and viruses "as good" as humans (insofar the insects also succeed at thriving and reproduce in their environment), but also, to use a Bob idiom: -douchebags- are as fit as Supermen in that 'fitness' -from (and only from) an evolutionary point of view is nothing more than existing for long enough to pass on your genes. Which as morons the world over prove is not hard. If evolution were 'left to its own devices', it's less likely that we'd have the X-Men and more likely that we'd have a kind of colourful variation on the theme of stupid. It's analogous to the free market: competition does -sometimes- allow great things to emerge and endure, but it can also just as easily lead to the reign of the bland and vacuous (McDonald's, Hollywood, Twilight, first person shooters etc.)

P.S. just realised in attempting to point this that onathantos also made this point.

The whole "make Mcdonalds healthier because some parents feed their kids only that" is so stupid.

It reminds me of a quote from Twain

"censorship is like saying a man can't have steak because a baby can't chew it"

and that's so close to what's actually happening it's scary.

Oh and it's interesting though that the whole "keep gubmint out of family" conservative guys also usually argue to keep gubmint out of their fast food.

Except, you know for the fact that people already blame video games for a lack of exercise and a lack of civility and a broad spectrum of other various things. I know its not exactly the same thing but still...

Two sad, sad truths:

1. While it's easy to chalk it all up to people being stupid and making bad decisions, that is a very naive thing to do. It must be comforting to think the way people don't do the right thing is because they're not smart enough to see the big picture, but most people, even those who feed themselves sick, KNOW that they shouldn't be eating like they do and they would like to eat healthier foods, they just can't help it. Humans are off-the-rack ordinary mammals in many ways and our instincts regarding food haven't really seen much change since the Pleistocene period, creating a definitive limit for our ability to regulate our behaviour when it comes to addictive food.

And yes, junk food is addictive, it's been designed that way. Get enough exposure and you'll experience withdrawal symptoms when you go cold turkey.

2. One of the only times during human history when bad health caused by overabundance of fatty and sugary food has been effectively battled was when government intervened and regulated consumption and business practices. North Karelia Project, look it up.

Umm... WTF was that pic with Batman stabbing shark with lightsaber?

Yeah, but the burgers can be dangerous from stuff like e coli, because of the fact the cows are walking in their own shit, and that your average burger would have pieces of a lot of different cows, so, that combined with the condition that they are slaughtered in, that meat can be pretty dangerous, even if most companies, mainly the big meat ones, do that.

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