Tuesday 22 June 2010

The diet police

In light of the previous post, it is with delicious serendipity that the latest episode of Bullshit looks at the myths surrounding 'junk food'. Penn & Teller argue—nay, prove—that much of the opposition to fast food is rooted in snobbery and ignorance, as well as reminding us that 'nudging' is a euphemism for regulation and coercion.

Set aside half an hour to watch this—not only is it funny and informative, it also stars none other than MeMe Roth of National Action Against Obesity. 

Has any single issue campaigner ever had a more appropriate name than MeMe? I once called her a "stick-thin obsessive" (Chapter 13 of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist). She is described in rather less flattering terms here. 

One of Penn & Teller's best episodes yet.

H/T Mr Civil Libertarian


Anonymous said...

The NAAO appears to have trade marked the words "secondhand obesity". Click on the link in Chris's article.

Ann W. said...

Does anyone know why Penn make a correction about the harm from second hand smoke?

Anonymous said...

I've only watched a few minutes so far. I've seen MeMe before on John Stossel's show. She obviously has some kind of deep-seated psychological issue with heavy people. She speaks of them in a way that drips with contempt, and then walks around in restaurants, looks at people while they're eating and shakes her head at them. What a bitch!

Also, it's worth noting that the menu she is shaking her head at has the calorie count displays on it. A clear indication that crusaders like her won't be satisfied with just that.

I might comment further when I'm done watching.


Tony Palazzolo said...

I saw that a couple of years back, they cited new research out of England. The only thing that I can think of is the first heart attack study. They never cited the exact research.

Anonymous said...

Rather than commenting on the "nudge" reference in the video, I'll link to a column I wrote some time back. (Not my best work, to be honest. Reading it back, it seems a bit too strident. Perhaps not. Anyway, it serves my purpose for the moment.)


Beyond that, commenting on all of the things in the video will take me too long. However, there is an overall aspect that comes to mind that I've wondered about for years, but can never tie altogether.

It seems to me that all of this "healthism" and the current war on lifestyles is very similar to asceticism. In fact, I'll go so far to say that I believe that it is just another form of asceticism.

This presents a bit of a problem, because I can't find anything in the social sciences (i.e., economics, psychology, sociology, etc.) regarding asceticism. There has been some work done in the biological sciences regarding altruism and sacrificing for the collective but that's not really the same thing.

People who work in religious studies are the ones who study asceticism. Like Joseph Campbell. I've heard a lecture by Campbell in which he explained bodily denial, like that practiced my monks, is done as a method of achieving unity with God. The idea being that in denying the body, one comes closer to their spiritual being.

Needless to say, in the past similar religious motives have played a large part in societal movements to ban this behavior or that. Today, though, religion is largely absent from such movements. Instead, people with entirely secular beliefs seem to be those doing the banning and/or the "nudging". Upon close examination, though, they have no rational basis for their actions. Rather, it all seems to boil down to very same ascetic motivations. In other words, it doesn't appear that they want you to eat a salad so much because it is "good for you" but because it is inherently more unpleasant to most people to eat a salad. It's just a form of self-denial which, when all things are considered, presents little benefit.

Well, all of that ties together in my mind, but I can never seem to find any kind of firm footing for it.

I have friends who claim to greatly enjoy salads. They'll swear up-and-down on it. That's when the subject is salads, though. When, in a different context, the subject is, say a delicious burger, they'll say "God, I wish I could eat that."

Who's stopping them?