Monday, September 2, 2013

First There Is A Donut, Then There Is No Donut, Then There Is

There’s a billboard that I pass on my way to work each morning that touts a local medical practice specializing in bariatric surgery. The ad proudly proclaims that they are responsible for 5000 smiles since 2002. Right before and after this billboard are other billboards. These other billboards advertise fast food restaurants, places like Dunkin Donuts, replete with tantalizing images of delicacies, such as Bavarian Kremes and Maple Frosted Coffee Rolls.

All of which makes me wonder. Is the problem the donut or the person who eats it?

It seems to me that, in the quest to find the “cause” for obesity, most of the attention has been focused on the eater, not the eaten. Holy crap, you say! Are you living under a maple-frosted rock? How could you have missed the onslaught of ads for Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, South Beach, ad infinitum? Do the words low-carb, paleo, Mediterranean mean nothing to you? If anything, you say, we are obsessed to the point of insanity with the eaten.

Ahem. I am, of course, well aware of the Diet Industrial Complex, that endless blitz of diet programs and diet books and diet philosophies, which reap great profits for everyone but the desperate people who follow them. It seems to me that all this food noise is not about what is to be eaten, but rather, about seducing vulnerable people with how good they will look, how sexy they will feel, how righteous they will be if only they renounce fat/sugar/salt/wheat/meat/fill-in-the-blank and do exactly what this particular expert/author/blogger/health guru says. That our hapless eater is immersed in an ocean of donuts is of no consequence as long as they remain a true believer and change themselves.

Bariatric surgery is just the far end of the spectrum in this conviction that the answer to excess weight is to modify the person carrying it. And so, you must be a warrior against the donut, ever vigilant, forsaking conventional ways of eating in favor of that prescribed by your new food religion. The other end of this spectrum favors a more psychological approach, in which you change your psyche, making peace with “food demons” so you can practice moderation and, above all else, be sensible. Regardless of where you exist on this spectrum, when you are successful in transforming yourself, your weight will take care of itself and life will be wonderful, full of smiles even. If you can’t change yourself on your own, then you have no option but the knife. And I don’t mean the butter knife.

Let’s step back for a minute. It is a fact that the reason I lost 100 pounds is because I modified myself. Not through surgery, but in a radical way nonetheless. I changed my diet in the extreme. I changed my exercise habits in the extreme. Doesn’t this prove that the “cause” of obesity is to be found in the eater?

Before we jump on that anti-gravy train, let me relate a few more facts. First, I have not “won” my battle with obesity. I still struggle with it. Every day. And, second, it is entirely possible that I will someday regain all the weight I lost. I keep this nasty picture in the forefront of my mind, as a hedge against the abysmal odds. You see, a big part of the fight has to do with living in a world awash with donuts (and their fatty, sugary, salty co-conspirators), requiring near superhuman willpower to resist. When I fail to resist them, 100% of the blame is assigned to me. And only me. Because I made the “choice” to eat those foods, right? Don’t I know, to misquote The Matrix, that there is no donut?

Um, excuse me, but... There most certainly IS a donut.

It seems counterproductive to me that we focus on fixing, even “curing,” the currently/formerly fat while ignoring the food environment that surrounds us, though I understand why it happens. There’s a whole culture and a whole economy dedicated to donuts and their gastronomic kin. It’s ingrained in us to a point that we don’t question it. It’s just the way it is. So of course an orange costs more than a donut. And it follows naturally that given the choice of an orange or a donut, most people would choose the donut. To do otherwise would be a huge change in the status quo.

And, as any overweight person already knows, big change is hard. Really, really hard.


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Vickie. I'm fine. I've been preoccupied for a few months with some family issues. I hope to get back here soon. How have things been with you?

  2. Touchy earlier in the fall (emotionally) but better now.

    Surgery two weeks from today. Having some of my excess skin removed.