Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bike Ped 2: Fat Chance

Media faddism, or this this case fatty faddism, was obvious at the Moving Together Conference last week in downtown Boston. In each set of four concurrent sessions, at least one of the three presentations drew (if you pardon) heavily on the current obesity mantra.

This meme is fascinating. Except in its extremes — eating disorders and iatrogenics from crazed doctors — it is not all that harmful. However, as the newest and most resilient bugbear, it has saturated the American psyche and is taken as much as absolute truth as Reagonomics.

If you would like a more reasoned view, start with one of Paul Campos' books. Click here. He looks at real indicators of health, not just scams like BMI.

Regardless, it was amusing to hear one speaker after another hang her (almost always her) presentation on an obesity hook. Shaming kids and scaring parents is the ploy du jour.

Fat hooks included presentations entitled:
  • Building Healthier Communities: The Health Impacts of Transportation and the Built Environment
  • Encouraging Active Kids through School Walking/Bicycling with MassRIDES
  • Springfield Walks: A Collaborative Community Effort to Promote Physical Activity and Health
  • CYCLE Kids: Addressing Obesity and Overweight in Children Through Community Youth Cycling and Learning Experiences
You can get overviews of each, and the other workshops, with their speaker IDs here.

The obesity thingummy did not destroy the presentations, but it was a distraction. If the reaction to newspaper and magaazine coverage is indicative, any effort to focus on more substantial issues would be met with faddish horror — "Oh, Lord. This is such an epidemic! Think of the children!"

The substantial issues include helping ensure cardio-vascular fitness, regardless of somatotype. Truth is, the skinniest people die the earliest and chunky folk can be as fit or fitter than scrawny ones. The aim should be fitness through activity and not moralizing.

Also see Bike Ped 1 and Bike Pet 3 for related coverage and rants.

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