Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Poor Dr. Lundberg

Apparently Dr. George Lundberg is a little upset because back in 2004, he put forth his ingenious stop-obesity plan and it didn't work. And it didn't work, he tells us, because fat people just didn't listen to his plan, which is really simple and practical when you think about it. It consists of two words:

Stop eating.

Dr. Lundberg goes on to clarify what he means:

I did not say fast; I did not say starve. I said Stop Eating too much; stop eating high calorie snacks between meals, stop eating everything on your plate; stop eating such large portions; stop eating desserts; stop routinely eating bread and butter; stop eating three full meals a day when two are enough; stop eating fats and refined carbohydrates when you can eat fresh fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

And while you are at it, STOP DRINKING alcohol and sugary drinks.


I wonder if Dr. Lundberg understands anything at all about metabolism. If he did, I suspect he would not so angrily and aggressively put forth his diet plan--because that's what it is, a diet plan, one built on restriction. He would know that dieting, restricting, whatever you want to call it, ultimately makes people fatter, not thinner. He would show more sensitivity to the link between dieting (or restricting, etc.) and eating disorders. And I hope he would not so blithely recommend gastric "interventions," as he writes a few paragraphs farther down, which not only are often unsuccessful but which carry relatively high risks of death, infection, malnutrition, blood clots, and other consequences.

He writes rather plaintively, toward the end of his editorial, "A lot of obese people got really angry at me for hurting their feelings. But I don't really care that much, as long as we did get some people to adjust their eating and drinking behavior. STOP EATING and DRINKING EXCESSIVELY and STAY HEALTHY."

Tell me, Dr. Lundberg, what is "excessively"? To me it sounds like you think three meals a day is excessive. You think any amount of dessert is excessive. You think any amount of fats or refined carbohydrates is excessive.

Whereas actually, I think you're the excessive one. Your rules, restrictions, and most of all your rigidity and, yes, rage--what do these remind me of? Oh, yes, I remember. They remind me of the rigidity, rules, and rage of an eating disorder. You know, a lot of people think there's nothing wrong with having a little eating disorder, as long as you're not fat.

Those of us who have seen or experienced an eating disorder up close feel rather differently about that, of course. And I'll tell you what I think, Dr. Lundberg: I think you should confine your judgmentalism to yourself. You are free to eat and drink (or not eat and not drink) to your heart's content. You are free to manipulate your weight as much as you want.

And you're free to say whatever you want, of course, just as I am. But I hope to God, Dr. Lundberg, that you might educate yourself a little more before you spout off next time about obesity. I hope you'll talk to some people who know a little more than you about eating disorders and metabolism and all that complicated science-y stuff. I hope you'll talk to some families with children with eating disorders, and listen to them say their daughters and sons developed those eating disorders after middle school wellness classes that scared the crap out of them around being fat.

Until then, I hope you're not a practicing doctor anymore. I would hate to think of anyone I care about experiencing your judgmentalism, rigidity, and rage.

17 comments:

Eating Alone said...

Just read an artical about surgery in teens and that lap band thing http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100726/us_nm/us_obesity_teenagers_surgery These doctors are going to kill us all.

Having been a yo-yo dieter for years it just doest work. You will almost always put on more than you lost. Working with my therapist is hard but worth it and I'm stabalizing my weight. Also eating 5 times a day like the RD tells me.

This doc is joke.

Lori said...

I think we often see this tautology around "overeating": How can you tell if you're eating too much? Are you still fat? Well, then it's too much. If you're fat on 2000 calories a day, that's too much; if you're fat on 1200 calories a day, that's too much. If you're fat and eating three meals a day, you must only need two; if you're eating two meals a day and still fat, you must only need one. However much or little you are eating, as long as you are fat, it must be too much. "Being fat" and "overeating" are seen as exactly the same thing.

It certainly doesn't take into account either human diversity or the way human metabolism works.

Harriet said...

Exactly, Lori. And being fat is seen as the same as being stupid, smelly, ugly . . . fill in the (negative) blank.

Kate said...

This doctor makes me so sad. He's a scientist, how can he think not eating is the right course of action?

Harriet said...

Well put. It is really, really sad.

Erin said...

The thing that makes me so entirely irate about attitudes like his, which are so depressingly common as to become actually *standard*, is that as was mentioned above, whatever you're doing to comply as long as you're still fat you need to do more.

And when "everything fails" well then you're either defective and diseased, or you are deemed unworthy of basic human dignity like you know, getting to keep your internal organs intact and unmolested by plastic bands and whatever other "interventions" they come up with.

Even if being fat was as bad as everyone thinks it is, if I have a right to have my face hacked apart by a surgeon or bags of silicon implanted in my chest or to jump out of an airplane, shouldn't I also have the right to be fat even if someone else thinks it is dangerous or stupid or vain or whatever?

Jessika said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am really sick of these MD's pushing their prejiduces on the public and especially their patients. I happen to be a "real" scientist and I find much of the content of medical journals to be hype--simple correlations, not causations! And don't get me started on the misuse of statistics. Ugghhh.

I doubled in chemistry and physics as and undergrad and thus encountered many premeds. Some of them (certainly not all or even a majority) were the most arrogant, self-absorbed whiners I ever met. Sorry if that generalization offends anyone in the medical profession, but I am mad that these folks get all the press for "epidemiological" studies, while the chemists, physicists, and biologists who do the carefully controlled studies don't paid attention to by the media.

IrishUp said...

Dear Dr. Lundberg:

STOP WRITING.
Stop writing nonsense; stop making ill-informed generalizations; stop making sweeping statements that might not be medically safe; stop making recommendations that are not supported by what little good data we have; stop confusing correlation with causation, stop conflating weight with health, and stop shaming people.

And while you're at it, STOP PRACTICING MEDICINE, in real life and on line.

Love,
IrishUp

Harriet said...

Hee hee! I am cackling (that's the word for it) with glee.

Well put, IrishUp!

Danielle said...

This is no different than the proclamations that African American men were unable to control themselves and lived no better than animals- if left to their own devices would rape and pillage.

Or the one where homosexuals are predators of the young and are unfit to be parents (when the majority of sex crimes against children are perpetrated by heterosexual men).

Or the one where obese people need to do more "PUSHBACKS" (you know, push back from the dinner table before they eat too much), and stop stuffing their faces and laying around on their couches.

There is a bit of dread inside me that obesity is will continue to be an acceptable bias, and no one will simply open up an issue of JAMA and actually read the studies being published- they are exactly opposite of what is being cited by medical professionals, media, and organizations like the CDC. So if the proof is there, but it is okay to ignore???

It makes me so angry because as a fat person with eating disorders... I just need to stop eating/drinking all of the BAD stuff. That is the solution la-dee-da, simple as pie (but don't eat any). So simple! Why didn't my therapist tell me that! In fact.. why didn't I think/try that!?

Kelle said...

I have come to the conclusion that at least 90% of doctors should not be commenting on weight loss and nutrition. Even the most pro-weightloss dieticians or nutritionists (real, qualified ones, not con artists like Gillian McKeith) I've ever seen are nothing like this, as 4 years of studying human nutrition science tends to disabuse one of the notion that you can just "stop eating".

Sleepydumpling said...

It's stuff like this (Dr Lundberg's waffle) that makes me so angry and in some ways depressed.

What it says to me is that Dr Lundberg's solution to obesity is death. Don't eat, don't drink, don't live. He's so full of loathing for fat people that he just wants them to stop existing.

Sigh.

Harriet said...

I think to toms extent this attitude reflects the frustration of the medical community, which doesn't typically respond well to conditions it can't treat. If you were convinced that condition A was awful and dangerous for your patients, yet you couldn't really do anything about it, you might feel frustrated.

We need psychoeducation here. :)

nutrprofe said...

George Lundberg was the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine for many years, and helped to shape the progress of medicine and especially the coverage of medicine in the media, because NEJM is the main source of press releases on articles that end up in the Associated Press and elsewhere. He was the editor when a number of exaggerated and manipulated reports appeared that exaggerated the health threat of obesity, particularly the Nurses' Health Study and other studies that came out of the Harvard Dept. of Public Health.

Harriet said...

That might explain why to this day it's incredibly difficult to get an article into the NEJM on the subject of eating disorders. Perhaps Dr. Lundberg is so obsessed with obesity, he can't see beyond it.

Anonymous said...

This doctor is so wrong about everything! He makes me so angry and I just want to grab him by the shoulders and give him a good shake! He needs to wake up from this insanity. He doesn't know a thing about EDs which makes me so angry considering that I have one!! He needs a wake up call and he needs it now!