Is it worth fighting the Battle of the Pudge?
It's a question you should examine as you listen to the national conversations on questions of diet.
Some people would have you surrender. Many of them profit when you do.
In fact, their apologies and rationalizations are close kin to the idea that being overweight or obese is impossible to avoid. It is what it is, right?
It was interesting to hear Paula Deen's responses to critics who challenged her - the diva of high-calorie cooking - for waiting three years to disclose her diabetes. Would this diagnosis motivate her to change her eating habits?
Not really. She told news outlets that she'd cut back a bit.
But mostly she'd deal with high blood sugar by taking a medication - one that she was being paid to promote.
She also served up some common platitudes that pose as advice but support the status quo. For example:
Just what exactly does that mean? Nothing helpful. It's generally a meaningless term, especially in relation to high-fat, high-calorie meals.
Start from a point of dietary extremes, with radical amounts of junky ingredients and pitifully scant bits of good, and moderate changes hardly make a dent.
You are individually responsible for what you eat.
Of course, you are, but it's disingenuous at best to be all about pushing fattening foods and then to redirect the blame to someone else. If you encourage people to do things that harm health, you're part of the problem.
Rich, fatty foods are for once in a while.
It's a riff on the idea of moderation. Consistency counts, and meals such as Deen's are consistently fattening.
If you make it a habit to include bad-for-you foods in your repertoire, you are likely to eat them often enough to undermine your good intentions.
Drug vs. diet
It doesn't have to be that way. Overweight and obesity are terrible, pervasive public health problems, but they and the diseases they cause are not inevitable.
And that brings me to the scariest refrain of all: the idea that a drug is the answer to a disease or condition that at its core is largely caused by diet.
No drug can match the power of a health-supporting diet for preventing and even reversing some chronic, degenerative diseases such as diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Faced with having to make hard choices about long-held dietary preferences, some people refuse to change their ways. Others attempt it and find incorporating the changes to be a difficult struggle.
My husband tells the story of his Norwegian-American grandmother, who struggled with diabetes.
"Gudi," her doctor said, "you have to stop eating desserts or you're going to die."
"I'd rather die," she told him. And she did.
Diabetes can be prevented, and it can be reversed. However, there are powerful influences in our culture that undermine our efforts to find and follow health-sustaining lifestyles.
It can be done. Consider another prominent Southerner, Bill Clinton. He was told: Change your diet to win back your health.
He did. He's lost weight and reports feeling great and that he enjoys his new lifestyle.
So can you. Work to disprove the people who tell you otherwise.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a licensed, registered dietitian. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.