Overcoming Pain

Why people experience chronic pain, and the power they have to de-intensify it

The Denial Diet

I await the e-Twinkie.

A recent blog on the health risks of being overweight triggered a few responses that might have been either from the so-called fat-acceptance advocates, or their distant cousins and current place-holders in the amen corner: those who deny that being overweight leads to medical problems that directly affect those who are overweight.

Suddenly, we as a society are being seduced into dividing up unhealthy behavior, or unhealthy states of being, into things that are either “cool” or “confident,” or “gross.” It appears that it is still cool to get stoned, as is evident by all the comedies that seem to celebrate the state of inebriation-- despite the public health disaster associated with such activities (for example, every day in America, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, 28 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes). And I have read many testimonials in the blogosphere, stating that wearing a size 14 means confidence. However, tobacco smokers don’t have it so easy: We are bombarded with commercials discussing ingredients cigarettes have in common with “cat pee” and “dog poop;” or we may see a horribly disfigured women smoking through her tracheostomy tube.

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Perhaps the overweight problem affects so many of us that we just assume it is a part of us—and, therefore, normal. Studies have shown that many parents are in denial about their children being obese, which can of course act as a barrier to losing weight. Thirty percent of children are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of serious health problems such as diabetes and heart disease and arthritis, according to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the United Kingdom, in guidance issued this past autumn. Further, this health watchdog group emphasizes the importance of all members of the family of overweight and obese children admitting that there is a problem here. Many overweight and obese children come from families with a history of failed attempts to manage their weight. Denying is much easier than dealing with the daily reality of failure.

The results of a survey commissioned by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta were presented last year. Researchers surveyed over 1,000 families with children younger than 12 years of age. Over 40% of these families had children considered obese or overweight. Interestingly, 76% of the parents in those families admitted that their children were normal weight or underweight. It would appear that parents have more difficulty in talking to their children about double cheeseburgers and double chins than they do about pot-smoking and sex.

If a person does not think there is a problem, it almost certainly will follow that there will be no thinking as to how to eliminate the problem. At least there has been some activity in the media over the last few months, which, while not a clarion call, may serve as a wake-up call to individuals—confused or in denial—about the overweight and obesity issues that may affect them or their loved ones.

I discussed earlier this month the myth of benign obesity, put to rest by researchers.

More recently has been the renewed debate as to whether the toy industry should make a plus-size Barbie doll.

According to UPI, a Facebook page for Plus Size Modeling is up and running, featuring a photo of a Barbie doll with fuller proportions and a triple chin, asking the public whether toy makers should begin to manufacture and sell plus-size Barbies. As of this past Saturday, more than 40,000 readers had apparently agreed with the idea of an overweight Barbie doll. However, many others have been outraged by the idea of a mass-marketed full-figured doll, concluding that it promotes unhealthiness, and not reality.

The reality is that being overweight should not be considered a normal state of affairs. It is associated with chronic pain. It is associated with early death. It should not be society’s new reality.

Stephen Dorff and Jenny McCarthy are trying to make smoking sexy again, e-cigarettes dangling from their lips. Researchers are trying to determine the safety of these new products, or whether the use of e-cigarettes could lead younger individuals to move on to other tobacco products. Still, on the face of it, these seem safer than regular cigarettes.

I await the e-Twinkie.

Mark Borigini, M.D., is a board-certified rheumatologist who has devoted his career to treating illnesses that cause chronic pain and disability.

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