American Obesity and the Health Halo Syndrome

Although I am prone to overweight, mine has remained relatively stable throughout my adult life, something I attribute to moderation, and the belief that there are no bad foods, only badly managed foods. Years ago, I made a conscious decision to embrace those philosophies, eat whatever makes me happy, and carry an extra 10 pounds, rather than be subject to food nazism.

That's probably why I found the NYT article Health Halo Can Hide the Calories really interesting.

I've observed this syndrome firsthand for a very long time. My own family has many weight-battlers, some of whom are morbidly obese. And I've watched those of them who are most obsessed with food *evils* pack on the most pounds over the years. When I say obsessed, I mean extreme fixation bordering on paranoia.

But there's a disconnect. They think I have terrible eating habits (you use REAL butter?!), and hint at how unhealthy my diet is (you eat fried food more than twice a year?!), and chide me for ordering a grilled filet mignon and steamed veggies, while they are "being good" and ordered "just" a salad (cobb, extra dressing).

I've learned that when I visit them it's critical to request a "very small portion" at dinner, because even though the plate I'm served holds only half as much food as theirs, it still holds more than I normally eat in an entire day (literally). And before I've finished even half that "small" plate of food, they're already going back for seconds! It boggles the mind. I want to scream, "Just because it's BROWN rice doesn't mean you should eat two double-size servings!"

So what do you think of this "health halo" syndrom? Have you observed it in others? Caught yourself falling into the trap? Is this the real source of our weight problems?


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