A new study, called “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012” predicts that at least half of Americans in 39 states will be obese—about 30 pounds overweight—by 2030. This will fuel millions more cases of diabetes, heart disease and stroke and could bring our already overburdened health care system to its knees. Estimates are that caring for the medical consequences of obesity will run between $147 billion and $210 billion a year.
But our problem is not just that fast food tastes good or that sodas come in big cups. Our problem is that Americans are addicted to many, many drugs—and food is one of the most available drugs around. It’s a big way (pun intended) that people avoid confronting emotional pain they need to confront. Rolls of fat bury the realities of life—literally. Lipid molecules, after all, can actually exert an antidepressant effect on synaptic transmission in the central nervous system, not unlike Prozac.
F may be for Fat, but our real trouble is D, for Denial. Americans are flocking to anything that will help them deny the fact that we face enemies around the world, intent on our destruction, that our economy is at the edge of a cliff and that our own president has contempt for our true national character (which puts us in quite a bit of peril).
Some of the drugs we are using, in addition to fatty foods and sodas and candy, are called “entitlements”—ways of the government feeding people money and telling them they need not work, in order to make them feel better about the fact that the government has actually let them down by throttling free enterprise, for which we can substitute free will and autonomy (those pesky things that make people really anxious and depressed when left to wither from disuse).
People eat to bury their feelings when they are being made to feel powerless—like pudgy babies.
And people don’t just eat, they also smoke dope (and pop the opiate pain killers oxycodone and Oxycontin, in quantities never known before), which seems to be another menu item the government is all too ready to serve up to folks, by decriminalizing marijuana.
It might be that marijuana isn’t the scourge of the earth, and that jailing people for using it is rather foolish, but it does seem interesting that at a time when independence and self-reliance is not prized by many of our elected officials that more and more young people are getting obliterated on pot every single day and states like California have more than 1,000 dispensaries for marijuana.
It’s also no accident that at a time when Americans are really, really big into Denial with a capital “D” that they have flocked to Facebook, creating versions of themselves in cyberspace that often bear almost no resemblance to their real trials and tribulations and which encourage them to call people their “friends” whom they barely know, if at all. And it’s no accident that the IPO of Facebook was a big hot air balloon pumped full of fiction, kinda like a big fat joint and a nice, long gulp of fizzy soda. And it’s no accident that the Federal Reserve has rolled out QE3—play money printed up like a publisher would print up paperbacks of a pulp fiction novel, to distract housewives whose lives have gone to hell. And it’s no accident that killing third trimester infants is candy-coated as folks having a “choice.”
Yup, our nation’s getting high, not just obese. Food is just one handy drug, among many. And all the while the Iranians, who generally seem pretty slim and aren’t known for drinking much, and don’t care a whole lot about Kim Kardashian or Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan, are building a nuclear bomb. And all the while the Egyptians, who don’t seem to have much interest in defending American interests, are coalescing around the Muslim Brotherhood.
Reality, in the end, will not be denied. God is funny that way. He keeps a good ledger. Ask anyone who has ever detoxed what it is like to pay back pain that has been buried and has accrued interest. Ask mothers who aborted their third-trimester infants whether they are haunted. Ask people who took 99 weeks of unemployment how easy it is to get back on their feet and get moving, again. And, yup, ask anyone trying to lose 30 pounds whether the weight comes off easy.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.