by Liz Colville

There’s an emerging theory that America’s obesity epidemic is being coddled, and at the same time pushed aside, by science, which keeps finding new and sometimes strange things on which to blame said epidemic. One man, a doctor named David Gratzer, calls it “McVictimization.” Example: Hey, it’s McDonald’s fault. No, it’s this one gene’s fault. It’s TV’s fault. It’s the depressing invention of the gym’s fault. It’s cake’s fault. Guess what: it’s actually your fault!

One of the more recent scapegoats, Gratzer says, is pollution: a recent Ohio study “suggests ‘fine-particulate air pollution’ could be causing a rise in obesity rates,” he writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. It probably is. All of this stuff probably is, but it’s tempting to want to find the thing, and just keep eating until it is found — in our bellies, where all the food is. Because the culprit is just our mouths, Gratzer says: we’re eating too much, plain and simple. Oh, and we’re also eating the wrong things.

Cynics, daunted by the medical costs of looking after obese Americans, suggest that the focus needs to shift from care to prevention: forget about the people who are already overweight or obese; we need to spend most of our attention on young people — on healthier school lunches and exercise programs. But really, we need to do all of it. We need to protect young people and do things like end agribusiness subsidies and provide more money for preventative healthcare. Gratzer is sort of into this idea, but he also just thinks that you’re being stubborn. Plus, “our society makes healthful choices tougher,” he says. But hello, the government’s choices also make our choices tougher.

Gratzer says there seems to be a fear of holding people responsible to the food they put in their mouths. Obviously, it’s a sensitive issue. But he says, “It’s absurd to pretend that Americans are helpless” to improve their diets, “or that it’s too late for them to reap the benefits.” His tactic, clearly, is tough love, because he ends his piece by saying:

…governments can’t micromanage your waistline for you. Even if governments could magically walk you to work, ban food advertising, regulate sugar out of food and suck those fat particles out of the air, in a free society you would still have the power to drive to the nearest restaurant, shake your salt shaker and order a second piece of pie.

This is somewhat of an acceptable thing to say to educated people if they refuse to face facts, but not if fast food and related crap remains cheaper than vegetables. And how about the millions of people whose children may possibly be learning about the benefits of gardening — they had to give the kids something to do while they were sitting around going “Awww” because their PE class had just been cut indefinitely — but who themselves are not? Policy is more important than Mr. McVictim says it is, because policy helps dictate what gets put on our tables and how much it costs. Telling people they’re doing something wrong isn’t the same as telling them how to do it right, i.e., props to Michelle Obama for holding up a zucchini and going “This!” But could you also help us all figure out what to do with it, and on the cheap?

Photo via This Is Why You’re Fat