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Obesity: ‘Fat Chance’ or Failure of Sincerity?

Kenneth W. Krause is a contributing editor and “Science Watch” columnist for the Skeptical Inquirer and The Doting Skeptic at http://thedotingskeptic.wordpress.com. He may be contacted at krausekc@msn.com.

Man is condemned to be free.

Beginning about five years ago, the chronically overweight and obese were offered a new paradigm, one more consistent with their majority’s shared experiences in the twenty-first century. Emerging science from diverse fields, certain experts argued, complicated—perhaps even contradicted—the established view that weight maintenance was a straightforward, if not simple, matter of volitional control and balancing energy intake against energy expenditure.

As a host of potential complexities materialized, the frustrated members of this still-expanding demographic were notified that, contrary to conventional wisdom, they had little or no control over their conditions. The popular literature in particular began to hammer two captivating messages deeply into the public consciousness. First, from within, the overweight and obese have been overwhelmed by their genomes, epigenomes, hormones, brains, and gut microbiomes to name just a few. Second, from without, their otherwise well-calculated and ample efforts have been undermined, for example, by the popular media, Big Food, government subsidies, poverty, and the relentless and unhealthy demands of contemporary life.

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