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South Carolina’s ‘Eat Smart Move More’ Anti-Obesity Campaign Offers No New Solutions To The Problem

Posted Jun 16 2009 6:52pm

‘Eat Smart, Move More SC’ a nice idea but won’t work for fighting obesity

As obesity rates and associated healthcare costs have risen dramatically over the past decade or two, state governments have begun implementing their own strategies for dealing with this problem in ways that they think will be meaningful and effective. In my home state of South Carolina, where obesity has more than doubled since 1990, the governor has declared June Obesity Awareness Month and has set out to educate the public on obesity prevention through a new campaign called Eat Smart Move More SC . Rah rah rah, yeaaaaaaaah! Don’t we all just feel better now?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think serious efforts to combat obesity are certainly worth pursuing, but only if they are effective at bringing about the necessary changes in nutritional behavior it takes to bring the problem under control. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has a motto to “promote and protect the health of the public” and they are doing what they see fit to do that according to Erika Kirby, director of DHEC’s Division of Obesity Prevention and Control.

“Obesity is a complex condition, influenced by behavioral, environmental and biological factors, that increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some forms of cancer, and other chronic diseases,” Kirby said in a statement.

I think the complexity of obesity is overstated as Good Calories, Bad Calories author Gary Taubes has said so often in his lectures about nutrition in America. As he brilliantly outlines in his 2007 book, carbohydrate consumption is the direct link to all of those conditions named by Kirby and more. Until we can acknowledge the need for at least a lower-carb if not a full-fledged low-carb lifestyle change, then obesity and obesity-related diseases will continue to become more and more prevalent until we reach some sort of breaking point (in fact, we may be at that point now).

Back in 2005 just weeks after I started my “Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb” blog, I wrote a post about the “Healthy South Carolina Initiative” that Gov. Mark Sanford and his wife Jenny were promoting at the time to lift our state out of the gutter in obesity rates. But I questioned the strategy back then because it looked like they were pushing a high-carb, low-fat diet approach that I knew from personal experience would be ineffective for people like me in South Carolina dealing with a severe weight problem. Tackling obesity did NOT need another low-fat initiative while low-carb was all but ignored! Although they opened up their challenge to the public, little credence was given to livin’ la vida low-carb. I did get a chance to meet the First Lady Jenny Sanford at the governor’s mansion at the time, though, and handed her a copy of my book about my weight loss experience.

Kirby and her team here in South Carolina are now promoting a resource four years later called “Options For Action” to implement their ingenious plan for dealing with the out-of-control obesity epidemic in one of the fattest states in America. She says this tool will “provide guidance to communities as they become more supportive of healthful nutrition and physical activity.” Hmmmm, I wonder what “healthful nutrition” is code for? Let’s see for ourselves.

According to the “Eat Smart Move More SC” web site, the 7-point Strategic Plan for dealing with obesity includes the following:

1) Collaborate with state level partners to encourage integration of the vision

2) Encourage and support collaborative efforts on the community level promoting healthy eating and active living

3) Develop and maintain an engaged, and diverse partnership to promote healthy eating and active living

4) Promote and support the use of evidence-based and promising practices to implement the South Carolina Obesity State Plan

5) Generate public awareness of the Eat Smart, Move More SC brand and message

6) Identify and secure resources to promote healthy eating and active living

7) Advocate for local and statewide legislation, policy and funding to support healthy eating and active living

Is it just me or do all of those things sound so generic? I mean, come on! Using phrases like “integration of the vision,” “support collaborative efforts,” “generate public awareness,” and “support healthy healthy eating and active living” could not be any more vanilla if they tried. How about coming up with seven very practical means for strategizing against the obesity problem? Try these on for size:

1) Collaborate with individuals and businesses demonstrating weight loss success to encourage real life solutions to the obesity problem

2) Encourage and support collaborative efforts with individuals who have experienced weight loss success to help promote a variety of healthy eating and active living options for residents to choose from

3) Develop and maintain a good relationship with successful weight loss partners to promote a customized healthy eating and active living plan for the individual

4) Promote and support the use of evidence-based research from a broad spectrum of the scientific and medical journals as well as proven and effective nutritional practices to implement the obesity-lowering initiative goal

5) Generate public awareness of the Eat Smart, Move More SC brand and message by remaining open to a wide variety of nutritional and physical activity programs for bringing about weight and health improvements

6) Identify and secure resources from many different sources to promote healthy eating and active living regardless of what a person’s dietary and activity choices happen to be

7) Advocate for local and statewide legislation, policy and funding to support all forms of healthy eating and active living principles that have been shown to be effective and helpful for the citizens of the state of South Carolina

These may not sound radically different from the original, but they really are. Because without a certain amount of specificity, the original strategies can be interpreted in the eyes of the beholder to mean whatever they want. The whole “healthy eating and active living” just screams out to me EAT A LOW-FAT, LOW-CALORIE DIET and EXERCISE YOUR BUTT OFF! No thanks… been there, done that, made me fat!

And yet the South Carolina Obesity Prevention Plan calls for arbitrarily lowering portion sizes, eating more fruits and vegetables without explaining the difference between the good and the bad, and promoting the American Heart Association’s “Start! Eating Right” that includes counting calories, eating a “balanced” diet from all food groups, looking for foods with the “heart-check mark” on them (like those green SmartSpot logos on PepsiCo products), buy “healthy foods” (whatever that means!), and making sure to “cook heart healthy” which is defined as “low-fat” on the AHA web site. Let’s not forget the American Heart Association is directly responsible for this idiotic campaign against saturated fat.

So this “plan” for South Carolina to reverse obesity is offering no new solutions to the continuing epidemic that plagues our state. The whole idea of “Eat Smart Move More SC” is a good start, but try opening up to more of the new research about carbohydrate restriction that continues to pour out of the scientific community, including for diabetes, hyperinsulinemia, preventing fat storage, lowering saturated fat in the blood, avoiding Crohn’s disease …on and on I could go! When you look at the evidence and tie it together with real stories of changed lives as a result of livin’ la vida low-carb, then how can you continue to ignore it? You can’t, you shouldn’t, you mustn’t!

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