The Huckabee Diet: A Flawed Model of Health Advocacy




Law_Politics.jpgMike Huckabee, ex-Governor of Arkansas, might not be a Universal Healthcare advocate, but his stance on tackling the obesity epidemic might need closer scrutiny than many of the professional nutrition programs out there. Beyond the rhetoric of his advocacy of a slimmer America, there is one important truth – current healthcare insurance systems indirectly reward ‘obesity’ through payouts rather than personal initiatives to stay fit. As the Governor of Arkansas he led the battle against obesity for the state at a political level, calling for changes in insurance legislation.

His well-publicized battle against film-maker Michael Moore, unfortunately, is pitched at a more personal level after the release of Sicko in 2007:

“Frankly, Michael Moore is an example of why the healthcare system costs so much in this country. He is clearly one of the reasons why we have a very expensive system. I know that from my own personal experience.”

After being diagnosed with diabetes, Huckabee lost more than 110 pounds and took up running avidly, and assumed moral legitimacy for being an advocate against obesity. In his 2005 book Quit Digging your Grave with a Knife and Fork, he calls for a twelve-pronged attack on some of our unhealthy habits and lifestyle choices: “making excuses”, “sitting on the couch”, “ignoring signals from the body”, “listening to destructive criticism”, “whining”, “expecting immediate success”, “making exceptions”, “storing provisions for failure”, “fueling with contaminated food”, “allowing food to be a reward” and “neglecting your spiritual health”. Sadly there is nothing revolutionary here – most weight loss experts insist upon a behavioral approach to tackle the epidemic, but Huckabee puts the blame squarely on the individual. “If you are fat, you are guzzling resources and its completely your fault”, seems to be his message,”If I can lose weight, so can you”.

But Huckabee’s solution and dieting plan is simplistic considering the overtly complex roots of obesity – a true modern epidemic. Coming from a politician, and not a personal dietitian, we would have expected that he would have called for state-sponsored nutritional re-education and public health preventional intervention. Instead his call for a social justice – “the thin should not pay for the fat”, is unlikely to solve the problem in a society that massively overproduces and merchandises food way beyond its own nutritional requirements. Particularly, when he himself, once upon a time was guilty of the same blame that he accuses others with.

Sudip Ghosh, MD

Sudip Ghosh, MD, is a surgeon at the University of Manchester, UK and a medical writer.
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