Greg Critser Critique

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MODEL CRITIQUE* Critique of Greg Critser’s “Too Much of a Good Thing” Citing statistics on the alarming increase in the rates of childhood obesity, especially in the industrialized West, Greg Critser (L.A. Times Op-Ed, 22 July 2001) argues that parents can help avert obesity in their own homes by more closely supervising the diets of their children, serving reasonably sized portions, and limiting snacks. Critser, who has extensively researched obesity in his book Fat Land: How Americans Become the Fattest People in the World (Houghton Mifflin 2003), argues that through education we can create a leaner cultural norm, much as the French did earlier in the century when faced with a similar problem. The stakes for maintaining a healthy body weight…show more content…
For many people, solutions to weight gain will be found both in new dietary behaviors and in medicines that come from labs where researchers study how the body burns and stores fat. To the extent that obesity is the result of a child’s inability to say “no” to a supersized meal, we should teach restraint just as Critser advises. But his behavioral fix will not work for everyone, and parents should be instructed on what to do when teaching restraint, alone, fails to keep their children reasonably trim. A more serious problem with Critser’s argument 5 is his use (twice) of the word “gluttony” and the judgmental attitude it implies. Early in the essay Critser argues that American parents need “to promulgate . . . dietary restraint, something our ancestors knew simply as avoiding gluttony” (66). Gluttony was one of the seven deadly sins (along with pride, greed, envy, anger, lust, and sloth), which Christian theologians have been denouncing for nearly 1500 years (University) to little effect. While Critser insists that “no one should be stigmatized for being overweight,” he advocates “stigmatizing the unhealthful behaviors that cause obesity” (66), assuming that people distinguish between the sin and the sinner. In practice, people rarely do. Critser does little to distance himself from anti-fat bias after introducing the bias-heavy term “gluttony” into the essay--which is a mistake: the overweight and obese have a hard enough time losing weight. They should not have to suffer the judgments of those who suggest “that thinness signals self-discipline and self-respect, whereas fatness signals self-contempt and lack of resolve” (Worley). Given a proposal that is otherwise so sensible, 6 Critser doesn’t need to complicate matters by inviting moral judgments. He is at his most convincing when he makes a straightforward recommendation to change the behavior of children based on sound scientific research. Effective dietary strategies
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