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join the discussion: What will it take to improve America's diet and halt the obesity epidemic?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,

I think the show you posted was great! It inspired me to care about my weight more. I was suprised at what diets actually do. your show inspired me to eat right and exersize more. I never thought that my weight mattered so much.

Now I have a podometer and am taking up to 8,000 steps a day.

Sami Shedenhelm
Colfax, Iowa

Dear FRONTLINE,

The program was interesting but seems to leave out the push during the Kennedy years to get people fit. During that time gym classes were pursued in schools and there was constant push to get people to diet and exercise. All kinds of exercise plans and books were published and jogging was pushed as a good exercise. The implication that people were not fat before is an over simplification of the fact that people come in all sizes and have for a long time.

The program made good points about food and eating but it seems

we are at the same place as in the 60's doing something about it. ...

Pat Fox
Fairbanks, Alaska

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,

I thought this was a great program! One of the best I have seen in a while. I am a registered dietitian and diabetes educator and struggle with this very issue on a daily basis. Your conclusion couldn't have been more right; moderation, exercise and balance will never sell any books, but it is what works over the long hall. I feel strongly that when we stop eliminating food groups altogether (eat a french fry once a month), take a look at what truely drives us to eat (the underlying emotions etc.), get moving and start listening to our hunger/fullness, we will stop the weight gain trend and maybe start slowly (yes I said slowly) shed some pounds. Thank you PBS for quality programming.

Amy Urbanus, RD, CDE

Anchorage, AK

Amy Urbanus
Anchorage, Alaska

Dear FRONTLINE,

How convenient you've totally ignored the entire fat acceptance/health at any size movement, and the many, many professionals working to expose the lie of the "obesity epidemic". (Lowering the standards for "obesity" three times in a decade is a great way to create a fake "crisis", especially when there's money to be made.

Fat people who exercise have exactly the same life expectancy as active thinner people, and far greater than that of sedentary thinner people.

There is no way to make fat people thin without simultaneously killing them. There is no successful, permanent form of "weight loss" that does not result in premature death. None.

There is no health-related justification for trying to make fat people into thin people.

Dieters die before anyone, no matter what their weight.

Some research, guys. None of these facts showed up in your "report".

Kell Brigan
Sacramento, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was extremelly pleased with your report. I can see myself going to smaller portions, more fruits, vegastables and,physical exercise.I know it will make me feel good, look good and be healthier.

I was also horrified to learn that we comsumed 1600 pounds of food per year, per person. I can't image seen a room in my house with all this food ready to be eaten by one person.This behavior must stop or we are goign to kill ourvelses by overeating.

Fabiola Friot
Buffalo, New York

Dear FRONTLINE,

Great report on obesity and dieting, however you failed to address the poverty equation and its involvement in the obesity epidemic.

Healthy foods cost more! For people sith low incomes refined carbohydrates are all they can afford. Fresh vegetables and complex carbohydrates along with good protein sources such as fish, good olive oil and soybeans not only are more expensive they take more time to prepare - something working parents have little of.

After a divorce which left me with no child support and a hungry teenage son to feed, I found myself relying on the foods that trigger over-eating, but are less expensive, just to survive.

Jada Howe
Norman, Oklahoma

Dear FRONTLINE,

I did not hear anything in this report about high fructose corn syrup which seems to be a major ingredient in practically all processed foods. Perhaps a discussion of this complicated issue is in order.

New York, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thanks for a great program.

My only complaint is that the idea that peoples' bodies and constitutions may be different, and therefore be healthier on certain kinds of foods than others, was never addressed. Ancient Indian and Chinese health systems identified very different body types and recommended very different foods for each. One persons food could be another's poison. Health was maintained by eating the proper food for your type.

Diet Wars assumes that the task is to find the one perfect diet for everyone, which acccording to the ancients is not only impossible but unhealthy. If you want to avoid disease, and reach and maintain a healthy weight, try Indian ayurveda or Chinese traditional medicine. Figure out your type and eat accordingly.

Madonna Gauding
Dexter, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,

Some of the information was very good. But really, do you think parading that cadaver-in-a-suit from Pritikin would inspire anyone?

He was absolutely horrifying and obviously either anorexic or suffering some other obsessive behavior to have starved himself to such an extreme. Truly not the image or the message you should have put forth - anorexia is a huge problem in the USA, and he could be the poster boy.

Denver, CO

Dear FRONTLINE,

Diet Wars is a great program. Feeding two birds with one seed, Mr. Talbot is getting healther by walking with a "new puppy." He has found what has been proven scientifically that there are health benefits to owning a dog: they get you off the couch and out walking plus the human socialization from talking about dogs with others in your path is another benefit. There are lots of healthy dogs awaiting homes like Mr. Talbot's across America.

I too battle my weight. I'd like to add to the discussion that you can lose weight as a vegaterian eating soy products and some dairy on the Atkins plan. I have found that the low-carb diets do provide me with the feeling of well-being not starved.

Keep up the good work!

Gwen Gerber
Beaufort, SC

Dear FRONTLINE,

The phrase "eating fat makes you fat" would have garnered agreement from most people in the 90's and earlier. I wondered why, and came-up with one possibility: calorie density. I think nutritionalists and others thought that because fat has a lot more calories per unit of weight, then eating fat, with it's "extra" calories would make you gain weight.

They left out a very important factor, and that's about how our body tells us to stop eating. The signal to stop eating is based on chemical signals to the brain, not just the weight of the food ingested.

Dale Seng
Charlotte, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

Watching this episode of Frontline left me feeling a little empty. Most Frontline documentaries are hard-hitting and insightful. Diet Wars was soft and full of common sense. Where were the tough questions? Why not look into the controversy over Dr. Atkin's death a little more? Perhaps there is not much to dig into on this subject, but for those who already know a decent amount about nutrition, not much new was learned here.

Greg Weber
Iowa City, IA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoyed this show and found its message of moderation and simple exercise to be encouraging. However, I believe a significant question was touched on only briefly. Namely: Why do people choose to overeat? While the food industry bombards us with advertising and foods designed to capture our imagination, many people, including myself, eat when we are not hungry to satisfy an emotional hunger. For, when I can get my arms wrapped around the "why I eat", I can manage the "what I eat."

Steven Garlotti
St Louis, MO

Dear FRONTLINE,

Although I was happy to watch the Diet Wars program by Steve Talbot, I was quite unhappy with the information shared about the Pritikin Plan.

I am a 28 year-old Physical Education and Health teacher, and have been privileged to spend time at the Pritikin Longetivy Resort. Your show presented a very shallow view of Pritikin's eating plan, and mentioned exercise only once (which made it sound like a punishing and brutal routine). It should now be common sense to Americans that lowering calorie intake and increasing exercise will result in weight loss. You mentioned that the meals at Pritikin were small, but what you did not mention was that you eat a minimum of five times per day, and are never hungry.

The diet consists of eating many high fiber foods, which fills you up faster and for a longer period of time. High fiber foods have a high satiety, making you less hungry after eating smaller amounts of food. You also never mentioned sodium intake during the entire show. Americans eat between 4,000 and 6,000 mg of sodium per day, and the Pritikin Plan recommends 1,500 (ironically what the government now recommends). Americans have a hypertension problem, caused by our lack of a disciplined diet.

The last thing that you failed to mention was the reason for the yo-yo effect of most diets. Building muscle helps to keep the body's "furnace running longer", which raises metabolism, and helps to maintain a healthy body. Studies have shown that building muscle while reducing calories is the best and most effective weight-loss program.

Enough with "Atkins" and "South Beach" diets; eat more high fiber foods, lower your sodium, reduce the refined carbs, and make time for a cardio-vascular and strength training routine.

scott wagner
falls church, va

Dear FRONTLINE,

Congratulations on another excellent film. You consistently do impeccable work. I truly enjoy FRONTLINE. Thank you.

I think the story would have benefited from the inclusion of a thorough interrogation of the various physiological models of weight regulation. For example, the inclusion of schematic diagrams depicting the body's physiological responses to high modified starch diets and a low carb diets would have been constructive. I grasp that the style of this piece was deliberately not NOVAish documentary. Detailing the physiology of weight regulation however is central to the question of a diet's success and mechanism. Omission of a complete accounting of physiology questions the sincerity of project's aim to identify fact from speculation: it's in the details.

Like Taubes and some of the other viewers, I think hormonal regulation in specific is a crucial and absent component of the current debate about diet. Insulin and glucagon regulate fat storage and utilization. Understanding the factors that drive insulin and glucagon levels and harnessing that knowledge is likely key to intentionally generating successful strategies for the net reduction of stored fat (i.e., weight loss) and the interpretation of successful diets.

Iain DeWitt
Brookline, Massachusetts

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was impressed with Diet Wars program. I myself being a very obese late baby boomer(47ish),am now faced with my own mortality. Diagnosed with high blood pressure just before the new year. Reality struck two weeks later when my younger brother of 42 suddenly died from a massive heart attack.

I have found it hard to decide which diet program I really want to work at. With hearing so many conflicting reports I really didn't know what did more harm than good. After seeing your program it just fortified my opinion that moderation and movement are the key to the whole ordeal.

Cheryl Mangold
Millington, MI

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posted april 8, 2004

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