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

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am only a student at a Junior High School, but as a student I can verify that the few moments of viewing school food on the program was strikingly the same at my school. There is so much oil on the pizza, curly fries, and tater tots, and there is definitely not enough napkin to soak it all up. There is a possiblity of ordering salad and water, but really. A salad and water is not "cool." The food industry really has changed social attitude. ...

I was at first shocked at the fifty percent risk of children born in 2000 of getting diabetes, but when I look this over, I am not so suprised, especially since most go out to eat every night, and then eat highly sugared cereals for breakfast.

What are you doing to them?

What are you doing to US?

Katarina Makmuri
Fremont, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

What a refreshing piece of truth in the media. The views addressed in this Frontline episode are a relief from the superfluous amount of under supported literature that overwhelms the bookshelves and headlines of our most popular bookstores and newspapers. I only wish there could be as much advertisement for a safe and effective approach to promoting years of healthy living as there is for the countless pharmaceutical ads appearing throughout the major networks. Keep spreading the good news!

Matt Byers
Scottsdale, Arizona

Dear FRONTLINE,

Although I enjoyed your program, ultimately the conclusion came down to a no-brainer of "eat less, exercise more." If anything I think Americans have a self-discipline problem rather than a weight or a diet problem. What does it take to halt the obesity epidemic? Grow-up and take responsibility for your lives.

Dong Hahn
Irvine, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I think many of the conclusions reached on the program are accurate. One item not discussed, one I've wondered about over the years, is the idea that it is unhealthy to repeatedly gain and loose weight, yo-yo dieting, etc.

I was a fat kid, a slim young adult, and now an overweight 46 year old. I lost nearly 50 pounds 2 years ago. It has started creeping back on. So am I doing myself in if I go on a diet and loose it again? Do this repeatedly? For me diets are more about will power than lifestyle changes that aren't realistic for

"the rest of my life."

Does anyone know of any studies about the risks of repeatedly dieting?

Hal Hynds
Fresno, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for your exceptionally well done program, Diet Wars. You have done a great public service.

I hope you will continue with a second segment since there is so much more of the story to tell.

Insulin and its complex role would be a fascinating discussion. The Harvard researcher (Dr. Willett?) mentioned insulin, but no one really discussed its great potential to be the real villain in the diseases that increase with obesity. Actually, the benefits of controlling insulin levels by low-carb eating are not often promoted.

Low fat diet promoters imply that research has proven a definite relationship between diet cholesterol and blood cholesterol. I am not sure everyone agrees, however the government surely does. Interesting questions here.

The role of politics, government and big business in setting the food pyramid may offer revealing insight into American eating habits and your guest Marian Nestle is the authority.

You did a great job. There is just so much more to say. I look forward to hearing more on this topic from your most accomplished team.

Ardel Nelson
Naples, FL

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a Weight Watchers success story having lost 100 pounds. To get there, it must be a priority and having the mind set to overcome all the little temptations that surface. Unlike smoking and drinking, one must eat to survive and so though it is not an option to eat, what we consume is. There is no magic that enables anyone to lose weight, it takes hard work, dedication and self control. Those things that are important to us in life make it worth the pain, but the gain of our health and feeling better is so worth it.

Clayton, DE

Dear FRONTLINE,

"Diet wars" was very informative. It seems everyone I know has gone "carb" crazy. I concur with the conclusions of your program. A person has to watch what they eat. Try and avoid the bad fats and carbs. Eat plenty of white meats like fish and chicken. Have plenty of vegetables. Grains such as wheat bread or brown rice are beneficial. The trick is to reduce your fat intake while not overloading on the carb intake. I have read, the body burns the sugars and carbs first; then it burns the fat.

Once you have regulated your diet, which is not easy, incorporating moderate exercise is crucial.

I remember my grandfather, when we would sit down to dinner he ate vegetables and meats with bread or crackers. He grew up on a farm during the twenties. He was a mechanic for thirty years. With the combination of good eating habits he learned as a child and the strenuous work he did everyday, he had the body of someone in thier late twenties when he was in his late fifties, early sixties.

Common sense says, watch what you eat and get off the couch once in a while.

Montey Adkison
Houston, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

The most eye opening part of the program for me was seeing all the junk food being offered to children at school. I think the government needs to look at our schools and start there when it comes to solving our countries obesity issue. There is no reason for a child to have soda and chips offered to them in a school cafeteria. Items like these that have absolutely no nutritional value should never be sold in a public school.

spring hill, Kansas

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thanks for another excellent program and continued support of streaming of your programs on the net.

There are two ways to improve one's health and control obesity. 1. Exercise and 2. Eat Healthy. Try running eighty miles a week on a vegetarian diet, it works well. If your exercise for the day consists of walking from the office to the car and your diet is primarily fast food, I'm gonna bet you're overweight and in poor health.

Any other cure all, operation, diet program, or excuse is denial and laziness. At the end of the day an individual decides what physical activities they do and what goes in there mouth. If your unhealthy, it's your own fault.

Kevin Steiner
Braintree, Massachusetts

Dear FRONTLINE,

In your FAQAs you say that diets fail over the long term because "... people eventually tire of a diet low in fat or carbs and return to their old eating habits." I believe it is much more complex than that, and demonstrates how little science understands the problem.

I am 51 with a "morbidly obese" BMI. I have struggled with a weight problem for over 30 years. I have successfully lost weight several times in my life, once almost 90 lbs. Each time I was careful to supplement my diet with exercise. Each time I regained the weight I worked so hard to lose. And each time the more I lost, the more difficult it was for me to overcome powerful physical and psychological urgings to eat. They were so overpowering I believed being strapped to my bed was the only solution that would prevent me from eating. I believe these feelings and urgings are very primative, and seem to arrise inverse to the amount of weight lost.

I watched your program, and then thoroughly read through your web site. I learned nothing new, which is not so much an indictment of your progam as it is of how little the medical profession's understanding of weight gain has advanced. I am convinced that weight loss science is too heavily influenced by dogma and out-of-date science. With failure rates of 80 to 95 percent, clearly we do not yet have a workable understanding of the problem, let alone workable solutions.

I will to attempt to lose weight. Currently my focus is on exercise. Given my personal experience, however, I doubt I will be successful.

Covington, KY

Dear FRONTLINE,

I wanted to say that I enjoyed your report. It is a wake up call for all. Your presntation was fair and balanced. It is too easy for americans to dismiss a report with too much bias or by admonishing there lifestyle. The FDA and other government agencies have given information that has later turned out to be false or politically motivated. I hope your story gets into the schools and to the people who make decisions in the education process.

Thank you again for an entertaining and fact filled report.

Jonathan Pinard
Hauppauge, New York

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your broadcast was an answer to my prayers. Just this very day I was told by my doctor that I'm a borderline diabetic, my blood pressure is elevated but not high enough yet for me to take medication, and my cholesterol is also borderline. I'm 68 years old. I'm 5'6" and my BMI number shows I'm a borderline obesity case. So I'm on the thin edge.

I tried the Pritikin diet years ago and lost 30 pounds. I tried the old low carb Drinking Man's Diet in 1960 and lost about 30 pounds on that. I lost eight pounds on the current Atkins diet in about two weeks...but then I hit a brick wall. Losing pounds after that became much more difficult.

So today after the call from my doctor I was totally puzzled. If I go on the Atkins or South Beach diet will it lower my cholesterol enough? And will the cheese I eat on those diets increase my sodium intake and increase my blood pressure? And if I eat whole grain bread and brown rice will my bloodsugar readings go up. I'm almost afraid to put any food in my mouth.

And then by sheer luck I turned on your program and was delighted to see that your reporter was experiencing the same dilemma. His conclusion that a modified South Beach Diet combined with limiting food intake and plenty of exercise seems to be the way to go.

Harry Poloshjian
Tappan, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was pleased to view your show on "Diet Wars". It was informative and educational. Society lifestyle changes have contributed to the issues of obesity, type II diabeties, heart attacks, and other health-related problems. As a middle school health/wellness teacher, I teach my students that the lack of physical activity, poor nutritional choices, and bad eating habits contribute to one's illness, disease, and overall well being. It is difficult to get our young people to believe these concepts when food industries buy into and advertise the latest trends that do not focus on how it may affect the consumers health. The government also contributes to this lack of knowledge when they do not acknowlege, nor fully understand, the health epidemic that is happening. Insurance costs and medical expences, and who knows what other health-related issues will soar out of control in the near future unless actions are taken by many. Frontline took action today by carefully researching the issues of a variety of diets, nutritional trends, advertising, exercise, and lifestyle changes. I commend your efforts to educate the public. More is needed.

Ann Marie Colebrook
Glastonbury, CT

Dear FRONTLINE,

Suburban living contributes to obesity. The distances in today's American suburbia between isolated pods for homes, schools, shopping, and civic activities are so great that people are forced to drive cars. In a normal city of mixed-use neighborhoods, most of life's daily activities can be within walking distance of one another.

Steve Lanset
Hoboken, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program, Diet Wars is exactly what I have been waiting to hear. I have tried diets before, and found them hard to maintain and difficult to stick with. I knew in my heart that eating right is very basic and easy to understand, once you know how the food you eat effects you. Your program helped put it into perspective for me.

Now I can see what changes I need to make in my eating and exercise. Thank you for making the program. It has has given me the clarity I needed to do what I need to live a healthier life.

James Hartman
Crown Point, Indiana

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posted april 8, 2004

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