What You Can Eat For Your Country by Pat Conrad MD

The night crew in my ER is talking about sending someone out to the Waffle House later on for a little wee hours snack, meaning pecan waffles, an omelet with Bert’s chili, or maybe some hash browns scattered, covered, and smothered (look it up).  As you can tell, we are all about quality of life here.

Not so much Dr. Oz, who is at it again with his highly marketed advice.  Dr. Oz says, “Losing weight in America is probably the most patriotic thing that you can do to help nation right now.” Oz is talking about the most recent study showing that 40% of us have hit the “fluffy” zone and that this has deleterious budget and economic implications for the nation.  He then points out quite reasonably that the U.S. government subsidizes the wrong foods (it shouldn’t subsidize any, dammit!) and that we might consider further taxing to encourage healthier behaviors.

This med-media-mogul is pushing his book about healthy eating, and of course, the commonsense points he is making are right.  And yet, despite this concerned and profitable advice, Dr. Oz can completely kiss my ass.

I tend to recoil at most uses of the word “patriotic” because it almost always precedes someone attempting to tell me what to do.  Oz, the media, the political class, and so far as I can tell, nearly all doctors, have succumbed to the reflex that everyone’s health is everyone’s business, and therefore properly subject to government policy. While Oz probably thinks it harmless to toss the word around, tying it to any health policy is an invitation to great abuse.

New York’s Mayor Bloomberg was a world-class schmuck for trying to rid his city of tasty trans-fats, and over-taxing sugary drinks.  I’d love to read how in the intervening past decade these bold steps lowered Big Apple health care expenditures by even half the cost of a one Big Gulp.  But how much more patriotic would it be to replace all those chicken wings and beer planned for your next Super Bowl party with kale chips and sparkling water?  How many GERD/atypical chest pain workups/AMI cases could be prevented following the big game if we just curbed our gluttony?  And erecting a prohibitive tariff against PlayStations and Xboxes would get lard butts off the couch and reduce electrical consumption, while also improving our trade balance.  Pretty patriotic, huh?

Of course, we could look at it from the other side.  The U.S. has a huge problem with unfunded liabilities in Medicare and Social Security.  Being a buffet regular, and getting up to a two-pack/day smoking habit could help to considerably shorten your lifespan and save more public funds for your grandchildren (if we have the good sense to deny ICU and nursing home payments for the choices you obviously made).  Then again, most children seem to be born on Medicaid, so you could just choose some civic responsibility and go for a red, white & blue vasectomy.  Now that would be sacrificing for your country!

See what I mean?  When doctors think as hall monitors, they easily become agents for the government who then gets to tell them – and all of us – what is really patriotic.  Hey mister, you better drop those LDL’s – don’t you love ‘Merica??

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