Dr. David Katz wanted to talk about the "F-word."
(Well, not that "F-Word.")
The founding director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center (PRC) aims to eliminate "fat" because Americans are obsessed with food: celebrating it and presenting other people with it. In fact, big food companies purposely design foods to be addictive, a subject covered extensively in the New York Times Magazine in February.
Food is a good thing. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that two in every three Americans are either overweight or obese. It's never too late to prevent chronic disease, Dr. Katz said, but early is always better.
"If you're not healthy, first of all you're less likely to succeed at anything else, but life is less fun," he told Morning Joe's Louis Burgdorf during the greenroom interview.
Passion is the first factor Americans must adopt in order to extend their lifespan and help their children live vitally. People need not only willpower, but also skill power, to reach their desirable levels of health.
"If I wanted to learn how to ride a bike, I have to learn how to ride a bike. I would risk skinning my knees a time or two, but then I would know how for the rest of my life. Same thing with healthy living," said Dr. Katz, who is known internationally for his expertise in nutrition, weight management, and chronic disease prevention. His research focuses on overcoming epidemic obesity in children and adults.
He is the president and founder of Turning the Tide, which develops creative and practical programs to empower individuals and families to achieve sustainable weight control. Organizers have formed programs for healthy living at school, in the workplace, and at home for people to nurture health together.
Yale University's PRC is located in New Haven, Conn., and was established in 1998 through a grant from CDC. The network, one of 35 centers in the country, engages in interdisciplinary applied prevention research, collaborating with community partners, and federal, state, and local health and education agencies. The goal of each PRC is to develop new approaches to health promotion and disease prevention, according to the website.
Dr. Katz said people should be honest with themselves and make a commitment to learn skills and talk about food issues that affect their lives, while remembering six factors that influence health: feet, forks, fingers, sleep, stress, and love.
"It's not a personal failure to struggle with food. It's not a personal failure to get fat," he said. "Something bigger is going on."
Centuries ago, calories were scarce and physical activity was unavoidable because humans had to exert themselves physically to survive. In the modern world, physical activity is scarce, calories are unavoidable, and the issue is larger than the individual.
"The problem is, we have these native human obsessions in a very non-native habitat, and that's what gets Gov. Christie into trouble, or you Mika, or all of us," Dr. Katz said Thursday on Morning Joe.
New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie said he has struggled with his weight for 20 years. In Mika Brzezinski's new book, "Obsessed," the co-host of Morning Joe discusses her struggle with recurring eating disorders.
An updated way of thinking about food, though, could alter the course of obesity and chronic disease in the country.
"We have to change our thinking, and that's hard. It's like turning the Titanic around," Dr. Katz said. "All of a sudden, less is better."
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