Meet the “Big Three” Generals—in the War on Obesity

Prominent leaders in academia, government and healthcare

Dr. Kelly Brownell, Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

Okay, I confess, the puns were intentional. In May of 2012, HBO aired a multi-night special entitled, “Weight of the Nation.” In my opinion, it was pretty much worthless when it came to helping people take charge of their health and lose weight. I wrote several blogs about it and you can see the links below. But I will tell you here what I remember most.

One of the leading officials in the video was a morbidly obese man (shown here). And guess what? He is arguably our nation’s leading authority on obesity. Armed with a fancy title at Yale University, he spends his day giving out advice about controlling obesity—advice  that is clearly not working for him.

But Dr. Brownell is not alone when it comes to “fighting obesity with obesity.” There are plenty of waistlines to go around in our world of big-time healthcare. How about Dr. Regina Benjamin, our nation’s Surgeon General (pictured below). How can we fight the war on obesity—when our leaders’ waistlines are the enemy?

Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon General of the United States. Not a great pick, Mr. President.

How important is the messenger when it comes to promoting health? In my opinion, the messenger is very important when it comes to our leaders in the crucially important process of “taming the healthcare monster” in the USA and the world. We taught the world how to get fat—now we must teach them how to get healthy. And we need to put our best foot forward.

As for the messenger, can you imagine going to a weight-loss clinic that has obese trainers? How about taking lifestyle advice from a doctor who’s taking five prescription drugs and has a 40-inch waistline? How about going to a cosmetologist who has out-of-control acne? No, no, no. We all want to learn from teachers and coaches who model the behavior and exhibit the qualities that we want for ourselves.

Obesity is a big problem (and still growing) in America, in the rest of the western world and now in Asia. The experts are projecting that by 2030—a whopping 44% of Americans will be obese. That’s when some of our states, like my boyhood home of Mississippi, will have a population that is nearly 2/3 obese. Obesity is now trending to become the new normal.

Growing at about one percentage point per year, that equates to adding almost 10,000 people to the obese ranks—every single day in the United States.

George Halvorson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest managed care company and hospital system—plans to retire at the end of 2013.

Managed care & Hospital Sector. The biggest player in this field (there goes that pun again) is the CEO of the nation’s largest healthcare company. Not sure what he’s getting paid, but it’s safe to say that it is well north of the industry average of $10.3 million a year in 2011 (According to Becker’s Hospital Review).

The Bottom Line. These images of our nation’s most prominent generals in the war on obesity should be like a “blinding flash of the obvious.” Something is terribly wrong with our approach to obesity—and healthcare in general in this country.

Could part of the reason be that the “experts” that we have running the most important pieces don’t have a clue how to taking charge of their own health? It all begins with LEADERSHIP. We must correct this mess by putting some healthy people in charge—healthy people who look healthy and know how to help other people become healthy.

How about noted author and health promoter, Dr. John McDougall? I would wager that he has helped more people take charge of their health than any other person—ever. And he has publicly declared himself a candidate for the role of Surgeon General. He did so in the middle of this one hour video (October 2012), wherein he explains an innovative solution to our nation’s healthcare crisis.

As for our presidential election 11 days from now, my own voting decision was made months ago. But I would vote for the other guy if he promised to appoint Dr. John McDougall as our Surgeon General in January. (This is my 629th consecutive daily blog)

2008 Imaginary conversation (November 2008) between President elect Obama and Dr. McDougall—if he had been appointed Surgeon General four years ago

One more thing. I find that it’s difficult to find full-length photos of famous people, who happen to be obese. They tend to be somewhat camera-shy and prefer to use professional head-shots for the media. But there’s no hiding from the camera in this picture. The man in the khaki pants is our nation’s foremost authority on obesity.

In the khaki pants, Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

A few of my earlier blogs on this topic:

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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9 Responses to Meet the “Big Three” Generals—in the War on Obesity

  1. Claire Wilson says:

    What a great idea! John McDougal for Surgeon General of the United States. How do we start a campaign? I live not too far from him and we have corresponded by email a few times with questions I’ve had though minor as I’ve been a vegetarian 41 years, went vegan 21 years ago and PBD 9 years ago so I’m all fine and healthy and grateful to the greats in this field.

    I went vegetarian because of cruelty to animals, went vegan for health after reading John Robbin’s Diet For a New American, PBD after reading John Fuhrman’s Eat To Live which is based on The China Study which came out before T. Colin Campbell’s book. Who says books aren’t read?

    Caldwell Esselsty called me at 11:00 PM East Coast time, last Thanksgiving Eve, which was 8:00 my time, catching up with eails. I can’t tell you how surprised and how impressed I was. Towards the end of the 12-13 minute conversation he asked if I was eating lots of vegetables and my answer was a resounding yes cause it’s true. Then he confessed that he ate 10 pieces of Reese’s Pieces every NY’s Day. Impressive?

  2. AConcernedCitizen says:

    Great post, Jim! I guess it takes obesity to know obesity as in the case of Mr. Brownell. 😉 Still, it’s laughable, and kind of demonstrates how our universities are themselves more and more like corporations these days, rather than leaders… thank goodness for bright spots like Dr. Campbell at Cornell. 🙂 I thought Dr. McDougall’s talk was great, thanks for posting that… wow, if we actually had him as surgeon general… and then maybe Dennis Kucinich as president — now that would be a one-two punch for health and sustainability!

  3. Jim — Dr. McDougall volunteered for Surgeon General in Nov. 2008! Here is the link:

    I posted the article in two parts today, here:

    I also posted the link to your blog today. Thanks for pointing out the three fat “health leaders” in one article!

  4. Joanne Irwin says:

    I’ll be open and state my political opinion. My vote and only vote is for President Obama. Even if Romney said he would appoint Dr. John McDougall for Surgeon General, that would not, in any way, change my vote BECAUSE Romney cannot be trusted. He says one thing one day to lure the votes from a certain segment of the populace, and then changes the next day to suit another. He’s beholdin’ to the Tea Party, the Tea Party is the new Right Wing, the new Right Wing is beholdin’ to the necons, and the neocons collude with Big Dairy, Big Meat, and Bit Pharma. IN ADDITION, if R& R enter the sacred doors of the White House, women, watch out. Our rights will be disseminated before we can scream ‘Uncle Sam’, and before long Roe vs. Wade will be eradicated. In closing, President Obama and Michelle, our First Lady, have done more for the health cause in this country than anyone in the past 50 years. It may not be perfect, but it’s been named.

    • Joe says:

      Wow. If you think lying or being in twined with agribusiness is exclusive only to the Republican Party, please take off your rose colored glasses. If you think that a sitting President can overturn laws, please take a civics class. While you are learning all these new civics principles, stop and find a dictionary and look up the meaning of the word disseminated.

      • Joanne Irwin says:

        I don’t need to take a civics class, Joe. I’ve done my 26 years plus of formal education and continue as a life long learner. The ills of this country sit at the feet of both parties. My focus is on the current GOP candidate who has proven himself to be a serial flip-flopper and liar. My home state is MA and the kudos Romney sings about his tenure as governor are laughable. He was overwhelmingly disliked! And I certainly know, since I’ve taught civics and social studies, that a President cannot overturn laws! Thanks so much for your instruction.

  5. Linda says:

    It would be an incredibly good thing to have Dr. McDougall as our Surgeon General, but even if a candidate committed to that in writing (their promises mean nothing) I would vote for “the other guy” only if his policies reflected a conviction that women are capable of (and have the right) making their own life and healthcare choices.

  6. “I would vote for the other guy if he promised to appoint Dr. John McDougall as our Surgeon General in January.” — me, too! Talk about opening a true path to the “Pursuit of Happiness!” This would probably be one of the best things that could happen to our country on so many levels.

  7. barbaraH says:

    Hi Jim – Great post, as always. I always want to shake your daily posts in front of everyone I know and say “wake up already!” but it’s amazing how happy people are to turn a blind eye. Not everyone; there are some people who see the light, but so many otherwise intelligent, thoughtful people who just shrug it all off.

    Anyway there seems to be a problem with the link from either the email version or the FB version. I had to go to your site and click on blog, then daily blog, to get to the post.


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