Monday, May 9, 2011

Good-bye Dr. Sharma

About six months ago, I started reading Dr. Arya Sharma's blog with great interest and often great delight. Dr. Sharma, who is chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta, seemed to have a lot of interesting things to say. In particular, I was struck by his ability to step outside the usual and uselessly simplistic "calories-in, calories-out" paradigm to see the bigger (and vastly more complex) picture of weight, overweight and weight management. I considered Dr. Sharma to be one of the few nuanced voices in the field--someone who accepted that summarizing good health in a BMI number is far from the truth.

Well, something's changed.

I have noticed in recent posts that Dr. Sharma feels the need to take a more mainstream position when it comes to weight and health. Today's post (which I will not link to) discusses the similarities between those he terms "obesity deniers" and those who question the ill-effects of smoking on health. I won't go into any details. If you really want to read what he wrote yourself, please feel free to do so. Personally, I am appalled (although it is worth reading to then read the comments that deftly deconstruct his essentially fallacious arguments).

I can only hypothesize that Dr. Sharma's move towards the more conventional view that good health cannot be decoupled from an "acceptable" weight is perhaps the result of his close connection with the Canadian Obesity Network and its recent symposium. Perhaps, in the wake of the conference, he's on an "obesity epidemic/panic" high. It reminds me of the ten days I spent travelling with a federally appointed panel examining violence against women. After ten days of hearing nothing but stories of violence and abuse, I came home feeling that no man could ever be trusted and that all women were at risk. Perhaps after spending many months preparing for the conference and then spending several days hearing about morbidly obese, junk-food addicted diabetics who can barely walk from the couch to the TV, I too might feel that "health at every size" is a load of bunk. I don't know. It's just a hypothesis.


  1. I left a comment there but I was not very polite. I, like you, am just so upset by the fat bias, discrimination and bashing...I believe it is a serious social issue that should be investigated and eradicated before more people are harmed.

    Yes, I know from first hand experience that some illnesses are frequently linked with being fat. I also suspect that Dr. S would strongly disapprove of the particular diet I have adopted to eliminate many of my symptoms.

    I'm almost at a "healthy" weight (and have no intention of trying to lose more), yet have no idea if I am in fact any healthier for having lost so much weight. Yes, I feel better. Yes, I'm no longer treated hatefully. But healthier, long term? The jury is still out.

    Being viewed as a member of an epidemic that is seen as self-inflicted often felt like torture. It was harmful. Professionals must keep making clear the distinction between obesity and sickness, to keep looking at the ways that some illnesses are caused by the same factors that cause SOME forms of obesity. Professionals would be wise to stop making obesity itself into a medical issue...right now that approach makes health care professions seem like another extra arm on the beast that is the weight-loss-diet industry.

  2. Couldn't help myself - had to check it out & quite frankly, I am horrified...
    Does he really think this is a joke?? THIS IS OUR LIFE.
    (but it's really fun how my long-term ob/gyn of almost 30 yrs has STOPPED lecturing me w/her ELMM theories oh, let's say 8 - 10 yrs ago, when she herself passed menopause & put on some weight!)