Jonathan Neman, the CEO of Sweetgreen’s salad chain, stated in a post on social media that taxing or banning “processed food” is the best social response. He said “COVID will remain here” and “no vaccination or mask will save me.” Will? “
Many people have bizarre views on COVID. Nemans, however, are not crazy.
Neman’s nonsense marmalade is like a tiny clumping of berries in a pile. * Obesity is a factor in mortality, and it follows that reducing obesity would reduce the risk of a pandemic.
Neman’s assertion that reducing obesity would be a better or simpler intervention than vaccines is ridiculous. First, obesity is a lower risk of death than those who have not been vaccinated. According to the CDC, even those who are obese are about one-half to two times more likely than others to end up in hospital. A vaccine, however, can reduce the likelihood of hospitalization by approximately 80 percent.
Neman’s notion that vaccinations won’t save you but that we are too thin is backward. To Neman’s credit, he also supports the idea of vaccinating. This provides a high level protection. Being thin is a great help.
The most remarkable aspect of his reasoning is that he believes that obesity can be managed with mass vaccinations. It’s extremely difficult to lose weight. This is not only a terrible situation for individuals, but it also means that policies to combat obesity on the societal level are creating violent reactions. Even New York’s very modest decision to ban sugary drinks packaged in large containers – an unassuming move that didn’t stop people from buying multiple containers of the same thing – was met by outcry. It’s not easy to get Americans to take two shots of the same drink. Try getting them to eat french fries.
If you consider the side benefits to doing a lot in Neman’s way, anti-obesity interventions are no better than vaccination as an anti-COVID intervention.
However, it is probably too simplistic and too narrow to view his talk as a selfish ploy. (In fact, his very act of writing was a self-sabotage act for his brand and was quickly removed by LinkedIn. Neman instead expresses widespread prejudice among elites.
Paul Campos in The Obesity Myth argued that there is a weaker link between height, health outcomes, and aesthetic preferences for thinness than many people realize. At high levels, obesity poses serious health risks and most obesity reduction programs fail.
Neglecting both these realities is one way to place blame for poor outcomes in health on an individual. In 2009 Whole Foods CEO John Mackey turned against Obamacare, arguing in a Wall Street Journal comment: “Instead of increasing government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of ill health. It starts with the realization that each American adult is responsible to his or her health. … …
Mackey, four-years later, compared Obamacare and fascism.
Humans are driven to believe they can make their own decisions. This is why there are so many dangerous risks. Because many drivers considered their driving abilities to be so obvious that protective measures were unnecessary, it took decades for seatbelts to become standard. One type of that fallacy is the need for COVID to be linked to obesity. We want to believe that we can prevent the horrors from the coronavirus through running and eating healthy foods.
* This metaphor is unfair; Actually, I really like sweetgreen salads. Chop’t is almost as good as you.
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Jonathan Chait, New York columnist, provides analysis and commentary on the most recent political news.
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