The Michael Moore anti-diet

Joel van der Veen
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Thousands of Americans have embarked on a miniature revolution, sparked by an unlikely instigator: documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.

Moore, whose output has ranged from the megahit Bowling for Columbine to the abysmal Canadian Bacon, is encouraging his fans to set aside 30 minutes a day to go for a walk.

In an online conversation, influenced by a statistic that indicates more Americans are taking anti-depressants than going to the movies, one fan wrote, “Sometimes I think what I need is just a brisk walk.”

Inspired, Moore did just that, returning after 30 minutes to find that hundreds had followed in his footsteps. Months later, walking is a habit for Moore and thousands of others.

The motivation? In Moore’s words: “There is no cause other than to go for a walk ... because it feels good ... because we can ... because it’s free and takes no time.”

Anyone who wants to join may do so, with one caveat: if you’re walking to get fit, be healthy or lose weight, Moore doesn’t want you.

In his opinion, walking is about feeling good, nothing more. If you’re walking to accomplish anything more specific, then not only are you missing the point, but you’re giving in to what “they” want.

Who are “they”? In a recent Facebook post, Moore defines this group of antagonists as including both “skinny people” and anyone promoting diet and exercise.

When people asked him how much weight he’s lost, Moore concluded, “Skinny people ... want us, the majority, to be like them.”

Dieting and exercise don’t make people feel better, he argued, calling it “a scam (that) conspires to keep you miserable” and a capitalist plot to keep consumers “filled with fear, insecurity, envy and unhappiness.”

Here’s my conclusion: after decades as a muckraker, Moore has spent so long portraying issues in an “us versus them” framework that he cannot perceive things any other way.

But someone who made an entire film to criticize the state of American health care (Sicko) must realize that when two-thirds of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese, the effects are manifold, including added costs to society, a myriad of health problems and thousands of premature deaths.

I have seen most of Moore’s films, and I agree with him on some, perhaps many, points. I enjoy how he idealistically portrays Canada as a socialist paradise where nobody locks their doors, speed bumps are news and violent crime never happens.

But his tactics have become tiresome, especially his shtick of showing up at corporate offices to confront bigwigs. (If you were head of a multinational corporation, would you cancel your day’s appointments to allow Michael Moore time to humiliate you?)

On this issue, I think he’s simply misguided. Yes, dieting and exercise are big industries, and many have become rich by propagating scams and fads targeted at vulnerable people. Obsessing about weight, or putting one’s health at risk to achieve a supposedly-ideal body shape, isn’t wise either.

But no one should be castigated or implicated as a sucker for employing dieting and exercise to reach a healthy weight. That, by itself, is no scam. It’s just common sense.

Two years ago, I lost about 25 pounds by exercising daily and avoiding fast food. I have kept the weight off, and I feel confident, knowing that I’m trimmer and healthier. If you’re looking to accomplish the same, I encourage you to try it.

But Moore and I can agree on this much: a brisk, peaceful walk is a beautiful thing, and that’s something we can all appreciate.

Follow Joel on Twitter @JVDV88.

Geographic location: U.S., Canada

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