Dr. Leana Wen, ousted former president of Planned Parenthood, is not amused by Krispy Kreme’s free donut promotion for customers who have received the covid-19 vaccine, noting that donuts are “treats” and eating them daily could result in weight gain. No shit. It’s a good thing no one is likely to eat Krispy Kreme every single day like Wen’s Wall-E flavored dystopia suggests, but why grant people a modicum of respect when you can dream up the most gluttonous scenarios imaginable instead?
Krispy Kreme is giving away a free glazed donut to anyone with a valid covid-19 vaccine card at participating locations. The promotion will continue through the end of the year. According to the company’s press release, Krispy Kreme will also, “support health care workers and volunteers who are helping administer vaccines, delivering free doughnuts to select vaccination centers throughout the country in the coming weeks.”
It’s nothing to call home about: A corporation is incentivizing lifesaving vaccinations by pushing their product, an attempt to show goodwill and get bodies through their doors at the same time. Krispy Kreme is likely banking on customers grabbing a coffee while they’re at it, or buying a box of a dozen donuts to take home and enjoying that free covid donut for the road.
If the prospect of a free donut every now and then is enough to encourage someone to get vaccinated against a virus that has killed nearly 550,000 Americans in the last year sooner rather than later, so be it. But Wen, apparently, disagrees.
On Tuesday, Wen, currently a visiting professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, tweeted at Krispy Kreme, lauding the company for their vaccination incentive but critiquing the execution.
“...donuts are a treat that’s not good for health if eaten every day,” Wen wrote. “If someone indeed eats an Original Glazed #KrispyKreme donut every day as your offer provides, and changed no other aspects of their diet/exercise, they’d gain approximately 15 pounds by the end of 2021. I’m sure that’s not your intention.”
“Why not give vaccinated people a box of donuts to give to an organization of their choice instead?” Wen suggested. “They can bring it to their office, donate it to charity, share with their friends, or eat it all themselves if they really want. Do it as a one-time offer of appreciation.”
She added, “As a public health expert, I can’t endorse a diet of daily donuts.”
Why is Wen so convinced that those who take advantage of this promotion will waltz into Krispy Kreme every single day to grab a glazed donut? Her assumption is rooted in such deep disdain for Americans who consume fast food, not to mention Americans who may hypothetically gain 15 pounds too many. If it sounds like standard medical fatphobia, that’s because it is.
But Wen isn’t alone. On Monday, Dr. Eugene Gu, a man best known for camping out in Donald Trump’s Twitter mentions, also condemned the Krispy Kreme promotion, tweeting, “Krispy Kreme offering free doughnuts for getting vaccinated is like Marlboro offering free cigarettes for getting a flu shot.”
As more people become vaccinated and covid-19 safety measures slowly start to lift, the push to report about Americans packing on some extra pounds during the pandemic is building. In the last week alone, NPR discussed how to address your children’s pandemic weight gain, while New York Times Personal Health columnist Jane Brody wrote a piece condemning Americans’ failures to tackle obesity, and how we’re seeing the consequences of that inaction in covid-19 death tolls. That obesity can lead to covid-19 complications isn’t up for debate, but one has to wonder if Brody’s humble brag about maintaining healthy portion control and daily exercise during a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic—one that has likely made healthy food options even more scarce for cash-strapped Americans—is the most effective way to get her point across.
If you’ve been reading my column for years, you already know that I’m not a fanatic when it comes to food. I have many containers of ice cream in my freezer; cookies, crackers and even chips in my cupboard; and I enjoy a burger now and then. But my daily diet is based primarily on vegetables, with fish, beans and nonfat milk my main sources of protein. My consumption of snacks and ice cream is portion-controlled and, along with daily exercise, has enabled me to remain weight-stable despite yearlong pandemic stress and occasional despair.
We need to be honest about the fact that being severely overweight can lead to a litany of health problems, both big and small. But there’s room to acknowledge this while condemning the medical fatphobia that can actively harm overweight and obese people, as well as the benefits of moderation and the dangers of persistent overindulgence without acting like a free Krispy Kreme every once in a while donut—or, God forbid, gaining 15 pounds—is the end of the world.
So, please, get vaccinated and eat a damn donut to celebrate.