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The Therapy Sessions
Monday, July 12, 2004

Obesity nonsense

How do we "solve" America's "Obesity Crisis?"

This Marian Uhlman article has some worthy ideas, like expanding PE programs and banning soda at schools.

These are "oh, what the hell" ideas, minor changes that will make little difference in the scheme of things. Banning soda and chips from school will have the same effect on childhood obesity that banning condom distribution has had on unsafe adolescent sex.

That is, none.

A better question is why parents feel they need to give their children so much disposable income to spend on such junk.

As for more exercise, keep the kiddies after school until five running laps every day, I don't care. (That is, until I get the tax bill for the extra PE instructors.)

But it's then that the Uhlman article begins to reek like a public health busybody wish list.

Pedometer giveaway day at the cleaners? Uh, what is in it for the business here? Who pays for the free pedometers? Of course, nothing draws a crowd like free pedometers, but this policy idea needs to have some details filled in.

A $10 million lottery for fit people? If you do it with your money, fine. But you won't have the shirt left on your back once a few lawyers get wind of it. Just try defining "fit." Or "healthy eating habits." And what is "healthy food?" A person eating a low carb steak may be managing her weight better than a person eating a bran muffin.

Forcing stores to offer discounts to people who walk around alot? They try to portray this as being in the store's interest, giving pedometers to people when they enter, and discounts for people who take 2000 steps. You see, they are spending more time in the store, more time looking over merchandise!

But if its such a great idea for the stores, why aren't they already doing it?

Likewise, discounts for eating less food and healthier food already exist: most restaurants don't charge for water, and vegetable entries tend to be pretty cheap. It's always cheaper to prepare your food yourself.

The article is full of all kinds of alarmist language about obesity. It causes 400,000 preventable deaths a year!

For the hundred or so people I care about, those deaths are tragic.

But the other hundreds of thousands of people are a statistic, and to the coldly rational person with a knowledge of American demographics, the statistic is a good one: 400,000 less people accepting Meadicare and Social Security. 400,000 people who have voluntarily taken themselves out of the system after paying into it all their lives.

This is just a cold hard fact: If every American living today manages to live to the ripe old age of 90, it would be an economic catastrophe for the country.

Die young, and do the rest of us a favor.

Add in this knee slapper: the article goes on to moan about the lack of incentives for people to watch one's weight.

Oh really? Every magazine in the checkout line advertises new miracle diets and healthy recipes. Everytime I open a clothes catalog, I see thousands of perfectly fit people looking back at me. Every person on the TV looks like they spend ten hours a day working out.

No, the problem is not incentives.

The problem is will. Most Americans are fat and content, and they do not give a shit.

Why a bunch of public health busybodies should care about more about people's health than the actual individuals concerned is beyond me.

Here's some news to the public health industry:

There are some problems that aren't waiting for a government program solve them.

Obesity is one of them.

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