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Tuesday, August 28, 2007
We're too fat, and the federal government needs to fix that not

The Trust for America's Health says that Americans are too fat and "we need a national strategy" to correct that, according to Jeffrey Levi, Executive Director of TFAH and one of the co-authors of the report (PDF).

He noted that the federal government has created a comprehensive plan to be implemented in the event of an outbreak of pandemic flu.

"We need something like that in obesity that says this is what every agency of the federal government is doing. [It's] what we can do to directly affect this problem and motivate individual communities and businesses to play their role as well," Levi said.

Now, I don't want to minimize the seriousness of the health problems that obesity can cause, nor do I dispute the TFAH's figures on how widespread the problem is in America (although I'm stunned at their finding, for example, that "Nationwide, two-thirds of U.S. adults are obese or overweight...") since I don't have any facts which would counter their claims. So I'm going to take their statistics as a given for the purposes of this post.

But the above quote makes me suspicious. Their solution to America's obesity problem is, you guessed it, government involvement. Of course, if it were a relatively smaller problem, it would be that much harder to spur the government ot act to save us from ourselves and our big fat asses. This has got my radar twitching.

Levi says individuals need the government's help to take control of their weight.

"People can't exercise personal responsibility in a vacuum," he said. "If you're telling people to eat healthier food and there are no grocery stores in the neighborhood; if you're telling them to be more physically active, and they live in poor, unsafe neighborhoods or in suburban neighborhoods with no sidewalks, then you've created an environment that doesn't make it possible for people to exercise that personal responsibility. That's where government plays a role."

While I sympathize to some small degree with Levi's point here, he grossly (no pun intended) glosses over the core factor of personal responsibility.

I agree more with Mr Wilson here:

A senior analyst for The Center for Consumer Freedom, a food industry trade group, said government involvement is not needed. "Obesity is a private issue and we do not need Big Brother wagging his finger at us every time somebody wants to eat a doughnut," said Justin Wilson. "If someone wants to be a little heavier because they enjoy eating food that tastes good, that's a person's personal right."

He cited two simple ways for people to lose weight -- "closing their mouth, going for a walk. It's the world's easiest diet plan."

Speaking as someone who has been obese in the past, tipping the scales at a sleek 280 lbs at one point, and who is still overweight, nobody else is responsible for my weight but me. If I want to weigh less, then I just need to close my mouth and go for a walk. The last thing I need is a government program.


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In loving memory
Dr Edward N Garrett
1925 - 2004

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