Posts Tagged ‘obesity

14
May
09

Somebody in Congress Has Been Reading…

Careful readers will remember this post, specifically, bullet point number one.

Now, there’s this in the news.

I’ll be awaiting your vote come November.

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01
May
08

How To Solve The Fat Problem, or, How NOT To Get Voted President

It’s no secret America is fat. The most popular, or rather, most viewed post I’ve written on this blog is this one, about how Disneyland is having to restructure “It’s a Small World” because obese Americans are causing the boats to bottom out. As I said before, if we’re too fat for our own unique form of entertainment, we’ve got a big (no pun intended) problem on our hands. I understand that weight is a very sensitive subject for a lot of people, and there’s a lot of people out there who are very insecure about their weight, and who, try as they may, simply can’t get the body they so longingly desire, which is unfortunate. This is not about those people.  But there are a lot of people out there who, for whatever reason, either can’t get the help they need, or don’t care enough that they’re damaging their health, shortening their lifespan, and heightening their risk of heart problems, diabetes, and other debilitating diseases. And now there’s this article:

What If No One Were Fat?

The gist is this: the obesity problem in this country is costing us $487 billion dollars a year. That’s nearly half a trillion dollars annually. The article outlines just how that money is being lost: through higher fuel needs for airlines carrying heftier passengers, clothing companies spending more money on extra material for plus-size clothing, medical expenses due to weight-related issues, wasted dollars spent on unnecessary calories, and loss of productivity in work places because of sluggishness or weight-related sickness.

Seems crazy, right? Because of a slumping economy, this summer the government is giving each taxpayer at least $600 to stimulate the economy, but this article says that if we cut the fat (figuratively and literally) in America, we could afford to give each family $4,000. Sounds pretty good with the state of finances these days, right?

Anyway, after reading this I got to thinking about why it is that the powers that be in our nation aren’t doing anything to help out people with significant weight problems. These days, it’s gotten pretty trendy to be environmentally conscious, so if it’s cool to care about our planet, why isn’t it cool to care about our own bodies and the health of future generations? Politicians it seems are afraid to discuss it because it’s such a sensitive issue for so many, but if health issues continue to rise at the rate they’re growing now, it’s going to become too late to deal with the problem real soon. So with that in mind, here’s my eight-point submittal to the average American politician: “How to Solve the Fat Problem.”

1. Raise Taxes on Corporations that Produce High Calorie Foods and Beverages: the major problem with high-fat and sweet foods is that they’re so easily accessible. But think about this- if companies like Coca-Cola, Hostess, McDonald’s, and other stereotypical providers of unhealthy foodstuffs were taxed up the wazoo, they’d have to raise their prices to compensate. So imagine you go to the soda machine to find that instead of a Coke being a dollar and a bottle of water being $1.25, the bottle of water is a buck and the Coke is $6. My guess is that people would start looking at sodas, fats and sweets like they should be seen: as a luxury. Also, in my head I’m giving a tax break to bottled water companies (which I understand is unrealistic considering Coke and Pepsi produce Dasani and Deja Blue, but it’s my fantasy, so back off…) Anyway, once you take all that tax money from the sweets companies, you then would turn around and give it back to other places, such as…

2. Government-Subsidized Gyms: It’s no surprise one of the reasons people don’t join gyms is because they can’t afford them. But what if the government provided enough money to reduce that membership fee to, say, $5 or $10 a month…? A little more appealing now, don’t you think? And while we’re on the subject of gyms…

3. Give Tax Breaks to Corporations that Offer Gym Memberships as an Employment Benefit: Companies offer medical, dental, and vision, so why not exercise benefits? It’s a win-win for those companies, too, because if a company offered gym memberships as a standard benefit, don’t you think there’d be a bit more competition to work for those companies, meaning those companies would get the cream of the crop for their employees? Not to mention, those employees are healthy, which lowers the cost of the company’s medical benefit costs, and increases their productivity.

4. Put More Strict Restrictions on Food Stamps: Here’s where we could get into some messy territory. It’s been proven that the obesity rate is higher the lower class level you go. Right now, if you receive food stamps because of low income status, you can buy almost anything you want out of the grocery store. But what if food stamps only bought healthier foods, like juices, fruits, and veggies instead of soda, cookies, and Cheetos? Realize that we’re moving a bit from a completely free society here, but again, it’s my fantasy.

5. Higher Physical Education Requirements In Elementary and Secondary Schools: I’ll be the first to admit it: I wasn’t the most fit kid on the schoolyard growing up, and the time during PE class when I sweat the most was in anticipation of the President’s Physical Fitness Test (except for the Sit and Reach, which I never really got that nervous about…) The major problem with the President’s test, though, is that it’s a joke. I was far below average on pretty much every test, yet I still got an ‘A’ in PE. Think I would’ve worked a little harder if I had gotten the grade I deserved? You bet I would’ve. And if I’m working harder, I’m establishing a more active lifestyle from a young age. And that’s the point, right? It’s pretty simple- if a kid doesn’t know math, he fails his math class. If a kid can’t run a couple laps around a basketball court without stopping for an exasperated session of bent-over hyperventilating, he should fail his PE class.

6. Stronger Health Restrictions on School Lunches: A no-brainer. Substitute the tater tots for celery sticks. Crisis averted. Plus, celery is cheaper than tater tots to begin with… in other words, health benefits + saving money= happy school. Basically, if we put nutritional restrictions on school lunches, where they can’t exceed a certain number of calories, and they have to contain a certain amount of essential vitamins, we’ve got healthier kids.

7. Advertising Restrictions: This one’s crazy, but I love it. Think about this: years ago, it was decided that Joe Camel had to go, because cigarette companies using cartoons to sell their product was selling a life-damaging product to kids. Now take that mindset and walk down the cereal aisle of your local grocery store. Cocoa Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops, what’s the common thread? An enthusiastic, smiling cartoon character welcoming kids to stuff themselves with sugar right off the bat every morning. Maybe if we took the same position on unhealthy foods as we took on unhealthy smoking, we’d make some more progress.

8. Increased Funding for Youth Sports: I had a friend who, when I was a kid, was allowed to play one sport a year because his family couldn’t afford all the registration and joining fees. So while all the other kids were playing football in fall, basketball in winter, and baseball in spring, he had to pick one. He wouldn’t have had to pick one if they were all free, or cheap. Pretty simple.

“Wait, where does the money come from??” you ask.

“Maybe you need to re-read item number one on this list,” I reply.

*****

So there it is. Why won’t this work? The short answer is: people still like McDonald’s, and don’t like exercising. Also, you’ve got to consider the same reason it’s taken us so long to start caring about the environment: people don’t think it’s a problem. In time, though, you’re going to see a rise in diabetes, bypass surgeries, national cholesterol, you name it. And maybe after that kills off enough people, or maybe after Al Gore makes an Oscar-winning power-point presentation about it, people will start paying attention. And when that time comes, I’ll be happy to lend the President my plan.