I was disappointed to learn that my home state of Tennessee is jumping on the “government must prevent obesity” bandwagon by instituting a new program called Eat Well, Play More Tennessee.
The title pretty much says it all: the state is going to tell us what to eat and encourage us to exercise more. Man, it’s inspiring to see government officials thinking outside the box.
The program’s home page states This plan is closely associated with the Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I’m guessing “closely associated” means the state program is funded by a federal grant. It may even part of the “stimulus” package or the health-care “reform” bill … hard to say, since nobody in Congress actually read either one.
If the funding didn’t come from the feds, the advice certainly does. One of the documents featured on the site is a list of anti-obesity strategies produced by the CDC. Here’s a paragraph from the Methods section:
The Measures Project Team completed a full review of 94 articles and seven seminal documents, resulting in the identification of 791 potential obesity prevention strategies. Similar and overlapping strategies were collapsed, resulting in a final total of 179 environmental or policy-level strategies for obesity prevention.
Well, that boosts my confidence already. If the CDC is promoting 179 separate anti-obesity strategies, there’s an outside chance one of them might work. The trouble with offering a simple solution (such as admitting that sugar and refined carbohydrates are fattening and ceasing to subsidize them) is that if it fails, you don’t have 178 back-up plans.
Another document featured on the site is the Surgeon General’s Vision For a Healthy and Fit Nation. This one is also full of bold new strategies, such as:
- Choose low-fat foods
- Eat more whole grains
- Become more physically active
The Surgeon General’s report opens by explaining that while obesity rates were low and stable during the 1960s and 1970s, they began to skyrocket over the next two decades. I can’t help but wonder if the committee members who produce these reports ever engage in conversations along the lines of:
“In closing, Mr. Chairman, the data demonstrates that obesity began to rise around 1980.”
“I see. And what can we do about it?”
“We recommend implementing programs to convince the public to consume less fat and more whole grains.”
“And this is a new strategy?”
“No. We put it in place around 1980.”
Naturally, the new state program calls for getting the schools involved. The recommendations include placing a nutrition counselor at every school and requiring teachers to take nutrition classes.
I can see how that will make a big difference. Look at the current situation: kids leave the classroom for the school cafeteria, where they’re served meals dictated by federal guidelines … teeny portions of protein with sides of mashed potatoes, noodles, rolls, peaches in syrup, and boxes of apple juice. Amazingly, those foods haven’t produced thinner kids.
After years of research, the state pinpointed the reason: the teachers don’t understand why kids need mashed potatoes, noodles, rolls, peaches in syrup, and boxes of apple juice. Educate the classroom teachers, and the federal guidelines enforced in the cafeterias will finally work.
Germany, perhaps not surprisingly, is considering a somewhat more punitive means of dealing with fat people: slap higher taxes on them:
Marco Wanderwitz, a conservative member of parliament for the German state of Saxony, said it is unfair and unsustainable for the taxpayer to carry the entire cost of treating obesity-related illnesses in the public health system.
“I think that it would be sensible if those who deliberately lead unhealthy lives would be held financially accountable for that,” Wanderwitz said, according to Reuters.
It’s nice to know the deep thoughts of MeMe Roth are finally gaining a following in Europe.
Others are suggesting even more extreme measures. The German teachers association recently called for school kids to be weighed each day, The Daily Telegraph said. The fat kids could then be reported to social services, who could send them to health clinics.
Given the country’s history, let’s hope sending the inferior people off to “clinics” strikes most Germans as a very bad idea.
The state of Michigan helped its citizens to become leaner and healthier this year, too. How? By encouraging them to give up meat for a day. The resolution is fascinating; I’ve never heard vegan propaganda translated into legalese before:
Whereas, A wholesome diet of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains promotes good health and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, which take the lives of approximately 1.3 million Americans each year; and,
Whereas, The number of those who choose to live the lifestyle of a vegan or vegetarian has increased and so has the availability and selection of meat and dairy alternatives in mainstream grocery stores, restaurants, and catering operations; and,
Whereas, Reducing the consumption of meat or not eating meat at all can significantly decrease the exposure to infectious pathogens such as salmonella, E. coli, and campylobacter, which take the lives of several thousand Americans and sicken millions more each year; and,
Whereas, The benefits of a plant-based diet can consist of increased energy levels, lower food budget costs, and simplified food preparation and cleanup; and,
Whereas, It is encouraged that the residents of this state get into the habit of healthy living by consuming a diet that is rich with vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, and by staying active;
Now, Therefore, be it Resolved, That I, Jennifer M. Granholm, governor of the state of Michigan, do hereby proclaim March 20, 2010, Michigan Meatout Day in Michigan. In observance of this day, I encourage the residents of this state to choose not to eat meat.
I love it. It’s nearly as silly as the opening speech in Monty Python’s sketch The Royal Society For Putting Things On Top of Other Things.
Speaking of silly people across the pond, Scotland has decided it can cure obesity by ordering restaurants to serve smaller portions:
The SNP administration at Holyrood said it will ask chefs to reduce the calorific content of their meals, but warned legislation will follow if they fail to make “sufficient” progress.
The strategy argues an interventionist stance is required by the state because people will not sufficiently change their eating and exercise habits of their own free will.
Riiiiiight. But if you force the restaurants to serve smaller meals, then people will lose weight. I mean, it’s not as if they’ll go home and say, “Aaaacchhh! That damned little meal! Step aside, I’m fryin’ up a pan of chips.”
Shona Robison, Scottish public health minister, said: “No country in the world has successfully addressed obesity and we want Scotland to be the first.
Now that statement shows some amazing stupi– uh … confidence. No government in the world has successfully addressed obesity, but Shona Robinson has it all figured out. And here I thought the obvious conclusion is that government anti-obesity plans don’t work.
Or perhaps government programs need a more direct approach, like the one suggested by an official in Britain:
Doctors should stop mincing their words and tell the overweight they are fat, the public health minister has said. Anne Milton called on the NHS to ban terms such as “obese” because they do not have the same emotional impact.
The former nurse said larger people were less likely to bother to try to lose weight if they were told they were obese or overweight than if the doctor was blunt and said they were “fat.”
Mrs Milton told the BBC that it was important people took “personal responsibility” for their lifestyles. Speaking in a personal capacity, the public health minister said: ‘If I look in the mirror and think I am obese I think I am less worried than if I think I am fat.’
“How’s my health, doctor?”
“I’m sorry to break this to you, but … well, you’re fat.”
“What?! No way! I looked in the mirror this morning. I’m not fat; I’m just obese!”
“No, I’m sorry, but you’re fat. Really, really, really fat.”
“I’ll be damned. Now I feel personally responsible.”
By the way, the picture you see to the left is of Mrs. Milton. Someone needs to tell her she’s fat. She clearly hasn’t been informed.
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