Bad opinion piece from Chicago Tribune

We know Paul LePage’s leadership ability is handicapped when it comes to fighting obesity. And, I think, most people agree that that is a bad thing. We want to fight obesity. A special focus is usually (and rightly) given to obesity in children, but we do care about obesity in adults as well. Moral issues aside (because we ought not make public laws and rules based upon personal morals; instead we ought to seek to act in a way that best accommodates a wide array of morals), obesity costs everyone money. The overweight person with medicare costs us all. And that can be avoided with some exercise and better eating.

That’s one reason I find this opinion piece from the Chicago Tribune so dismaying.

Fellow Americans, we’re fat.

Not all of us, but a lot — more than enough to prod our government into action.

Last month, just days after a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a rise in adult obesity, the Senate approved a $4.5 billion bill to boost child nutrition and improve the quality of school meals. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln hailed the bill’s “common-sense solutions for tackling childhood hunger and obesity.”

It’s a reasonable bill, and might help on the margin. But if Lincoln or anyone else thinks it will solve the broader problem, think again. The Arkansas Democrat and her comrades on Capitol Hill could launch a new Apollo program aimed at obesity and, fellow Americans, we’d still be fat.

Government can do only so much without doing too much. In fact, most of the options for making a difference on, ahem, a large scale would be doing way too much. But like dentists who never tire of hectoring their patients to floss, lawmakers just can’t leave us alone.

Consider, for instance, the periodic proposals to tax junk food and soda pop. Does anyone seriously believe American couch potatoes would suddenly switch from nachos and cola drinks to celery sticks and skim milk? The results are in. After years of obesity task forces, prevention programs, government-funded studies and related “War on Fat” initiatives, waistlines keep expanding.

Kudos to First Lady Michelle Obama for leading a youth exercise class on the White House lawn, but here’s what government fails to understand: Not only are we fat, fellow Americans, but we know that we’re fat. Inexplicably, we accept it. We’ve … forgiven ourselves.

True, some studies show that people view themselves or their children in less-dire shape than the scale indicates. That’s human nature. The latest CDC report on obesity noted that we aren’t fibbing as much as we once did about our size when responding to the agency’s telephone surveys.

It’s a safe bet that most people have no illusions about obesity being on the rise among children, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws and neighbors, not to mention some very conspicuous summertime beach-goers. This is, after all, the same population that sits in its well-worn easy chairs night after night watching “The Biggest Loser.”

We don’t need the government food police to inform us that eating an apple would be healthier than a bag of chips.

We hereby acknowledge the benefits of getting up and moving around a little.

We know being fat is bad for us. And we know it’s not all the fault of farm subsidies, video games, an aging population, growth hormones in the food supply, our love affair with the automobile or the ubiquity of quick-service restaurants.

We get it: Eat less, exercise more.

Doughnuts, no. Ice cream, no. Deep-fried anything, no.

Walking at a brisk pace for at least 30 minutes each and every day, yes!

Satisfied? Now mind your own business.

That’s all anyone wants, right? So long as fat people acknowledge their lack of health and that there are ways to remedy their situation, we should all be satisfied. Right? R-right?

The fact is, this is our own business. We make companies tell us what is in their food because it is in the interest of public health. We ban soda from schools because we want to help kids grow into healthy adults. We create food pyramids (flawed as they may unfortunately be) to better educate people so they know how to eat in a healthy way. And this is everyone’s business. Overweight people affect us all, whether through health costs or as being one driving factor in that terrible push to create a new Fenway a decade ago.

Imagine, for those unfortunate to have it in their grocery stores, if SmartOption foods didn’t have nutrition facts. They look and sound so appealing. But a quick look at the nutrition facts and ingredients reveals that it’s a load of garbage. Or, more nationally, imagine if there was enough ignorance for those pro-high fructose corp syrup commercials to slide by uncriticized.

The Chicago Tribune is wrong; we do need regulations and better information so we know what to eat if we want to be healthy. This isn’t about forcing a healthy diet down everyone’s throat (except in the case of children, but good parents have been doing that forever). It’s about creating a wealth of information that is clear and useful.

Immediate update: There actually is an ad for that high fructose corp syrup bullshit on that very page. Good job, Chicago Tribune.

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One Response

  1. [...] a year and a half ago I wrote about a bad opinion piece from the Chicago Tribune. I stand by most of what I said, but I want to distance myself from something contained in this [...]

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