Obesity, Disease, Politics & Power

stock photo of anonymous obese woman - credit: Trust for America's Health
stock photo of anonymous obese woman - credit: Trust for America's Health

According to the most recent CDC data, America is fatter than ever.

us - obesity stats 2008 map

And, according to the CDC and the media and the Trust for America’s Health, things are only getting worse:

obesity trends 2008

And, as I reported in a previous post, by 2048, researchers have projected that ALL Americans will be overweight or obese.

Wow!

This obesity epidemic sounds pretty dire.

So, what are we going to do?

Do we go it alone as individuals or do we come together as a community and try to whip our collective selves into shape?

In previous posts, I have discussed how some progressive public officials have used public funds to equip public parks with outdoor fitness equipment.

And on a personal level, I have also begun discussing my plans for no-cost / low-cost public fitness classes with various levels of government up here in Canada……frustrating, mind-numbing discussions full of  political B.S., but what can you do, they’re politicians.

But what about the big boys?

The guys with the connections and the money and the influence. What do those guys think we should do about America’s (the world’s) Obesity Epidemic?

trust for america's health f as in fat obesity report 2008

In their annual report (F as in Fat), the Trust for America’s Health has:

  1. A series of recommendations to make preventing and reducing obesity a central objective of health reform, and
  2. It also calls for a National Strategy to Combat Obesity.

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1.   The Recommendations for Preventing/Reducing Obesity

obesity recommendations - trust for americas health - obesity

Alright, sounds great…if you believe in publicly funded health care

2.   National Strategy to Combat Obesity

trust for america's health national strategy to combat obesity

pdf version

Once again, sounds great to all of those people who voted for Pres. Obama.

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So, why do I feel apprehensive about this national strategy to combat obesity?

  • Does America really need a national strategy to combat obesity?
  • Does the USDA need expanded powers over national nutrition standards?
  • Does Medicare require additional funding for obesity-related coverage?

At present, the USDA heavily subsidizes the very foods that have driven the rise in obesity.

Instead of giving them more power, perhaps they could be encouraged to shift their funding away from corn, wheat, rice, soy & sugar and towards fruits, vegetables and animal proteins that provide a better nutrient to calorie ratio.

Instead of classifying obesity as a disease and increasing medicare funding to include more obesity drug prescriptions and surgeries, perhaps the government could shift some money away from obesity treatment and towards obesity prevention.

Those are the types of big government initiatives that I could get behind.

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Thus endeth the rant.

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14 comments

  1. It would be great to see some sort of national proactive measures taken to combat the spread of obesity, but before the hurdles of bureaucracy are even considered, you have the resistance of the public in adhering to such measures. People who care about their health are already doing something about it. Others have plenty of resources, many of which require little to no cost. The programs are already out there, but nobody is taking the initiative to follow them.

    Great example: Every college student has free access to a gym on campus. However, the weight gain present in incoming college students is pretty substantial and has even been termed the “freshman fifteen”. This could be due to a whole lot of things, but one of the biggest is that until reaching college age, every kid had to spend at least 30 minutes a day in PE doing some degree of physical activity. The rest of the college lifestyle isn’t helping either, but the instant mandatory fitness protocol is abandoned, the small semblance of health present in adolescents crumbles.

    Sorry if the comment is a little off topic. I kind of rambled more about the activity side of it more than the nutrition outlined in the post.

  2. You have some great points. However, if you actually do a little research about diet you’ll find that animal based foods are a cause of not only obesity (because of their higher fat content) but also many other chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.). I could list huge amounts of scientific literature to prove my point but I’d suggest starting off by reading “The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. The research that is not based on political or financial industry bias proves that a vegan diet is the most healthy and a vegetarian diet is second healthiest.

  3. Hi Dustin,

    Thanks for the comment. I always appreciate a contrasting pov.

    But my poor old ego has to disagree with your suggestion that I need to do a little research about diet.
    Take a look around the blog. You will soon be tripping over all of the diet-based research.

    Whether you agree with any of my conclusions is another story. But, isn’t that what makes all of this research interesting?

    For every study that proves your beliefs about animal-based proteins, veganism and their links to obesity and disease could easily be countered by another study that proves the opposite.

    And come on, you don’t actually believe that there isn’t any bias behind the research promoting vegan/vegetarian diets? Without bias, there isn’t any research.

  4. Don’t worry about the ramble – That whole post of mine was one big ramblin’ rant. I am surprised that anyone took the time to read it.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment –

    People who care about their health are already doing something about it

    Most of the necessary anti-obesity resources already exist. People just don’t make use of them.

    Why???- laziness, lack of understanding, stress, conditioning???

  5. “if you actually do a little research about diet you’ll find that animal based foods are a cause of not only obesity…”

    Thanks for the laugh…

    “… some progressive public officials have used public funds to equip public parks with outdoor fitness equipment.”

    This kind of thing annoys me for two reasons. First, when we lived in Raleigh the park had outdoor fitness equipment (hanging rings, chin-up bars, decline sit-up benches, etc.). Problem was, in one year of walking that park almost every morning and some afternoons 5 days a week I NEVER saw a single person using even one piece of the equipment.

    Second, you don’t need a single piece of equipment to do any one of the 100+ variations of push-ups, or a dozen versions of the squats (I am especially thinking of start squat jumps and regular plyometric squat jumps), or hand stand push-ups (all you need is a wall), or even a dozen core exercises. Throw a few from each of those groups together and you’ve got a great workout for most people.

    People don’t need equipment, they need motivation and commitment. How is the government going to do that? Aside from a ridiculous high tax on those designated as overweight or obese, a the threat of losing medical care, or even a sin tax on unhealthy foods, (btw, I don’t think either of these is a good idea) just what can the government do?

    Also, as an aside, the idea that does seem to have some traction is a sin tax for unhealthy foods comparable to the taxes on cigarettes. My problem with such is that I don’t trust the government to accurately designate which foods are healthy/unhealthy. Also, in the public mind any food left untaxed as “unhealthy” would naturally be assumed by the public at large to be healthy. Leading to over consumption of marginally healthy foods. This kind of government action is incapable of embracing the truth that it is the quantity of the item you consume, not the item itself, that leads to obesity.

    What might work (aside from government action)?
    How about if people understood how little time is necessary to raise metabolism and get a good workout. I think many people think they need to spend anywhere from 45 – 90 minutes in the gym just to get a “good” workout. However, I was reading recently that as little as 11 minutes of strength training (basic exercises like push-ups and such) has a significant impact on metabolism for up to 36 hours after. Combine the perception of a “good” workout taking over an hour with the ridiculous idea that you need a gym to workout, and you probably get at the main reason (or at least excuse) for folks who don’t workout. While many would still choose a sedentary lifestyle b/c it is easier (at least in the short term), I think there are a significant number who would embrace a simple training program of 15-20 min. of strength training three days a week using little or no equipment at home. So what I’m saying is that we need a deliberate public health campaign that gets doctors, T.V. stations, etc. on board to promote basic exercises, bust the myth of the hour long workout, and start putting holes in the defenses of “I don’t have enough time/I can’t afford a gym membership.”

    Now I’ve ranted too…

  6. I am not really for the government taking control of things becuase I think they are inept and inefficient for the most part, however I would not have a big problem with the government regulating ingredients to a much greater extent. If foods were harder to find with all of the bad (HFCS, trans fats, perservatives, refined carbs) stuff in them I think it could slow if not stop and counteract this growing epidemic of obesity.

    The problem is I don’t know if they would get it right because of the lobbyists skewing the laws, but my hope is that maybe some day we can have foods closer to nature with all the ingredients in them that help our bodies rather then the completely refined and processed foods.

  7. It’s frustrating to see so much money being spent to treat obesity and so little being spent on obesity prevention, but I have to agree with one of the other commenters – the resources are out there if people are willing to look for them. It really is a question of motivation because those people who want to lose weight, do lose weight. I was healthy all throughout high school and in the ten years after college, I gained 100 lbs through a very unhealthy sedentary lifestyle. But once, I decided to live healthier, I’ve been eating better (which while a little more costly, is worth every penny) and exercising regularly – so far I’ve lost 42 lbs. So if I can do it, anyone should be able to because having a 100lbs to lose may seen incredibly daunting until you realize you didn’t gain it all in a day, so you won’t lose it all in a day either. America seems to be too focused on quick fixes and that is not the solution.

  8. I think one of the comments above really hits the point properly. I am not wholly opposed to governmental intercession – smoking has gone down in recent years, and I do believe it is due in part to increased costs from additional taxes.

    And yet there are still smokers. I see folks paying $10 a pack for cigarettes every day. The cost hasn’t stopped them, and probably never will. They won’t stop until they have no choice, or decide it is in their best interest.

    The same is true with fast food, junk food, etc. – folks won’t stop eating poorly and flat out overeating until they have no choice, or decide it’s in their best interest.

    The “Costco” mentality really started with fast food, in my opinion. As fast food chains started “super-sizing”, they often posed the additional portion size as a “value”. This trains the brain to think along different lines; it’s ok to buy more because you’re saving. When warehouse stores first opened, they had significant discounts if you bought in bulk. But like many do with their income, I believe people started consuming to fill the gap. They buy more, so they start consuming more. I see families of four pushing out flat carts overloaded with foodstuffs week after week. And most of it is pre-processed, pre-packaged convenience food that is simply going to add sodium and fat to their diet. But hey – it was cheap!

    Until there is something that really puts a scare into people, really drives home that the excess weight is slicing years off their lives and killing the quality of their lives in the process, there won’t be a change.

  9. If our esteemed government really feels the need to help our citizens combat obesity – how about starting in an area where they already have a foot in the door, with the food stamp program? Instead of “here’s money, use it for whatever you want except beer and cigarettes”, how about vouchers for fruit and vegetables, sugar-free cereals, unprocessed foods and meats? They do it with the WIC program, which dictates that only certain foods can be purchased, all of which have been deemed “healthy.” Just a thought.

  10. Well said!!! I completely agree that prevention is better than to cure. So much of hue and cry about healthcare bill is useless if we do not get in the roots of the cause and try to solve it.

    It’s funny that you spend so much in gaining calories and even more trying to reduce them. Increasing healthcare funds, strategies to streamline health insurance etc is a complete waste if people are not self aware about their health.

    Need of the hour is to educate people about these issues.

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