Monday, May 17, 2010

The Obesity Debates, Part II

Journal Entry May 17, 2010: Weight = 173.6 lbs.; Coinage = $5.58, 178 pennies, 11 nickels, 15 dimes, 7 quarters; Glass Bottles = 6; Ground Scores = 4; best coinage find = plentiful canisters at the car wash.

Journal Entry May 16, 2010: Weight = 171.8 lbs.; Coinage = $1.49, 34 pennies, 4 nickels, 2 dimes, 3 quarters; Glass bottles = 6; Ground Scores = 7 (a nice office chair and a desk lamp all to be recycled); Best coinage find = 2 telephone return coins , a “super find.”

Journal Entry Mary 15, 2010: Weight = 172.0 lbs.; Coinage = $2.03, 38 pennies (one wheat), 2 nickels, 3 dimes, 5 quarters; Glass bottles = 6; Ground scores = 5; Best coinage find = 2 quarters in a parking meter return slot, still another super find, two days in a row—very infrequent.

Feature Entry: The Obesity Debates, Part II

Marc Ambinder, a writer for Atlantic Magazine has defined two causal forces that are considered the leading explanations for the overweight/obesity “epidemic” that is racing through America; a condition that has been defined as contagious by researchers at the U. of Colorado. In the presence of other overeating, we are also inclined to overeat. Thomas Frieden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reminds us of what we intuitively know, the two big causes of obesity is the one/two punch of reduced exercise and increased food consumption.

But the debate is about who is the blame. Caution, the blame forces are politically loaded with financial, psychological, and sociological implications. When discussing this issue, it easy to slip into politically incorrect observations and suggestions. In a parlor party, one group will blame the overweight for not being able to control their urge to overindulge, another will blame agribusiness for over marketing foods that are intentionally designed and dietetically engineered to hook consumers on foods loaded with salt, sugar, and transfat.

Serpentining through both camps is an argument for and against government control. Those for personal freedom argue that is the right of the individual to choose when and what is to be eaten. This group would also be resistant to placing limitations on agribusiness. Another group advocate taking a “tobacco solution” which means heavy state and federal taxes on foods that are linked to obesity. One suggestion is to place a penny tax on each ounce of sugar sweetened soft-drink sold.

And Hollywood actresses are known to fuel the fire. Oprah Winfrey has been forthcoming about her yo-yo fluctuations and her frankness has tended to “normalize the conversation." Jennifer Love Hewitt, Tyra Banks, Kim Kardashian, Jessica Simpson and Kelly Clarkson are stars with documented weight gains and have responded to news reports at times with indifference and defiance at others. Some obesity experts warn that when stars gain weight it sends the message that gaining weight is acceptable; others contend the opposite, that profiling Hollywood stars that have gained weight adds to the national crisis.

What can really address the problem other than self control? Several have advocating one or more of the follow solutions: 1) strategically labeled caloric information on all food sold by fast-food restaurants; 2) restrains and govt. control of food advertising; 3) more govt. research for new treatments for the ow/obese; 4) rewriting insurance policies that penalize the obese or reward the BMI compliers; 5) city banned trans-fats from restaurants; and 6) socially marketing of the importance of exercise and eating healthier both in schools and in the work force.

Other suggestions include 8) increasing subsidies for fruits and vegetables; 9) using zoning restrictions to keep fast-food restaurants away from schools; 10) “removing unhealthy foods from all schools, child-care and health-care facilities, and government institutions”; and 11)“completely eliminating” children’s exposure to food advertising on television.

These recommendations leaves the MoneyWalker wondering, whose responsibility is it to fix behavioral problems that are individual in nature but have financial implications for all of us? Ambinder asks a worthy question: “Would it be fair if the government induced health sanctions to combat obesity? Or should it be the responsibility of individuals and families?”

An on-line discussion group on Pandalous includes several well stated opinions concerning the debate. The MoneyWalker invites you to enter the debate on this site. Let us hear from you.



  1. Self control. I have none.
    After a two hour, sweat-inducing ride this morning I came home and ate a banana. Then ate three chocolates. My rationale: I had already worked the calories off this morning. Now I realize how dumb this was. (But those chocolates were yummy.)

    In answer to your question: I am ultimately responsible for my behavior (example above). On the other hand, as I go to the grocery store and see what is in other shoppers' carts I realize that it is much easier (and often cheaper) to eat unhealthy foods than healthy ones. Yes, maybe this is where the government could step in. Case in point, the crap that my grandchildren are fed in the school lunch program.

    Another example: McDonalds. The grandkids choose to go there every time, not because they like the food but because of the playground and Happy Meal toys. Luckily, there are now healthy alternatives such as apple slices and milk available in the meals.


    This was in my email right after I commented.

    Hello. My name is Numi and I am a junk food junkie.

  3. Numi, I read the Peeke article. Neuro scientists are beginning to show that certain foods can be addictive in the same way as hard drugs. Scarry! I may do a feature blog on food addiction.

    I liked your AA joke.