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Thursday, April 29, 2010

So, Why Can't We Do This Here? And What Else Can We Do To Change the Obesity Trend?

French children don't get fat. In 2004, when an uptick in childhood obesity was reported there, the government responded swiftly - children between the ages of five and 12 were weighed at school and reports containing their weights and body mass indexes were sent to their parents, along with instructions explaining how to interpret the numbers. Parents then attended meetings with local physicians and dieticians about ways to prevent or reverse the trend with diet and exercise, and children were taught about portion control and good nutrition. Vending machines selling soda and snacks were banned from school campuses and exercise was encouraged. The Plan was simple, clear and effective-the obesity rate declined before stabilizing in 2007.

from "Why the Jenny Craig Diet Will Fail in France"

Since health plans benefit from people losing weight and ditching their diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia drugs, you'd think that this maybe should be part of a requirement for health insurance--mandated weigh-ins with physicians or dietitians and regular visits with dietitians and/or cognitive therapists, not just voluntary. How about tax credits for gym memberships or personal training, but only applicable with validated proof of use X times a week of gym classes, sessions, or equipment notarized and attached to tax forms. Maybe streamline the process by which persons who are morbidly obese can obtain surgical intervention, should they desire it, instead of making it an obstacle course for some. Maybe taxing junk food up the wahoo to subsidize lower prices for fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, wholesome oils, and lean proteins? Make whole grain bread cheaper by taxing white junk bread and rolls an extra fifty cents per pack? Limiting the use of food stamps to only highly-nutritive  food items (nothing with white sugar, hydrogenated fats, excess processing with sodium, high fructose corn syrup).

I really like the idea of banning all junk food in vending machines from all government supported schools from daycare on up. I don't know if bans would fly at private schools, but there's no reason the government should be providing readily available crap for its citizenry when it's going to be the taxpayers getting the bill for obesity-related diseases and complications. If it's bad for people to smoke, and we tax the hell outta cigarettes, well, it's bad for folks to suck up snack cakes regularly or slurp sugary sodas regularly, and we should prohibitively tax that, too,and shift the revenue to activities and subsidies that encourage good eating and better health habits.

If we've got an epidemic of overeating, bad-eating, and lack of exercise, then what ideas can we come up with to make us all more aware and accountable and, as a nation, more active and better supported and, eventually, less obese from infancy on up...?

What are your ideas?

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