I had recently posted an entry about obesity and how it is attributing to the decline of American society. In the matter of hours, one of my friends reads it, and before I know it, I am engaging in an hour-long conversation regarding the issue. My friend had expressed disappointment in the fact that I just went on a diatribe, rather than discuss ways to solve the issue of obesity. Although my sole intention was to be in rant mode, there was nevertheless truth in that criticism. With that in mind, I give you my analysis on how to solve the problem of obesity. Like with any other issue, we need to identify root causes before discussing potential solutions. Naturally, this is the most sound way of approaching problem-solving from a public policy standpoint.
Obesity, by definition, is the accumulation of excess body fat that is deemed to be unhealthy. It is brought about by eating voluminous amounts of caloric intake (i.e., obese people eat a whole lot of food). This high intake causes health complications and reduced life expectancy. Food consumption is not a new phenomenon; dealing with an excessively large percent of overweight citizens is new.
There are multiple causes that have brought about the "epidemic" of obesity. One is our sedentary lifestyle. Many Americans have worked in a cubicle. However, with the advent of inventions such as the television and the Internet, we are more prone to sitting idly in front of a screen for longer periods of time, thereby giving our bodies more time to accumulate fat. Food prices themselves are causing issues. Big Government has been subsidizing Big Agriculture (e.g., processed foods, meat). Subsidies, by definition, distort the market. Foods such as Twinkies and Big Macs are artificially cheaper, whereas produce and organic products come off as more expensive. This would explain why America is one of the only countries in the world that has poor people who are fat, rather than skin and bones. The third primary cause is ignorance. People don't know what a good diet consists of--they'll just eat whatever is either cheap and/or tasty. People also don't know that a mere thirty minutes of daily, physical activity would further prevent obesity. In terms of solutions, there are two ways of approaching the problem: macrocosmic or microcosmic.
What I mean when I say macrocosmic is the government's role in health care. If people were cognizant of a healthy diet, odds are that they would be practicing it, and health care costs would be at a minimum. Unfortunately, people are so self-indulgent that that short-term result of a good-tasting meal outweighs the longer-term effects. That leaves two options here:
The first option is governmental control of the health care system. Just think about it. You won't have to worry about health care bills. Heck, you won't even have to worry about what's for dinner because the government will have taken care of that for you. If you think that the government telling you what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat is only in the realm of fiction, think again! The Maoist regime practiced food rationing for Communist China. You know how that ended up? It adversely attributed to the 30+ million that died during the Great Leap Forward. When you have a command economy, lots of people end up dead....I always found that to be an interesting correlation.
The second option would be a trend towards personal responsibility and less government, either of which would begin with the repeal of Obamacare. Two main obstacles towards this goal exist. The first is that since FDR and the New Deal, we have seen a mentality towards dependency on Big Government, something that has not been abated since then. The second is the growing sentiment that the individual feels self-entitled towards everything, which negates any sense of personal responsibility.
I particularly go after Obamacare because if we pool Americans into a one-size-fits-all insurance program, people will say "damn the consequences because Obamacare is my safety net." This decreases disincentive to partake in self-destructive behaviors that diminish longevity. A dismantling of Medicare and Medicaid would also do the trick, since that would decrease government dependency and cut back on about 19% of the federal budget. A huge voting bloc of seniors would prevent that necessity from happening. After all, AARP is the largest interest group in America. In short, a whole lot of political activism and a renewed sense of personal responsibility would be the best way to remedy the macrocosmic ramifications.
Since I don't foresee this happening anytime soon, the microcosmic, i.e., the individual level, is a better place to go, which would require two things: personal responsibility and the willpower to lose weight. Short of fully abstaining from eating, since that would be a ridiculous suggestion, you can apply the Twelve-Step program here. If you are overweight, you accept that you have a problem. You gather the resolve to overcome eating unhealthy foods and create a healthy, balanced diet. You make the time to exercise at least thirty minutes a day. You have to remove any obstacles, such as TV watching or going down the dessert aisle at the supermarket, to accomplish your goal. Not only do you decide to be healthy, you have to do it consistently. Eating a stalk of celery once a month or going to the gym once a week for ten minutes won't cut it. Like someone on the Twelve-Step Program, you need personal commitment to see it through.
Concluding thoughts: Any sincere attempt to change for the better, whether it's losing weight, cutting back on alcohol, or abstaining from gossip, require awareness, measurable goals, commitment to hard work, and consistency. If you can remain steadfast to these foundations, personal change in any facet of life is always an acquirable goal.