New & Now

National Dieting

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Obesity and malnutrition are often seen and treated as personal failures. Yes, the main cause of both is eating unhealthy food, compounded by a sedentary lifestyle. But our diets and our fitness regimes are ultimately part of the social and environmental fabric of our nation. We are driven to consume sugary drinks and processed foods by targeted advertising. Television and time on the couch have replaced regular exercise because it is socially acceptable. As a function of these things, national obesity rates have doubled in adults and tripled in children since 1970. Nationally, the added cost of treating diseases associated with obesity is 190 Billion dollars. 


An op-ed by Philip Boffey in this weeks NY Times Sunday Review argues that the only way to solve the issue of obesity in this country is to fundamentally change the culture associated with food. Isolated attempts at change, such as Michelle Obama's cookbook and healthy food campaign, Bloomberg's ban on large sodas, and the Disney Channel's moritorium on unhealthy advertisements, can only do so much to limit weight gain among Americans. Food choice is undeniably personal, and telling somebody what to eat, as we have seen, is not always the best way to affect change. But something must be done - and preferably on a natioanl level.

Boffey suggests that, "...a major cut in obesity rates will require multiple strategies on a population-wide scale. This will be even more challenging than the fight against smoking. But there isn’t any choice if we want to protect the public’s health, the strength of the economy and the government budget."

How do you put a nation on a diet? from The NY Times