Big fan of Morning Joe. Just wanted to give a little essay about an issue you hold dear: The obesity crisis in America. I too share your concern.
On March 7th of this year I began a weight loss program, I was moderately obese (about 245) and the added weight was wearing down both my knees and hips, as well as significant back strain. Walking up a flight of stairs was increasingly difficult and I realized that at my age (60) that a change had to made.
I chose a rather unorthodox method to lose weight. I decided to just eat 2000 calories or less a day, and increase exercise to 90 minutes a day. Today is the three month mark of this and I am now down to 210. To say that I am happy is understated, to say that I am continuing the fight is not. Although that sounds familiar as a weight loss plan, what made my approach different is that I really started to look around at the way food was being presented.
Losing weight is not hard. It simply requires the simple formula of eating less and exercising more. The problem is, and you of all know this, the options available for food are way out of balance. As I moved farther into the program I developed, I realized one very crucial point: For every healthy option for a meal, there are literally 50 that are not. Fruits and vegetables and healthy meals have to be discovered after wading through a maze of junk.
Food is both a necessity and an evil these days. Unlike cigarettes and alcohol or even drugs, food is necessary for life itself. Air, water, and food are the most basic of life’s necessities. Yet, food is also addictive, can lead to compulsive behavior and is the end product of much of the stresses of living in the world. The psycho social aspects of why we eat enter a myriad of theories and conjecture. But one truth remains, the pull of bad eating habits is all around, family, media, and imagery all contribute to the maelstrom of self image.
OK, I may be a zealous convert to this eating change, but isn’t it about time that the nation begins to realize the dangers of gluttonous overindulgence which is fueled by the junk food industry?
In 1964, Surgeon General Luther Terry issued that now famous report warning the public of the dangers of smoking. A warning that started a drumbeat over anti-smoking efforts that continue today.
Fast forward to today, where is a similar report by Surgeon General Regina Benjamin? Most people don’t even know she is the Surgeon General! The time has come for a warning to the public about the dangers of obesity and junk food . There have been many studies done about obesity, and even statements and efforts by the First Lady to address this, but until the medical leaders in our government make a bold statement labeling junk food as a danger to society, much like the 1964 report, society will continue to nibble around the edges of a problem that will go on for decades, if not addressed now.
Consider this: The baby boomer generation was the first generation to have fast food as an integral part of the culture. Two more generations have been weened on a junk food culture. Much as cigarettes were in the second and third generations when that 1964 report was issued. Get it? Clinical evidence has emerged about both of them after about 50 years of use.
The obvious difference is that we need to food to live, and I believe that, through my own weight loss experience, that there is an addictive nature to junk food. Now is the time for the nation to understand that continuing down the fast food highway will not only affect public health, but also eventually bankrupt our government, lessen our ability to compete globally, and ultimately will lead to varying degrees of disintegration of our society as we know it today.
Obesity is already causing a startling rise in disability cases through the Social Security Administration. Obesity causes back injuries and strokes and cardiac illness, and much of that occurs in mid life, 40’s and 50’s. Everyone knows of someone who became disabled from those ailments and most came through obesity.
As the American workforce becomes more sedentary, health care costs rise for their treatment. Productivity suffers and the temptation to reduce staff or outsource becomes an option for corporate America. I must share this story. I worked for a healthcare organization here in New York and everyday a pharmaceutical salesman or woman would bring lunch to the sites. On the house, just to give their sales pitch to the doctors and nurses. Want to know what the common lunches were? Pizza, Chinese food, lasagna, and other high calorie and high fat foods. Not only that, but they would bring deserts such as big cookies and ice cream.
If a healthcare organization cannot realize the dangers of bringing junk food to its employees, how can they be expected to lead the charge for healthy eating?
Now, on your show Joe Scarborough and others lightly mock your vigilant stance about the alarming abuse of junk food, but what they fail to realize is that though, in a perfect world we would all make wise choices and show personal responsability in our eating choices, it cannot be achieved when healthy options outnumber the bad ones 50-1.
It is ironic that coming up on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 report, we have replaced one danger to the public health with another.
This is why the following should be considered immediately. An obesity tax of 10% on all foods designated as high fat, sugar, or salt by nutritional experts. The money generated from this tax would be apportioned to the CMS for use in Medicaid, Medicare and reimbursements to private insurers for treatment of obesity related illnesses.
In addition, some of the money that is received would be directed as inducements to those who receive public assistance to offset the costs of purchasing healthier foods. As well, some revenue would be directed to school districts to provide healthy menus for school lunches.
It was not until we realized that smoking behavior could not be changed by education alone, did we see real decreases in smoking. Same is true here. Until we provide incentives to eat healthier, and to apply punitive measures to bad eating habits, will any change occur.
This is not the “nanny” state rearing its ugly head. As a matter of fact this tax is a tax you DO NOT have to pay! Eat healthy, save money! Personal responsibility in life actually requires some personal responsibility! As long a fast food and junk food can flood the media with advertising and imagery, glamorizing food abuse, it is a losing battle to educate the public. How can everything be taken in moderation, when the ratio is 50-1?
It is sad that so little has been done about this. It is sad that many in this nation are literally eating themselves to death. And much like the cigarette commercials of the 1950’s, junk food is made to look safe and its consumers all smiling and happy.
Anyway, hope you read this Mika and good luck with the effort!