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Our Big Problem - Obesity - Who Will Solve?

Posted May 19 2010 11:21pm
The Wall Street Journal recently published Our Big Problem: Obesity penned by a British physician Anthony Daniels, pen name Theodore Dalrymple, who feels that the weight problem is due to fragmentation of families when it comes to meal times. Families don't prepare or enjoy meals together. Fast and already prepared foods dominate the kitchen table. It is simply a consequence of the modern society we live in. He wishes that the fast-paced fragmented American family life will return to the days of home cooked meals and sit down dinners.

He recognizes that this ideal world is highly unlikely. As a result, he suggests that is that government should regulate and restrict further the food we eat. Sugar and fat content of fast foods would be an area of government intervention.

He'd better be kidding. Anyone who has been watching Jamie Oliver's show Food Revolution has seen how well intentioned government regulations on school nutrition can result in very unhealthy food that fulfills the requirements but not healthful. (Is a squirt of ketchup really a vegetable serving?). Government does have a role in society, but will be unable to fix this problem.

Unfortunately doctors can't stop the obesity epidemic either. Recent reports noted that primary care doctors lack the training and resources to address the issue with their patients, even as they feel the responsibility to provide advice. The problem is that in a survey of 290 doctors found that 72 percent had no one in the office trained to discuss weight management. Of the 90 percent of obese patients who were counseled to lose weight about a third of patients noted they weren't told how to lose weight.

Winning the war on obesity won't come from government regulation or somehow getting doctors to be better in educating and counseling patients. It won't be families resorting to a simpler slower pace of life that existed a couple generations ago.

Winning the war on obesity and turning the tide will be due to the same large multi-n ational organizations that are being vilified. McDonald's top chef, Dan Coudreaut, will impact more lives on a daily basis than any doctor could ever advise over an entire career based on his latest creation which graces the McDonald's menus nationally. The real question is whether our corporations will begin taking on this new social responsibility in keeping our nation healthy or would they rather wish to continue to kill their customers slowly from inside out and dump the health consequences onto an increasingly dysfunctional expensive healthcare system, other employers via escalating premiums, and ultimately destroy US competitveness by creating an unhealthy fatter workforce that is unable to meet the challenges of the future?

Although there will be people quite skeptical about businesses and corporations fixing the problem which they helped create, it appears that this is the case. The Washington Post noted that large food organizations are committed to reduce the calories in existing products, offer healthier selections and smaller portions.

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition including Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo, will slash 1 trillion calories by the end of 2012 and 1.5 trillion calories by the end of 2015. The 16 members make 20-25 percent of food consumed in the United States. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition including Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo, will slash 1 trillion calories by the end of 2012 and 1.5 trillion calories by the end of 2015. The 16 members make 20-25 percent of food consumed in the United States.
This is an encouraging first step. Maintaining a healthy weight is more than asking individuals to choose wisely every meal. It's about helping the public makes the right desired choices by creating products that are healthy, nutritious, and lower in calories. Restaurants and food organizations must lead the way to slow and then reverse the trend.

Otherwise with the status quo, children born since 2000 will the first generation of Americans not to live as long as their parents due to obesity related illnesses like diabetes.

Secret to weight loss is simply: Eat less. Move more. When companies get it right, eating less will be easier to do.

It will be the private sector that begins to solve the obesity problem.
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