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War On Obesity: Obesity And The Economy: Part 10

Posted Oct 22 2008 8:06am

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

Our financial crisis can be an instrument of change in a positive direction. America’s obesity epidemic is a weapon of mass destruction destined to cause another financial crisis. An increase in the complications of chronic disease can cause an economic meltdown if the obesity epidemic is not contained. The complications of chronic diseases result in the expenditure of 90% our healthcare dollars.

The average American burns 1200 to 2000 calories per day with normal activities of daily living. 2.2 lbs. of fat store 9000 calories of energy. In order to gain 2.2 lbs. a person needs to eat 9000 calories more than he burns. In order to lose 2.2 lbs a person needs to burn 9000 calories more than he eats.

It is very easy to gain 9,000 calories and very hard to lose 9,000 calories in America’s cultural environment. The average fast food meal is over 1000 calories while thirty minutes of jogging at an eleven minute mile burns 200 calories.

How can our financial crisis impact our obesity epidemic? Americans are being cautious about spending money. Large amounts of their retirement savings  are being wiped out.

Exercise is cheap. Couples sharing meals at restaurants result in half the caloric intake and half the cost.

Restaurant entrees are at least 1200 calories. TGI Friday’s tried to develop a competitive advantage by offering smaller portion entrees at lower prices. The plan has not gotten any traction. 

America has to be conditioned to a cultural change in eating habits. We have experienced the explosive change in eating habits in the 1950s and 1960s with the introduction of fast food vendors and snack foods. This was the result of Pavlovian conditioning.  

However, a person can feel just as satisfied with half a sandwich as a whole sandwich. In hard economic times sharing a meal cost half as much as two meals. If we eat simple meals at home it can cost much less than buying take out meals or eating in a restaurant.

How can we accomplish this cultural change? I believe it can be done through education and subliminal advertising. Everyone wants to be thin. They do not have the information to accomplish their goal.

Wal-Mart is going to have a nutritional consultant on its web site suggesting inexpensive healthy food planning. 

New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a genius. We need more leaders like him. The New York City Department of health has initiated an educational campaign on the NYC Subway.

“The five ads appearing in subway cars are designed to help people see how quickly fast-food calories add up and drive home the message that some foods can have deceptively high calorie counts.”

The best is a poster of a delicious looking apple raisin muffin. The ad states the muffin is 475 calories. Above the muffin it say the average person burns 2000 calories per day. The observer was left to fill in the rest and make his own choice.

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"If you're eating it as a snack, you may want to split it with a friend," Nonas, a registered dietitian, said in a statement.

 

The New York City Department of Health has four additional advertisements. The ads are educational and subliminal.

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This is a brilliant public service campaign. However, it only tells half the story. In order to lose weight you have to eat less and burn more. NYC has to follow up with exercise posters and a sustained campaign. Any campaign has to be sustained and remain exciting in order to cause the cultural change in eating necessary to stop the growth of obesity.

The federal government should be doing a similar public service campaign all over the United States. The media is the message and this message should constantly be a reminder to all of us. If we are serious about Repairing The Healthcare System we have to be serious about my War On Obesity.

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