In decades past, families relied on themselves and their neighbors, even – or, perhaps, especially – in lean times. Since then, we’ve worked, played and lived over an expanding government safety net that is both financial and paternal. In recent years, particularly, the government has been taking on more and more of the responsibility for our lives that we used to take ourselves.
As just one example, there’s the mayor of New York – who thinks it’s his job to protect his constituents from drinking too many soft drinks.
Limiting fatty foods in schools is another matter entirely, of course; schools arguably have a responsibility to offer healthy environments to their captive clientele. And a new study shows, not surprisingly, students in schools where fewer junk foods are available gain less weight than their free-wheeling peers.
In the rest of civil society, however, government edicts are neither effective nor welcome. When San Francisco tried to ban free toys in fast-food children’s meals, the restaurateurs got around the law by simply charging separately for the trinkets.
More problematically, though, when trying to use the nanny state to regulate such a personal decision as what people ingest, you start running out of both government money and individual freedom.
Sensible living requires taking responsibility for our own lives. And nothing is more sensible than taking care of our bodies.
Unfortunately, the trend line is not in that direction. While many of us try to eat more sensibly and exercise, the majority are not.
“More Americans are becoming overweight or obese, exercising less, and eating unhealthy foods,” wrote WebMD Health News in 2010 – noting that 63 percent of Americans were overweight or obese in 2009.
Surely we’ve packed it on since then. A more recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the South, in particular, is dangerously overweight – with obesity rates (30 pounds or more than is considered healthy) at, or over, 30 percent of the population.
All this extra baggage is weighing down an already sagging health care system that is charged with treating diabetes, cardiovascular problems and other weight-related maladies.
There are limits to what the country can do for us. Those limits are being stretched.
The only sensible thing to do is to take responsibility for our health – starting with nutrition and exercise.
The irony is, while all this weight is being packed on, there’s never been more information on or more help with eating right and exercising. The first thing you can exercise is your fingers – by searching the Internet for advice, help and products that can change your life.
You’ll find a lot of tips out there for eating better, but here’s one: If you have to “open” a foodstuff, it’s probably not as healthy as if you have to “peel” it. It’s amazing how much processed junk we consume, when nature all along has provided us with the original “peel-and-eat” foods that just happen to fit our bodies’ needs perfectly.
There’s definitely a role for government in all this, most importantly in regulating what’s in those boxes we open and what information there is on the outside. But in truth, no amount of government red tape can cover our mouths.
The main person responsible for your health can be found down the hall and to the right – in the bathroom mirror.