Obama's Obesity War

It's time for some self-restraint.

As President Barack Obama signs the new federal child nutrition bill, flanked by anti-childhood-obesity crusader Michelle Obama, the culture wars have devolved into a food fight—literally. Yet it is a battle in which the political lines are not easily defined.

Unsurprisingly, Sarah Palin has led the fray. In a radio talk show appearance in November, the former vice presidential candidate derided the first lady's "Let's Move" initiative—"the anti-obesity thing she is on"—as practically un-American: "She cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat." Earlier, on a visit to a private school in Pennsylvania, Palin assailed the state's planned school nutrition guidelines that would encourage healthier snacks and fewer classroom birthday parties; she brought a batch of 200 cookies to protest "a nanny state run amok."

Meanwhile, Fox News has lambasted the nutrition bill as big-government interventionism that could nix bake sales at schools.

In some ways, the conservative backlash seems to be more about politicking than principle: Two years ago, Palin herself, as governor of Alaska, championed a state-level health care plan that included support for anti-smoking, anti-obesity, and pro-exercise efforts.  

What's more, the initiatives under fire from the right rely mainly on education and persuasion. "Empowering parents and caregivers" through access to nutritional information is one of the stated principles of Michelle Obama's program. The proposed Pennsylvania school nutrition guidelines are voluntary. Arguably, from a true limited-government perspective, even state-backed, tax-subsidized educational efforts to encourage desirable lifestyles amounts to egregious nanny-statism. Yet such efforts are nothing new: They include such conservative favorites as the promotion of abstinence and marriage.

There are several reasons behind the backlash. One is that campaigns to promote healthy behavior have a way of escalating from friendly persuasion to ham-fisted propaganda and prohibitionism. The war on tobacco is an obvious example (though the case for harsh anti-smoking laws was based on claims about the harm of second-hand smoke). Anti-drug zealotry in schools has caused teens to get in trouble for such crimes as sharing an aspirin with a friend who had a headache. It's not completely unreasonable to ask if cookie witch-hunts are next. Some states already prohibit bake sales at schools—even though it is very doubtful that they are a major cause of obesity—and the new child nutrition bill empowers the Department of Agriculture to restrict them if they are deemed too frequent. And some anti-obesity crusaders advocate using the power of the state in frankly coercive ways, from taxing unhealthy food to restricting its advertising.

Those are valid concerns. Yet there are other factors, too. One is an ultra-libertarianism hostile even to non-coercive collective efforts—through education and peer pressure, for instance—to encourage or discourage certain behaviors. In this view, "my body, my choice" means not only that the government shouldn't be able to ban your junk food or ship you to a fat-farm gulag, but that you should be able to gorge yourself into obesity without having to endure societal disapproval or lectures from do-gooders. The libertarian opposition is reinforced by a populist one which regards healthy, low-calorie food as elitist and effete, and hot dogs, Big Macs, and sugar- and fat-laden desserts as the stuff of "real America."

A reality check is in order. Yes, parents have the right to decide what their children eat—but let's not pretend that many of them don't make woefully bad decisions. One-third of American children and teenagers are overweight while nearly 20 percent are obese—a shocking rise since 1980, when the childhood obesity rate was barely above 5 percent. One need only look around to confirm these statistics. The consequences already include a spike in early-onset diabetes and high cholesterol. Things will get worse when fat children become fat adults. While there is some debate about whether the hazards of moderate excess weight have been exaggerated, severe obesity is indisputably associated with a host of health risks—from heart disease and cancer to pregnancy complications.

The costs to society are real, too, and not just under socialized medicine; with private insurance, we still pay for the skyrocketing medical costs of obesity through higher premiums. The often-bandied about notion that people with illnesses related to bad lifestyle choices should either foot their own medical bills or die untreated is—morality aside—simply not realistic. (Ironically, one argument often made by those who pooh-pooh what they regard as anti-obesity hysteria is that the extra health risks of obesity are offset by improvements in medicine.)

Personal choice is a fine thing; but not every choice deserves to be celebrated, particularly when it is more the result of ignorance, habit, and lack of self-discipline—and, sometimes, metabolic disorders—than of consciously trading better health for the pleasures of gluttony and sloth.  

The irony, too, is that right-wing griping about the food police can converge uncannily with the left-wing "fat acceptance" movement. This movement, which champions the idea that fat people are an oppressed group and that disapproval of obesity is bigotry, advocates its own nanny-statism—such as demanding that businesses provide special accommodations for obese employees and consumers. It also seeks to stifle politically incorrect attitudes toward fatness. Recently, Maura Kelly, a blogger for the women's magazine Marie Claire, found herself the target of irate blog posts and hate mail after she wrote that obesity is not only unhealthy but esthetically offensive, and something most people have "a ton of control over."

True, the cult of thinness poses its own health risks, including dangerous diets and eating disorders. It is equally true that no one, adult or child, should be treated cruelly because of body weight. But the answer is not to go to the other extreme and normalize, if not glamorize, obesity or the lifestyle choices that create it.

Conservatives have often argued that, in order for a free society to flourish, individual freedom must be coupled with self-restraint. Perhaps some appreciation of this old-fashioned virtue is just what's needed in the debate over food and fat.

Cathy Young is a columnist at RealClearPolitics and a contributing editor at Reason magazine. A version of this article originally appeared at RealClearPolitics.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    At least Barack Obama was forward-thinking enough to realize that charter schools cause childhood obesity.

  • Just Sayin'||

    the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

    Yay! Congress eradicates Hunger while guaranteeing Health, and Obama makes it law. End of story. Now let's deal with that pesky debt. Yes we can!

  • BakedPenguin||

    [The fat-acceptance] movement, which champions the idea that fat people are an oppressed group and that disapproval of obesity is bigotry, advocates its own nanny-statism—such as demanding that businesses provide special accommodations for obese employees and consumers. It also seeks to stifle politically incorrect attitudes toward fatness.

    Awwww. Hurt feelings? Is it Bad Manners to just say Lip Up, Fatty?

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    I can't wait to see how the PC-tribalism clash plays out on this one.

  • Lefty4Life||

    Fuck, if we start doing this shit for fat people, I'm going to start campaigning for southpaws to get special parking spaces, restaurant seating, bathroom stalls, etc.

    "Lefties have rights, too!" or some bullshit.

    Plus, I'm going to fucking gorge myself so I qualify as 'fat.'

  • ||

    Well, since being left handed is some sort of, well, "just-not-being-up-to-par"-ness, why not? Make sure we work it into all those non-discrimination statements too: --institution will not discriminate based on race, color, creed, sexual orientation, gender, or handedness.

  • ||

    It's about time someone recognizes us lefties are handicapped. A 20% reduction in IRS Taxes would really suit me fine.

  • ||

    I think Michelle is taking it out on the fatties because they're the only people less attractive than her. She may look like a man, but at least she's not a chubster!

  • prolefeed||

    I'd pork her -- if someone duct-taped her mouth whenever she tried to speak.

  • ||

    She'd eat right through that.

  • waffles||

    So she's like the xenomorphs in Aliens? Scary.

  • h||

    I am appalled that anyone thinks it's any of their f&%(*&%(*&% business.
    Health risks?? Get your damn liability law out of my peanut butter!
    Even if obesity is a slow version of suicide... damn, people, think about why it would be better to eat your way to death than to have to hang around with a%$*&^%(*& that legislate your every move.
    What if obesity is the expedient alternative of a hunger strike????

  • Kristen||

    You can actually write out curse words here, in full.

    Fuckin-a!

  • ||

    though the case for harsh anti-smoking laws was based on claims about the harm of second-hand smoke

    Let's be clear: the case for harsh anti-smoking laws was based on bullshit claims about the harm of second-hand smoke.

  • ||

    +206 billion (dollars over 25 years)

  • Frank||

    Oh, very much bullshit. Whenever I hear people say that scientists said that smoking is bad, my first question is who's funding them?

  • Turnkey||

    Nice, lol.

  • Miku||

    In that situation I usually light one up in front of them.

  • bd||

    Smoking is a sick disgusting habit and you are a filthy human being for doing so. On the other hand it's none of my business what you do to yourself.

  • ¢||

    Is this that Cathy Young column where everyone's all fight-fight-fight but really they're all the same kind of wrong and irrational about whatever, in strawman-like contrast to her serenely balanced and pragmatic self, who may not have all the answers!, but the important thing is she's a better person than you are? I think I remember it.

    B) The thing where everyone transcribes Palin's sentences in the anthropological-documentary style, and never in the standard political-journalistic way (cuz she 'tarded, yo!), will never get old.

  • Old Mexican||

    A reality check is in order.

    *sigh* Here we go...

    Yes, parents have the right to decide what their children eat — but let's not pretend that many of them don't make woefully bad decisions.

    Do YOU have kids, Cathy? *I* can only tell my kid what NOT to eat and if I'm lucky, they will not eat it, but it is difficult to CONVINCE them to eat a specific food they may not like as they have their own personality, so don't give me this sanctimonious SHIT.

    One-third of American children and teenagers are overweight while nearly 20 percent are obese — a shocking rise since 1980, when the childhood obesity rate was barely above 5 percent.

    That's funny, because it COINCIDES with the rise of public school LUNCH/BREAKFAST/DINNER programs!

    One need only look around to confirm these statistics.

    Oh, sure - the Texas Shooter fallacy.

    The costs to society are real, too, and not just under socialized medicine; with private insurance, we still pay for the skyrocketing medical costs of obesity through higher premiums.

    Leave it to a LINO (libertarian in name only) to call upon the powers of "externality fallacy" to justify public policy.

    First of all, there's no such thing as "social cost." Only individuals incur in costs, not "society," as choices are made only by individuals [we're NOT Borg and resistance ain't futile, Cathy.]

    Second, statist fucks quickly forget that these "externalities" occur only because of governent interventions and mandates, like for instance in the healthcare market or the food industry. Statist fucks will always point out to problems stemming from people's decisions without looking at the interventions that incentivize or encourage those decisions.

    The often-bandied about notion that people with illnesses related to bad lifestyle choices should either foot their own medical bills or die untreated is — morality aside — simply not realistic.

    WHAT? Why not realistic? You mean it is not realistic to ask smokers to pay for their own cancer treatments? Or sportsmen for their own injuries? Are you serious?

    Also, why would it be IMMORAL to ask a person to pay for HIS OWN SHIT?

  • Greer||

    You make a lot of good points. Could you please write this article next time.

    Then again, where's the sport in agreeing with everything?

  • Tman||

    The other thing about unhealthy lifestyle choices that cause people to suffer health problems later on is that I think the statistics for actual overall health care costs for the nation are not necessarily higher.

    The reason I say this is because it has been argued that since people who smoke tend to die a lot younger than those who don't, their total healthcare costs are actually lower than those who live in to their 80's, etc. And this is not just healthcare. Many smokers die before they get old enough to collect Social Security.

    I'm not convinced that an increase in obesity will end up costing us more in overall healthcare dollars since many of them will die earlier in life due to health complications associated with their weight.

    I realize it's a lot easier for us to say "Fatties cost us more money in healthcare" but they said the same thing about smokers and it turns out that this isn't necessarily true either.

    Also, this statement-"Conservatives have often argued that, in order for a free society to flourish, individual freedom must be coupled with self-restraint." is not correct. It's personal responsiblity, not self restraint.

  • Intrepid Demise||

    That's all fine and good, Old Mexican, but how do you REALLY feel?

  • ||

    Somewhat OUTRAGED.

  • ||

    Why are we giving welfare recipients money to take care of their children when the schools give them breakfast, lunch, and a backpack full of food for the weekend? Sounds like the parents are neglecting their duties, and the children need to be removed from those homes.

  • bobcat||

    Individuals incur costs through paying higher premiums because of other people's choices. Or are you suggesting disposing of insurance?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: bobcat,

    Individuals incur costs through paying higher premiums because of other people's choices.

    Don't buy insurance, then.

    Or are you suggesting disposing of insurance?

    I'm suggesting nothing except people are allowed to make choices for a FUCKING CHANGE!

    Even with the mandatory aspect of it, car insurance has actually been going DOWN in cost thanks to competition. Why is health insurance going UP, instead? Cathy seems to disdain that issue as a 'Meh!' thing and then go ahead and suggest we parents are idiots for feeding our kids junk - talk about not seeing the forest for looking at the trees!

  • Pablo Sandoval||

    Leave it to a poster named "Old Mexican."

    We don't have an obesity epidemic, we have an epidemic of Mexicans. Most of 'em are fatties. Remove the Mexicans from the statistics and the obesity epidemic doesn't exist.

    In other words, the obesity panic mongers are goddamned racists.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Pablo Sandoval,

    We don't have an obesity epidemic, we have an epidemic of Mexicans. Most of 'em are fatties.

    Don't forget "and squat."

  • ||

    School lunches have always been anti-choice mandates you half-wit quitter "former governor".

    For some fucking religious canard we always got fish-sticks on Friday.

  • Marian Kechlibar||

    I just can't help myself here but comment.

    When halal food is served in European kindergartens, I *never* hear the Lefties complaining about fucking religious canards.

    No, suddenly it is respect for religion and celebration of diversity.

    Me, I would require pastafarian diet if asked.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Now we know what pushed shrike over the edge on religion: He had to eat fish sticks when he was a child.

  • Hah!||

    That also explains shrikie's homophobia.

  • Hah hah!||

    And also shrikie's fear of women governors.

  • sven||

    America is a bunch of fat-fat-fatties and we're going to get fat-fat-fatter until we either all die of massive heart attacks or there's a serious shift in how the obese are treated. The free market hasn't come up with any sort of solution to Americans being a bunch of fat, lazy turds. There's a Jack in the Box ad on TV right now that encourages people to eat at Jack in the Box because buying groceries is just too expensive, and that they can save money by buying fatty fathead foods (which thanks to corn subsidies is a sad reality). Maybe the problem stems from what agricultural industries the government artificially props up?

    There needs to be serious financial incentive for people to not be fat. Tax breaks, health premium reductions, etc. Don't legislate what we can and can't eat, but give people some incentive to be a healthy weight. Also, make the culture intolerant of the obese. It's not like it hurts their feelings. People with a BMI above 35 don't have souls, anyway.

  • Jordan||

    There needs to be serious financial incentive for people to not be fat.

    Uh, you mean like increased healthcare costs? Oh wait, statist morons like you ensure that everyone else pays their costs.

  • sven||

    That wasn't what I was going for, but thanks, fat guy Jordan.

  • Hah hah!||

    Pay me NOW 'cause I'm skinny, you svedish shizaball!

  • Lefty4Life||

    If you accept the premise that it is okay for the government to step in and force people not to be fat and lazy, then why does it matter whether the government does that by telling you what to eat directly or indirectly?

  • Khyl||

    The free market hasn't come up with any sort of solution to Americans being a bunch of fat, lazy turds.

    Maybe the problem stems from what agricultural industries the government artificially props up?

    oh hey look at that. just end the subsidies.

  • prolefeed||

    There needs to be serious financial incentive for people to not be fat.

    Why? If someone chooses to overeat, that's their business.

    There already are serious sexual incentives for people not to be fat.

  • Matrix||

    I dunno. I see fatties together all the time having fatty kids.

  • ||

    Weightist!

  • ||

    Why can't we just hunt them down? It's not like they can run all that fast.

  • Matrix||

    Zombies will take care of that. Didn't you see Zombieland?

  • Hooha||

    Wasn't cardio like, rule #1?

  • Lucy||

    Did you just refer to "the free market" and then mention corn subsidies?

    Try again.

  • ||

    Or rather it's up to parents to teach their kids proper eating habits.

  • C'mon man||

    Obesity solution: allow personal responsibility for one's own health care through third-party free market health care.

  • ||

    One-third of American children and teenagers are overweight while nearly 20 percent are obese—a shocking rise since 1980, when the childhood obesity rate was barely above 5 percent.

    And what big, pervasive change has taken place in society since 1980?

    Damn you Steve Jobs! Damn you Bill Gates! Damn you Xbox! Damn you all to hell! (as I sit in front of this monitor and eat another strudel...)

  • Ted S.||

    They changed the BMI categorizations, which is how so-called "overweight" and "obese" people are defined.

  • Marian Kechlibar||

    To be fair, the same kind of epidemics has hit not just the USA, but pretty much anywhere in the world where food is plentiful. Including such nations as Mexico.

    USA is a bit ahead of trend, yes. But Euros, Latinos and Arabs are dashing in its trail.

    And I would concur that combination of computer games and fast food has some impact.

  • nekoxgirl||

    I was wondering about that. My Wii Fit says my BMI makes me overweight...but umm...maybe I'm looking at myself from the wrong angles, but I look fine to me. If I'm overweight than so is everyone that's not Kate Mose.

  • Jimbo||

    Send me your stats, some photos (preferably nude) and I'll let you know if you are "overweight."
    PS: I don't count breast weight in my calculations...

  • nekoxgirl||

    :P

  • just another thinker||

    Xbox??

    Since 1980, what is the increase in the Hispanic population?

    I mean, if you wanna go for the correlation = causation angle, this explanation is just as valid.

    Food has been extremely cheap for the last 20 years, and subsidies have been a part of that. And people don't smoke like they used to. And we've become so indulged in safety and security that vigorous exercise has basically been banned in schools. Shit, children are barely allowed to WALK to school anymore.

  • Warty||

    Media Matters is as fun as ever

    Right-wing media figures have used the signing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to continue to mock Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign, specifically deriding her reference to obesity as a "national security issue." In fact, retired military officials have indeed referred to obesity as a national security issue.

    Why are you glibertards against RETURED MILITARY OFFICIALS?!?!!??!!?!?!?

  • ||

    Watching TEAM RED TEAM BLUE partisan schmucks do 180s one after the other was fun for a while, but at this point it's just insulting, as if we can't see how completely lacking in integrity they are.

  • Warty||

    I just noticed that the name of the law is "The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act". Are you for unhealthy, hungry kids, you degenerate?

  • Warty||

    I just noticed that the name of the law is "The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act". Are you for unhealthy, hungry kids, you degenerate?

  • Warty||

    Oh, fuck you, squirrels. You're behind this somehow, Epi, you degenerate fuck.

  • ||

    I've been practicing making people double post with my mind over the internet. I'm really getting good at it. And when you scratched your ass just now? I caused that too. Thankfully, I don't have to endure the smell.

  • ||

    What about when Tony pleasures himself? Is that you, too?

  • ||

    Tony isn't real, dude. So that means...yes.

  • ||

    Who is Tony, anyway? Any theories?

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    Weigel

    ... Hobbit

  • Greer||

    It's funny because I've seen several commercials lately for "end childhood hunger". And drop boxes for Christmas giving to poor children who have not enough food.

    Could it be that we have 2 Crises simultaneously? Obesity and hunger?

    I think I'll contribute to both, that'll make me feel good.

  • ||

    It's actually pretty common in some segments of the US population for people to be simultaneously obese and malnourished. It's a matter of eating too much high-calorie crap and not enough nutritious crap.

  • Greer||

    But if they eat a lot of high calorie crap, they aren't hungy. Maybe not healthy, but not hungry.

    You can't say that kids are fat from eating too much and hungry from not eating enough. And call both of them crises.

  • Just Here for the Free Porn||

    "Hunger" as it is used often refers to malnutrition. There is a legit quibble about that, but its a quibble indeed.

    Also, have you ever eaten, say, three cups of peanuts at a bar? You probably consumed 5000+ calories, but you were probably still hungry...

  • Ted S.||

    Feed the fat kids to the skinny kids.

    Kill two birds with one stone.

  • Edwin||

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZyY9tdsQPA

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Wow, Edwin... you finally post something that isn't your usual dose of hateful screed.

    Keep that up.

  • Edwin||

    hey you guys are the ones who position yourselves in opposition the ENTIRE rest of "statist" society, and proudly wear perverse beliefs of all stripes, from moralized sociopathy to toleration of severe civil rights abuse under the guise of "property rights". You wanna be an asshole, you're gonna get the hate thrown right back at you.

  • *yawn*||

    You COULD do better than that, Edwin. But being a hateful state-slurpin' prick is all you know.

  • Edwin||

    I'm a "state slurpin' prick" just becuase I see states as legitimate and taxes not as exactly the same as theft? Talk about hyperbole. You idiots can't be this shrill and then complain when none the body politic repeatedly moves away from your ideology. You're never going to be taken seriously until you get your act together.

  • *yawn*||

    Missed the point entirely, didn't you?

  • Progressive||

    That righteous burn feels soooo good, doesn't it? It's a start, but you're not quite there, though. You don't want to voluntarily contribute your money to a cause. That's not fair. The key is to get everybody to fund it with taxes. Especially the filthy rich.

  • Greer||

    In this view, "my body, my choice" means not only that the government shouldn't be able to ban your junk food or ship you to a fat-farm gulag, but that you should be able to gorge yourself into obesity without having to endure societal disapproval or lectures from do-gooders.

    Can I vote for this option?

  • 15 year-old||

    Cheese is good for you, but it make you a fat fuck too.

  • Frank||

    That was my first thought. I want this option

  • Just Here for the Free Porn||

    Who is going to stop society from disapproving of your choices?

    Why don't I have the freedom to make fun of fatties? And Burger King IS fucking disgusting.

  • Steff||

    You do have the freedom to. And I would die to defend the freedom to.

    Even as I was rolling my eyes and mocking you for being a pointlessly cruel ass for being a jerk towards someone based on something as relatively unimportant as their BMI.

  • Steff||

    ...and as I mocked myself for incomprehensible sentence construction, too. SALUTE!

  • ||

    "Parents have the right. . . but"

    That pretty much sums up the article right there.

  • ||

    Ray|12.14.10 @ 7:25PM|#

    "Parents have the right. . . but"

    ... but they're too stupid, so we'll take if from here.

  • Fat Albert||

    "it is more the result of ignorance, habit, and lack of self-discipline"

    So basically you agree with Michelle. If obese people were not so stupid and lazy, they would be perfect like you. So if they could just be shown the light they would stop having weight issues. Maybe you should join her canpaign.

  • In Time Of War||

    I don't care about fat people, I hate weak people. The sort of people who can't change their own car tire. Who can't move their own refrigerator and always have to ask others to help.
    So, since we're all minding each other's lives, I think we should pass a law requiring all people to be able to bench-press twice their bodyweight. If they can't, they'll be forced to work out until they can. Everyone should easily deadlift three or four times their bodyweight. If they can't, they'll be forced to work out until they can. And heck, cardiovascular health is important. If you can't run 3 miles in under 20 minutes, you'll be forced to run at gunpoint, until you can.
    Maybe we could all wear the same type of clothes and exercise every morning in large, public rituals.
    That'd be cool!

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Some great ideas. Maybe you could collect them in a little book, to be handed out to the people. Make it a distinctive color so people will notice it.

  • Edwin||

    There's a legitimate role for the government to regulate food ingredients. See the early days of the 20th when food makers were using formaldehyde to preserve milk and copper salts for green color. However, on the other hand it's also clear that the more recent bullshit with trans fats bans and attempted salt bans are ridiculous. So where's the line drawn? It's pretty simple. At ACUTE toxicity or risk. The things that the government is supposed to make sure aren't used in food pose ACUTE risks to health to all or many people. Things that MAY raise your risk for illnesses after 50 fucking years when you get really old and you're already going to be at risk anyway, and even then only do so if you overdo it, are basic, natural parts of food, and can't be avoided. Too much fat, trans or otherwise, from a bad diet, can give you heart disease. Too much salt, CAN give you high blood pressure IF you're sensitive to that effect, after like 50 years. But these things are a matter of bad diet in the first place. There's nothing about the ingredients themselves that in and of themselves pose a direct risk toi the consumer.

  • ||

    +1000

  • Fatty Bolger||

    1938 Progressive: "We need to give the FDA broad powers, so they can keep things like formaldehyde out of our food."

    1938 Libertarian: "Harmful chemicals in food is bad, but epanding FDA power means they could even ban basic ingredients, like fat or salt!"

    1938 Progressive: "They won't ban fat or salt."

    1938 Libertarian: "But they could."

    1938 Progressive: "But they WON'T."

  • Edwin||

    actually, in theory they might not be able to - and it's local governments not the FDA. These bans still have to go to court, and even with the broad powers judges give governments today, these bans are still really out there, and may end up being overturned after being challenged.

  • Edwin||

    I think we're ignoring a much bigger issue here with obesity. And that's gravity flux. All our food, all the minerals and water, come from the earth's crust. So all that mass that all those fat people are storing was taken away from the crust. This lowers the earth's mass, thereby lowering gravity. This can have significant effects on sensitive seismic instruments and micro-scales.

  • prolefeed||

    No, it just means that the earth's mass, including the mass of the biosphere including people, is on average distributed a teensier bit higher than the earth's center than it was before.

  • Chad||

    Tax soda, chips and bacon. Subsidize blueberries and tofu.

    yum yum yum and good policy, too!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    This HAS to be a spoof.

  • ||

    Government has one and only one legitimate purpose and it isn't to protect us from ourselves, it isn't to inspire us to be better people, it isn't to make sure we have health insurance, it isn't to mold the populace into the people our betters think we should be, it is to protect our unalienable rights and to guarantee the personal individual liberty we were supposedly granted by our forefathers. Since it has done such a piss poor job of that and seems to have no particular interest in doing it's single legitimate purpose we get social engineering based on the personal agendas of our rulers.

    And now we get stuff like Michelle saying that our fat kids are a threat to national security. That's what it all boils down to. Any agenda is automatically legitimized by making it a national security issue. I say, if anything, we need less national security. The country has now become the state and individual citizens are just components of the state. It's all bullshit and it will never end until it all collapses. I'm not sure how bad I will feel about it when it does happen.

  • Edwin||

    wait, what did you say?
    All I heard was "whine whine whine I'm a shrill little libertarian bitch"

  • ||

    Jeeze, I must have read the description of this web mag wrong.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Yeah, Edwin has a way of doing that.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Seriously, though, Edwin... the post above opens with this:

    Government has one and only one legitimate purpose and it isn't to protect us from ourselves

    Neither that, nor any other part of the post, meets your self-defined parameters of "whining".

    Unless you disagree with the highlighted sentence above...

  • and notice how...||

    ...he uses the word "shrill" in a post where he, himself, is being shrill...

  • Edwin||

    but his conspiratorial, vague douchebag ranting is

  • Edwin||

    I'm an expert at conspiratorial vague douchebaggery.

  • Edwin||

    and you know what, all this talk of obesity is bullshit anyway. There is no epidemic or anything. They just use silly standards. I heard that according to BMI, Michael Jordan is "obese" too. But he's clearly not.

    And all the dumb ass blue staters who's entire personas come from TV get a skewed perception of what's "obese". In reality, a Kat Dennings or Nigella Lawson looking woman is far healthier, far more normal, and far more boneable than a Paris Hilton looking woman.

  • Edwin||

    mmmmhhhmmmm..... who else...
    Queen Latifah sort of. Maybe she needs to a little weight, but still good.
    Those chicks from the Dove "real beauty" commercials gave me like 15 boners
    Beyonce Knowles? She isn't actually that thick. But she could gain like 20 pounds and still look good.
    Oooh the chick from the newer "hairspray" was cute.

    You know what this article shows what I'm talking about; The plumpest of the three is by far the hottest
    http://www.theage.com.au/news/.....48553.html

  • Turnkey||

    BMI standard categories apply well to every white male who isn't fanatical about exercise / sports.

    Sure it can fail (serious weight lifting 3x a week can do it if you focus), but it mostly works. (ie. if your numbers say obese, it would be really obvious if that were not the case).

  • ||

    BMI standard categories apply well to every white male who isn't fanatical about exercise / sports.


    Oh nonsense. It is an overly simplistic estimate that borders on ridiculous. I am 5’ 9” at 160 pounds and people consider me skinny. If I added 9 pounds it would put my BMI in the “overweight” category which is clearly silly. Not only am I not “fanatical about exercise / sports”, I don’t exercise at all and my day job is at a desk. Even dumber, for me to be underweight I would have to drop to 124 pounds. BMI is a nanny state tool that almost nothing to do with reality.

  • Marian Kechlibar||

    Hmm, so, in Euro terms, you would be borderline overweight with 175 cm / 76 kg.

    Sounds about right to me.

    I am 182 cm, and when I was 83 kg, I could already be described as "a little overweight".

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Mariah Kechlibar,

    I am 182 cm, and when I was 83 kg, I could already be described as "a little overweight".

    Who cares? What counts is your waist to hip ratio...

    0.7 Yummy!!!

  • ||

    Hmm, so, in Euro terms, you would be borderline overweight with 175 cm / 76 kg.


    No I wouldn't. 76 kg would only be 167.55 lbs. In "Euro terms" my BMI would be 24.8 whereas borderline overweight requires a BMI of 25.

    I am 182 cm, and when I was 83 kg, I could already be described as "a little overweight".


    So what. A lot of people with your height and weight wouldn't be considered "a little overweight". There is a lot more to it then some silly calculation that uses only height and weight.

  • 2cents||

    So the Black males throw off the whole BMI standard?

  • Turnkey||

    Supposedly black = 27 BMI to be overweight typically, and asian = 23ish BMI. Which means obesity maps of the US are a bit bogus.

    Although its worth noting that being the the overweight category is not even unhealthy. You can play around with the siliness of a 1 lb difference being between over vs. under, but BMI ~28ish usually means overweight. Its a very good rule of thumb, the blood tests / glucose tolerance show actual function.

  • Realist||

    "Yes, parents have the right to decide what their children eat — but let's not pretend that many of them don't make woefully bad decisions." Yes, they sure do they nominated and elected a sack of shit with big ears!

  • ||

    Okay, I don't mean to threadjack, but something interesting has happened over the last couple of days. In the comment section of an article at cracked.com, I responded to a commenter who was complaining about "liberals" when he was clearly talking about leftists. I mentioned that the modern left is not really "liberal," so he should have used the word, "statist." Somebody replied with the definition of "liberal."

    His post:

    liberal: adj. 1. broad: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions"
    2. having political or social views favoring reform and progress
    3. tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition
    4. n. a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties

    I responded by googling "liberal," because I was pretty sure that this is what that person did. Surprise surprise, I was right. I found the same exact definition page that he must of used, because it had those same exact definitions, but of course he left out one big one:

    6. a person who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets

    Here is the definition of "liberal" in its entirety:

    1. broad: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions"
    2. having political or social views favoring reform and progress
    3.tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition
    4. a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties
    5. big: given or giving freely; "was a big tipper"; "the bounteous goodness of God"; "bountiful compliments"; "a freehanded host"; "a handsome allowance"; "Saturday's child is loving and giving"; "a liberal backer of the arts"; "a munificent gift"; "her fond and openhanded grandfather"
    6. a person who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets
    7. free: not literal; "a loose interpretation of what she had been told"; "a free translation of the poem"

    After I pointed this out, I went through each and every definition of the word "liberal," and I explained just how the modern left does not meet the standard. The only definitions of liberal that would actually fit were the ones that could apply to any point of view that advocates any change to the status quo. Effectively, Neo nazis are about as "liberal" as the modern left. After all, modern leftists are intolerant, narrow minded, and authoritarian. I admit that they advocate "reform," but anybody who isn't 100% in love with the status quo would also meet this definition. They certainly don't meet the requirement of definition number 6. So, of the 5 definitions that have anything to do with politics, the modern left has 4 strikes against it. THe one definition that they have on their side is so universal, it might as well be moot.

    Nobody could even come close to arguing that the modern left even comes close to being defined as "liberal." Nobody even tried really. Basically, the response was to change the argument. Someone simply stated that I don't have a right to "COMMAND" people to not use certain words.

    The point of this story is that there is almost no way that the modern left can be considered "liberal."

  • ||

    Okay, I guess that the modern left meets the requirement of the #2 definition too. However, definitions 2 and 4 are basically the same thing and both apply to just about anybody. SO of the 4 non redundant political definitions of "liberal," the modern left meets one, and just about anybody can claim that same victory for themselves simply by suggesting any change to the status quo that they believe will improve society or progress society further.

  • ||

    Oh yeah, and when I argued that I wasn't trying to tell anybody which words that they can and can't use, and that I was simply making an observation, this was their response:

    "BTW, drop the word 'liberal.'" -tkwelge 12/12/2010 2:19 pm

    "I never said that anybody "can't" use the word "liberal" on an individual basis." -tkwelge 12/13/2010 8:59 am

    It's like Fox, who just keep making the mistake of assuming nobody owns a recording device.

    End Quote

    I'm surprised the conversation got this far without somebody mentioning Fox news..... It must have taken all of this man's willpower.

    Oh yeah, I was also accused of being a Glenn Beck fan.

  • ||

    I guess, to be fair, I should point out that arguing the intellectual giants on the cracked forums is kinda like boxing with toddlers....

  • ...||

    tl;dr

  • ||

    Oh no, four paragraphs and some bullet points! Gasp!

  • Edwin ||

    You didn't miss anything. It was four paragraphs of shrill libertarian whining bullshit, anyway.

  • ||

    Bullshit whining? Except for the fact that I wasn't lying. And I fail to see how anything that I said was "bullshit." Do you have fun just repeating the phrase, "shrill libertarian whining?" Asshole....

  • Edwin||

    somebody ghost posted me, I didn't write that

  • Edwin's Ghost Writer||

    You might as well have written it.

  • ||

    having political or social views favoring reform and progress

    I would point out that the key terms "reform" and "progress" are nearly content-free.

    Libertarians, for example, favor radical reform of the government, in the service of progress toward a freer society.

  • ||

    First, why hasn't anyone noticed that Michele has enormous hips? Like many woman, she carries her weight on her hips, and she really needs to lose that steatopygia before she starts lecturing others on obesity.

    Second, the reason that kids are obese is that no one lets them go outside to play anymore, thanks to the endless drumbeat of news about pedophilia and child abduction. They don't get exercise, the no-one-loses attitudes of parents sucks the fun out of sports, what else do they have to do but eat?

  • AK||

    Enormous? Just cause she is the only first lady with an ass does not make her enormous...

  • The President||

    EVERY first lady had an ass.

  • waite||

    This is an interesting point. When I was a kid, my parents let me out to play and said don't come back until the street lights come on. Same for the other parents. It was hours of running around. How much of that happens today?

  • BWM||

    Nonsense; obesity rates haven't changed since the 70's. Or, I should say how fat people are hasn't changed; the rates have. First off, we've moved more and more towards relying on BMI to measure obesity, which is such a bad standard as to be useless. Second, we arbitrarily shifted the cut-offs for "overweight" and "obese" to be more stringent, so overnight, hundreds of thousands of people (at least) were suddenly "less healthy" than they were 24 hours prior. Besides that, obesity isn't dangerous. It has not been shown to CAUSE anything, and in fact, is related heavily to increased survival rates of surgery and disease. Meanwhile, being "underweight", even if you don't have an (often lethal) eating disorder, IS linked to poor health and a shorter lifespan. Also, dieting doesn't work. Ever. It has never worked in a single long-term study. There is literally no evidence at all that you can control your weight without starving yourself. So no, pretty much the entire onus here is on moral crusaders from the left and the right who don't have their facts straight, and refuse to discuss them.

  • ||

    So this seems to be an irony: a bad diet can cause weight gain, but being on a good diet won't necessarily cause a weight loss. Damn, I hate it when that happens. Most dieters don't get enough sleep either. So, I'll get some now.

  • Steff||

    I think the point is that you'd have to have an extremely bad diet to make a difference either way. Either starving or gorging.

    For instance: I eat more healthy, and somewhat less, than I did two years ago and weigh the exact same as I did then. I feel better overall, but I lost no weight from this whatsoever.

    I have a feeling most people fall into this category. If someone thinks there's an obesity epidemic, then the question shouldn't be, "WHY WON'T YOU STARVE YOURSELF FOR THE STATE?!" it should be, "What forces of a genetic nature have taken place in the generations since 1980?"

  • If you aren't losing weight,||

    maybe you are exercising less.

  • ||

    Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, a man could make enough money to support a wife at home. Restaurants add stuff like excessive salt, sugar, MSG and fat to make people like their food, so they come back to buy more. When the moms were cooking, they cooked to make their families healthy, and they didn't add all that bad stuff. With the feminist uprising we had more women in the workforce, and the fast food industry boomed. KFC, McDonalds and the like took off with two parents working. McDonalds and Burger King directed their advertising toward children because they knew exhausted parents didn't want to argue with their children.

    Anyone want to take bets that general home making skills among the moms of the country are less than they once were?

  • Kristen||

    I wouldn't argue with that, but why haven't the "dads" stepped up to carry 1/2 the burden?

    I'm probably not married because I have the unreasonable expectation that when 2 people in a couple both work jobs outside the home, that each does 1/2 the housework.

  • ||

    But that misses the point. The point is one works outside the home, making enough to support the family, the other stays home to make a home. Is that a marriage or a merger between to rising corporate stars?

    Marriage isn't about the couple, it is about the family, and that means their children. Children are our future.

  • nekoxgirl||

    Personally I think inflation is to blame for most women working now, not feminism. Yeah a bunch of spoiled upper middle class broads were all into that but everyone else has just been trying to get by.

  • ||

    Wrong end of the cart, or horse. Back before women entered the work force, men could support a family on their income. Women joining the workforce en masse has caused salaries to deteriorate. In the Milwaukee area, a married couple consisting of two of the following: nurse, teacher, firefighter or policeman, are necessary to support a family. One income will not be enough.

    I remember the late '60s when women entered the workforce for 'extras': the nicer vacation, the newer car, the furniture in the rec room. Now a married couple needs two incomes to survive. No wonder so many are just a pay check or two away from financial disaster.

  • 2cents||

    There is really a whole lot less to do at home right now than fifty years ago. And even fifty years ago a lot of that "homemaking" was nonproductive busywork. My mother in law used to IRON sheets, tablecloths and underwear, for godsake.

    You don't notice that people live a LOT better now than they did fifty years ago?

  • ||

    Ironing sheets is not homemaking; that is satisfying some compulsive need compensate for some other inadequacy. Yes, there are more labor saving devices for the home. Vacuum cleaners are much better than taking the rugs out once a year to beat them. (Actually, sheets and diapers which have been ironed aren't as good for moisture absorption as non-ironed clothe.) I'm sure your mother-in-law could have found a better use of her time.

  • No||

    The BMI is bullshit, yes. Somebody who is a 5'3 300 pound wall of muscle would be considered obese on the BMI.

    Also, why is there always such a focus on the fat under the skin? Everyone always forgets the "thin obese" - those who have fast metabolisms, but still eat like shit and thusly still have fat around their hearts and arteries.

    Also, it's always "MUST BE BAD FOOD." We've had fast food for how long now? The problem isn't shit food - it's portion control. Fat people eat a lot, whether it's good food or shit food. Eat a lot of shit food and it's worse, obviously.

  • Marian Kechlibar||

    "The BMI is bullshit, yes. Somebody who is a 5'3 300 pound wall of muscle would be considered obese on the BMI."

    BMI is not a panacea, but your counterexample covers 1% of the population. For the remaining 99%, it works quite well.

  • IceTrey||

    If the government wants to save money obesity should be encouraged. the fact is the earlier you die the less you cost in terms of health care.

  • Turnkey||

    School should cover nutrition in some kind of reasonable fashion, even if it is the parents/kids options to eat whatever.

    Somewhat like knowing how to do arithmetic and are helpful, it would be insensible to not teach kids the basic parameters about personal health. (ie sugar and refined carb is bad, avoid anything controversial).

  • Evil||

    Want to do away with obesity in this country, get rid of marriage. There, problem solved.

  • ||

    I sure “hope” you like all that “change” you voted for, Ø-Merica...

    -Everything you ever needed to know about Kommander ZerØ-The Obama Files, from New Zeal-

    http://www.freedominion.com.pa.....64#1494864

  • ||

    Is Reason going soft already? What is this fact-free article for? There is only one resolution for this problem, and it has NOTHING to do with this bill, or anything else in this article. End farm subsidies.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    The costs to society are real, too, and not just under socialized medicine; with private insurance, we still pay for the skyrocketing medical costs of obesity through higher premiums. The often-bandied about notion that people with illnesses related to bad lifestyle choices should either foot their own medical bills or die untreated is—morality aside—simply not realistic.

    This canard again? Studies have shown that obese people have lower lifetime health care costs, not higher. It's not hard to figure out why - they don't live as long. That being the case, and using typical lefty logic, shouldn't skinny people be taxed more or something? Oh, right... fat begin bad is actually a MORAL issue for them. Gaia demands action.

  • ||

    This article seemed very..."un-Reason" like. Disappointed that Cathy was paid to have this article published here.

  • ||

    agreed, and when will these knobs quit making the comparison of what is done at the state level with what is done at the federal level. it is not hypocritical to support something at the state level and lambaste it at the federal level, you fricking moron. A little better from Reason contributors would be appreciated.

  • ||

    Cathy seems just as willing as MichelleO to make obesity a moral issue: fat people are lazy, self-indulgent, etc. It seems obvious to me that a species that has evolved to survive feast-famine cycles is now struggling when it's all feast, all the time. We have a society where physical labor has decreased, women working outside the home has led to a switch from home cooking to reliance on fast, easy-access, calorie-dense food, and electronic entertainment combined with fears of stranger danger has caused kids to play inside in front of the TV or computer rather than running around outside for hours. Of course obesity has risen.

    Presumably, we'll adjust as a society at some point or come up with a magic pill to take to inhibit processing of calories. Or maybe the revolution will come and we'll be back to boiling grass for nutrients and this hysteria about obesity will be seen as the tiny blip on the much larger problems for humanity that it is.

  • 2cents||

    And has it somehow escaped their notice that the Surgeon General is obese by anyone's standard?

  • creech||

    I recall reading that the push for free public education, more than 100 years ago, included the argument that education would correct the problem with poor and immigrants who didn't understand good nutrition. Gee, one more government promise that wasn't fulfilled. Call Guiness Book of Records!

  • Eve M.||

    What if the federal government has made things distinctly worse in trying to promote health? Government guidelines since the early 70's may have actually contributed to our current sorry state of obesity and ill health by insisting that "low fat" and "whole grains" are good and "saturated fat" is bad. Just because George McGovern's U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs said something, don't assume it's true...

    Gary Taubes has written a great deal on this (and I hope he'll write more, now that he's blogging at http://www.garytaubes.com). And I summarized the profoundly anti-freedom issue with government interference on nutrition matters here: http://www.xmlgrrl.com/blog/2009/07/28/fat-head/

  • If you don't work.....||

    you don't eat. And if you eat, we shall starve you.

  • ||

    Anyone noticed Michele's expanding rear end lately?

  • Garrett||

    Three car antennas now.

  • Michelle O||

    They'll never catch me wolfing down those cheeseburgers, I'm too clever to get caught.

  • Precious Jones||

    Mrs Obama, stop abusing me!

  • ||

    What a ridiculously stupid article.

    "The often-bandied about notion that people with illnesses related to bad lifestyle choices should either foot their own medical bills or die untreated is—morality aside—simply not realistic."

    Morality aside?! Since when in libertarian thinking are the decisions one makes NOT their own responsibility? Why is there "morality" involved when the person drank or ate themselves to death or to diabetes? Why shouldn't the obese be forced to pay extra for their medical treatment, when I - who has a normal bodyweight and low bodyfat due to exercising - don't?

  • chaos punk||

    You know what marginalized group of people need justice more than anybody? Night Shift Employees.

    Nobody respects the schedules of people that work 4pm - 4am. They have to come home, be quiet, and wake up to all the noise of the world.

    If I work night shift, and want to party when I come home at 3 am, it is illegal. But if someone wants to cut their grass or fix their shed, I have to deal with it!

    Fuckin' NightShiftism Bigotry bullshit

    Either make it illegal to make noise at all, or make it so everybody has to tolerate noise.

  • WhiskeyJim||

    In regards to obesity, when I read Reason I expect to see articles decrying zoning laws that force a drive to the store or the pub or to the office, which all contribute to obesity.

    I expect lamentations regarding lawsuits and yet another education fad that make recesses and school playgrounds a thing of the past, with rough housing and energetic competitive games strongly discouraged with a healthy dose of Ritalin if needed.

    What I do not expect is an article telling me that Mrs. Obama has a point. Cathy. That's not the point, and you know it. Don't be silly.

    And if we need the White House to tell us not to serve French fries and empty calories for lunch in schools, then we need to get rid of government education. Good lord.

  • Mr. Mark||

    I don't see how this is so confusing.

    Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. Let fat people pay more for health insurance if their insurers so decide. But it is no business of government to lecture you on nutrition.

    This is the same as the seatbelt issue, bicycle helmets, and so on. Take your nanny state and shove it.

  • ||

    When the schools serve all of that broccoli that the kids don't like, what are the kids going to do? They are going to throw it away. I can't wait until the complaints start coming in regarding the stench of garbage cans full of aging broccoli. The gubment can force the schools to serve it, but who's gonna force the kids to eat it?

    P.S. I bet the broccoli is going to be really fresh, nicely steamed, with a bit of a crunch. It won't be that frozen garbage with the consistency of mush. I'm sure.

  • Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall||

    The problem is that obesity does have clear political/social causes: 1) insulin resistance - which epidemiologists relate to extreme income equality 2) constant media messaging harping on human beings' evolutionary craving for high fat, high sugar foods 3) "food deserts" in many urban communities (there are no supermarkets at all in Detroit) leaving fast/junk food outlets as the only alternative 4) the total failure of the US medical system to offer preventive care, nutritional counseling, and screening for common medical causes of obesity (which ain't going to change under ObamaCare - which is nothing more than a corporate bail-out of the insurance industry).

    I have always been very skeptical of trying to cure social problems (the obesity epidemic is clearly one of them) by focusing on "individual responsibility" - it's an old neoliberal ploy to suppress political dissent. And in the case of obesity, individualized treatment has never worked. I lay out the evidence in my recent article: http://www.opednews.com/articl.....0-165.html

  • air yeezy||

    good

  • nike dunk high tops||

    good

  • wubai||

    How about mbt kisumu sandals this one: there are X driving deaths a year- what % of driving deaths (or serious injuries) involve alcohol, or other intoxicating substances? kisumu 2 People are pretty darn good drivers when they are not impaired.

  • jiusuan||

    good

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