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NO FATTIES
February 1, 2008 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Mississippi considers banning people with a BMI higher than 30 from eating in public. Though its author doesn't expect it to pass, House Bill 282 attempts to draw attention to the obesity epidemic, exaggerated or no. Predictably, some are upset.
posted by waraw (181 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Obese people are fast becoming a majority of Americans. This will sort itself out in the polls.
posted by UseyurBrain at 10:13 AM on February 1, 2008


I can't imagine that passing. I mean, who do they think provides most of the revenue for restaurants?

If they really wanted to cut back on obesity, they ought to just ban fast food chains. Because McDonald's would go out of business either way.
posted by delmoi at 10:15 AM on February 1, 2008


Hmmmmm. Will this end as badly as I imagine, or will the Nader thread spoil it?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:15 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't worry. Lobbyists from McDonald's, Denny's and Old Country Buffet will smash this down so fast it'll make your head spin.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:16 AM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Next up: keep drinkers out of the bars!
posted by notmydesk at 10:16 AM on February 1, 2008


Anyone tempted to HURF DURF this thread should check their own BMI first. You may be surprised. (You will likely be further surprised as you type lower and lower numbers trying to get down to "normal weight".)
posted by DU at 10:17 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


in related news, people with a bmi higher than 30 are now threatening to eat mississippi
posted by pyramid termite at 10:18 AM on February 1, 2008 [7 favorites]


Next up: keep drinkers out of the bars!

Heh, cops have actually raided bars and arrested everyone above 0.08 for "public intox"
posted by delmoi at 10:18 AM on February 1, 2008


If introducing a bill means that it will actually happen, I'd think twice about hitting a casino boat on the Ohio River.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:19 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is what a BMI of 40 looks like.

Maybe we should stop feeding them.
posted by creasy boy at 10:19 AM on February 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


This is one of the stupidest pieces of proposed legislation I've ever heard, publicity stunt or no. Putting aside for a moment the inanity of asking servers to make a medical judgment based on health department guidelines, that fact this the same body that thinks that eggs-over-easy are a threat to public heath, and that the bill provides no justification of what aim this legislation would serve...

What if the obese people want to eat healthy food at the restaurant?!
posted by desuetude at 10:21 AM on February 1, 2008


If they really want to cut down on obesity, they should stop the massive sugar and corn (corn syrup) subsidies.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:22 AM on February 1, 2008 [31 favorites]


Can I attach a rider that would require gas stations to refuse to fill SUVs?
posted by notmydesk at 10:23 AM on February 1, 2008 [9 favorites]


BMI has never made sense to me. I'm not overweight by any means and yet I'm over 25 on my BMI.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:23 AM on February 1, 2008


Drawing attention? Good.
Drawing attention while ensuring that the entire issue can be laughed off due to your attention-drawing methods? That's PETA territory, aka, dumb.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:23 AM on February 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


If they really want to cut down on obesity, they should stop the massive sugar and corn (corn syrup) subsidies.

Please, tell me how you think the Mississippi state legislature could defeat ADM in an open lobbying war.
posted by oaf at 10:24 AM on February 1, 2008


If they really want to cut down on obesity, they should...

send the portly kids to re-education camps.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:27 AM on February 1, 2008


Next up: keep drinkers out of the bars!

They did try something like that. It didn't really end well. (Though the idea of a new form of organized crime who provides fast food to people with a +30bmi is a lot of fun to contemplate.)
posted by quin at 10:30 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mississippi is literally the last place on earth I would have expected something like this to be suggested.
posted by psmealey at 10:30 AM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


BMI has never made sense to me. I'm not overweight by any means and yet I'm over 25 on my BMI.

Yeah, it's really complicated!
posted by 1 at 10:32 AM on February 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


My what-the-fuck-o-meter just broke.

Why don't we just create a back door and dining area, or separate drinking fountains and utensils, or create little camps where they can eat together and we could even put them to work so they could get in shape?
posted by iamkimiam at 10:32 AM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, I know If dieting became mandatory I'd be eating donuts every day.
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:32 AM on February 1, 2008


For me, obese people function as a deterrent to eating at McDonalds. Every time I go in there, I see lots of really obese people, and am reminded of what Mickey Dee's will do to your body.

I'd estimate that I eat there about 6 times a year.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:33 AM on February 1, 2008


Please, tell me how you think the Mississippi state legislature could defeat ADM in an open lobbying war.

Sending morbidly obese Mississippians to immolate themselves in front of ADM corporate headquarters? The grease-laden corpses would burn for hours and the PR coup would be devastating.
posted by felix betachat at 10:33 AM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Fat - The Last Civil Right.
posted by Horken Bazooka at 10:33 AM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


This feels like a mother buying her overweight daughter skinny clothes to "inspire" her to lose weight. Lose the weight and you can eat at a nice place again. Nice, as if there weren't enough obese shut-ins already.
posted by JimmyJames at 10:35 AM on February 1, 2008


Does anyone know the actual formula for BMI? It seems to just divide your weight into your height and that's it...not really an accurate measure of whether or not eating in a restaurant is a good idea for you.
posted by creasy boy at 10:35 AM on February 1, 2008


This is what a BMI of 40 looks like.

How many zeros are there between the decimal point and the number 1 in the proportion of people with 40 BMIs who are built similarly to Ronnie Coleman?
posted by Kwantsar at 10:36 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know who else hated fatties?
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:37 AM on February 1, 2008


Want to cut down on obesity?

Give up on the current adults. The few who want to change will do so. Start with the kids.

1) Healthy. Food. Only. in school cafeterias.
2) No pop vending machines in schools
3) Mandatory phys ed, every day. But give options! Point being, from a very early age, get kids in the habit of being in constant motion for an hour every day. (Yes, I know that in elementary school this is called 'lunch hour').
3b) But be careful.. this needs to be inclusive, and not about jocks (or proto-jocks) being superstars.
4) Mandatory cooking classes. Ensure that all kids--say, from the age of 10 or so--are given age-appropriate instruction in how to cook inexpensive and healthy meals that actually taste good.
5) Ban fast-food restaurants from being within, say, a 15-20 minute walking distance of junior high and high schools.
6) Eliminate all advertising of fast and processed foods that targets children. Maybe base it on fat & sugar contents?

The great part is, you only need to do this for approx 20 years. Get the habits ingrained in the kids, and they'll teach their kids (by and large).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:37 AM on February 1, 2008 [31 favorites]


I lost over seventy pounds last year by following the Hacker's Diet. It's a diet based on restricting the number of calories you eat per day. Very simple, very straightforward, very effective.

Fast food restaurants all post their caloric values on their websites and often in their establishments. I really liked being able to walk into Wendy's and order up an Ultimate Chicken Grill and a side salad and know exactly how many calories I was eating, and how many I had left for the day. Fast food restaurants helped me lose weight.

With this legislation in place, that particular source of measured calories would have been off-limits to me. Fast food can be a part of a responsible diet.
posted by MrVisible at 10:37 AM on February 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'd estimate that I eat (at McDonald's) about 6 times a year.

You're missing out on a delicious $3 grilled chicken sandwich. Get it without mayo, don't eat all the bread, and you've got an excellent, tasty source of concentrated protein.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:38 AM on February 1, 2008


Ban fast-food restaurants from being within, say, a 15-20 minute walking distance of junior high and high schools.

Petty tyrant.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:39 AM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


can we kill all the poor people while we're at it, lion-o? snark, snark...
posted by mr_book at 10:39 AM on February 1, 2008


Look, I just think that fat people are greedy mindless ogres and should be put into camps. Is that so outré?
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:40 AM on February 1, 2008


Jesus wept.
posted by OmieWise at 10:41 AM on February 1, 2008


What I want to know is this - how come other countries don't have obesity problems like what we have in the US? What do they do in Scandinavia, where everything apparently is better?
posted by Afroblanco at 10:42 AM on February 1, 2008


I lost over seventy pounds last year by following the Hacker's Diet. It's a diet based on restricting the number of calories you eat per day. Very simple, very straightforward, very effective.

I lost about 40 lbs on that one once but later gained it back when I stopped weighing myself. However, I've lost 30 again just by tracking my weight. It's even simpler. There's no need to count anything, just pay attention to how much you weigh and filter out the noise using software. If you weigh more today than yesterday, you should eat a little less today.

(blah blah blah balanced nutrition--I'm not going to diet that way. And what's worse? An overweight guy who eats less than optimal nutrition or a normal weight guy who eats less than optimal nutrition?)
posted by DU at 10:42 AM on February 1, 2008


Damn, I thought BMI was going to be about Butter Milk Ice-cream.

I better stay out of Mississippi.

And for a state so averse to excess, they could stand to lose a couple of S's and I's from their finger twister of a name. I'm going to propose a bill to change Mississippi's name to Misses P. The slenderest state in the union!
posted by aftermarketradio at 10:44 AM on February 1, 2008


How would compliance work? Would there be a scale and measuring tape in all restaurants?
posted by krinklyfig at 10:44 AM on February 1, 2008


"Ban fast-food restaurants from being within, say, a 15-20 minute walking distance of junior high and high schools."

Petty tyrant.

wtf? The idea is to get kids away from the idea that fast food is a wise choice. In moderation it's fine, obviously, but show me the teenager who actually understands the concept of moderation. Make it difficult to easily get to fast food on a 40-60 minute lunch break. Well, ok, except for the kids with cars.

Basic point being: make the healthy food more attractive than the unhealthy. I do seem to recall reading somewhere that teenagers do need diets somewhat higher in various fats than adults do, but that can be done in a healthy and tasty way.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:45 AM on February 1, 2008


This is REALLY reminding me of the Flintstones episode where Fred joins Overeaters Anonymous. People he doesn't know suddenly pop up, grab the food he's eating, make a distinctive face and sound at him, and then run away.
posted by orange swan at 10:45 AM on February 1, 2008


How many zeros are there between the decimal point and the number 1 in the proportion of people with 40 BMIs who are built similarly to Ronnie Coleman?

I think my point still stands, Kwantsar, that it's obviously not a reliable metric. I'm 5 pounds away from being "overweight" according to this thing and yet I can see my ribs. The law is already bad for so many reasons, and the fact that it uses BMI as its diagnostic tool is one of them.

Whenever I go back to America I'm surprised at how many people are really built compared to Europe. Yeah, a lot of them are really fat too...Americans are big generally. So all big guys have to be shut-ins now?
posted by creasy boy at 10:45 AM on February 1, 2008


Awww, what's worse? This or (ca. December 2001) when Tommy Thompson told us all to LOSE TEN POUNDS FOR AMUHRICA?
To fight the [obesity] epidemic, all Americans should lose 10 pounds as a patriotic gesture, said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
“As much as we love to eat, too often we fail to consider the consequences of that love,” Thompson said at a news conference.
Said the man with the first name of a 6-year-old.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:46 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


3) Mandatory phys ed, every day. But give options! Point being, from a very early age, get kids in the habit of being in constant motion for an hour every day. (Yes, I know that in elementary school this is called 'lunch hour').
3b) But be careful.. this needs to be inclusive, and not about jocks (or proto-jocks) being superstars.


This would be so great. My kid likes sports, especially the social aspects of just hanging out, and would love to have it included in school, but school sports programs are just for the specialists, those who want to go an compete. What about the ones who want to go outside and get some fresh air instead of being chained to their desk for an hour at time with a 3 minute dash in between?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:48 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


What I want to know is this - how come other countries don't have obesity problems like what we have in the US? What do they do in Scandinavia, where everything apparently is better?

Not to generalize too much, but it all comes down to lifestyle and food doesn't it? I think there are few countries that are as sedentary and as car-dependent as the US, and fewer that are willing to consume foods that contains the enormity of who-knows-what-they-are additives we don't even think about woofing down. There's also the portion size argument as well. Anecdotally, testaurant portions sizes seem to have increased about 200% over the course of my lifetime, and I suspect this has also has had an effect in the home .
posted by psmealey at 10:49 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Btw, I never go to testaurants any more. Too much iron content in the meat.
posted by psmealey at 10:49 AM on February 1, 2008


DU writes "blah blah blah balanced nutrition--I'm not going to diet that way."

That's the only way it works for me, otherwise all I eat is simple carbs and protein. I don't keep track, really, but I have to make myself eat veggies (which I actually like, but it's work to prepare), but learning to cook does help. I try to eat protein, whole grains and veggies (steamed, stir-fried or raw as often as possible, not overcooked) for lunch and dinner, and the same for breakfast but a banana instead of veggies. Cutting out most simple carbs and sugar made a tremendous difference, and I probably eat more in volume now than I did when I ate unhealthy all the time. It's made a huge difference in how much energy I have. But I'll be damned if I'm going to submit myself to any scale before being allowed to eat in a restaurant.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:50 AM on February 1, 2008


"...when Tommy Thompson told us all to LOSE TEN POUNDS FOR AMUHRICA?"

It worked. For the next three weeks every time I took a dump I named it Tommy Thompson, and saluted it as I flushed.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:51 AM on February 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


God I LOATHED Phys Ed as a kid. I loved bike riding, tree climbing, swimming, street soccer, etc but LOATHED PE. Just to get my point across: LOATHED!!

I can only hope it's improved, but I wouldn't bank on it. It didn't help that girls got aerobics while boys got hockey.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:52 AM on February 1, 2008


How would compliance work? Would there be a scale and measuring tape in all restaurants?

Yup, and the staff would all wear T-shirts bearing the slogan, 'No fat chicks'.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:53 AM on February 1, 2008


This thread makes me hungry. Fortunately, my BMI is < 20 so I can eat out.
posted by desjardins at 10:53 AM on February 1, 2008


Like most problems in life, this one can be solved with an army of robots -- in this case, robots designed to pursue (not much of a challenge), apprehend (likewise easy), and perform a painful, forced liposuction on fat people. The painful aspect is needed to provide an incentive to avoid recidivism. The fat can be used to fuel the robots.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:54 AM on February 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


dirtynumbangelboy writes "wtf? The idea is to get kids away from the idea that fast food is a wise choice. In moderation it's fine, obviously, but show me the teenager who actually understands the concept of moderation. Make it difficult to easily get to fast food on a 40-60 minute lunch break. Well, ok, except for the kids with cars."

What if you live in the area and don't have kids? How many suburbs have houses that aren't within that walking distance? I think it would effectively outlaw fast food within city limits (which is how some cities prevent alcohol from being sold, by having laws that prevent any sales within a mile from a church, for instance, with no location in town being further than a mile from church). I am not a proponent of subjecting all adults to laws "for the children." Same thing with the "drug free zone" within a certain distance of a school. The penalties go way up for possession within a certain distance from school property in many districts, even if you're in your own house and don't have any children.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:55 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


What I want to know is this - how come other countries don't have obesity problems like what we have in the US? What do they do in Scandinavia, where everything apparently is better?

More of:

exercise
fresh food

Less of:

TV
processed foods
HFCS in everything

(blah blah blah balanced nutrition--I'm not going to diet that way. And what's worse? An overweight guy who eats less than optimal nutrition or a normal weight guy who eats less than optimal nutrition?)

I've heard good things about the Four-S diet. No (added) sugar (my understanding is that, say, fresh OJ is fine, but kool-aid is not), no snacks, no seconds, except on S days--Saturday, Sunday, Special Days (birthdays, holidays). It's more about a lifestyle change than watching your weight and dieting. I keep meaning to try it.

What about the ones who want to go outside and get some fresh air instead of being chained to their desk for an hour at time with a 3 minute dash in between?

I think this must be a Canada vs US cultural difference. When I was growing up, we were mandated to have phys ed every year in school up to and including grade 9. After that it became optional. But all the stuff for the superstars was after school teams and such; everyone took part in phys ed. Usually an hour, every other day, roughly.

Anecdotally, testaurant portions sizes seem to have increased about 200% over the course of my lifetime, and I suspect this has also has had an effect in the home

At least 200%. More so in chain restaurants, and definitely more in the USA than here, but the trend seems to be accelerating up here. Nine times out of ten, if I'm eating at a chain place, an appetizer, or three appetizers between two people, is a full meal.

God I LOATHED Phys Ed as a kid. I loved bike riding, tree climbing, swimming, street soccer, etc but LOATHED PE. Just to get my point across: LOATHED!!

Yeah, that's part of my point. With younger kids, hell.. throw them some balls of various sizes and maybe some hoops or something, and they'll go bonkers for an hour. As you get older it needs to become a little more regimented. What I'd love to see is, say, the first hour of every day is the physical hour. And you get to choose what to do.. like hockey? play hockey with Teacher X. Prefer swimming? Off to the local pool with Teacher Y. Etc. Obviously significant financial constraints depending on the activities, but a game of soccer only requires a soccer ball and a field, which I think almost all schools have.

Point being, I guess, is that we need to stop thinking about physical activity as something superstars do, and get everyone involved.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:56 AM on February 1, 2008


OKay, this is a tough call. Are there more fat people or more stupid people in Mississippi? I thought they were all both.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:58 AM on February 1, 2008


I'm eating fast food as I read this thread. Chick-Fil-A as a matter of fact. My fingertips are probably all greasy.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:01 AM on February 1, 2008


Zachsmind, you bastard.

Now I must have Chick Fil-A nuggets. And I HATE THE MALL.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:07 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Republican Party needs a fourth plank in their platform and this may be it: God, guns, gays, and guts.
posted by peeedro at 11:07 AM on February 1, 2008


wtf? The idea is to get kids away from the idea that fast food is a wise choice. In moderation it's fine, obviously, but show me the teenager who actually understands the concept of moderation. Make it difficult to easily get to fast food on a 40-60 minute lunch break. Well, ok, except for the kids with cars.

Basic point being: make the healthy food more attractive than the unhealthy. I do seem to recall reading somewhere that teenagers do need diets somewhat higher in various fats than adults do, but that can be done in a healthy and tasty way.


"wtf?"? Really? You want to de facto outlaw restaurants that don't meet your dietary standards for the children! That's petty tyranny, defined.


I think my point still stands, Kwantsar, that it's obviously not a reliable metric. I'm 5 pounds away from being "overweight" according to this thing and yet I can see my ribs. The law is already bad for so many reasons, and the fact that it uses BMI as its diagnostic tool is one of them.


It's not a reliable metric for deciding who can eat what and where because the whole idea of such a law is clearly stupid for a million reasons, but that doesn't mean that BMI is not a perfectly good blunt instrument for measuring fitness over a large population.
posted by Kwantsar at 11:10 AM on February 1, 2008


PE is terrible as it is. I hated it, I thought I was no good at sports, and this was reinforced by being completely ignored by gym teachers. I did very little physical activity between the ages of 13 and 18. Thankfully, I realized in university that I'd been fed a lot of crap by my teachers and now I'm extremely healthy and very physically able.

I would have loved to swim, climb trees, running... If there were more choices and freedom in PE, letting the students know they have control over their own body, then it would not only reduce obesity but increase people's body image, and therefore make people happier.
posted by niccolo at 11:13 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let's consider that the US has the worst and least efficient health care in the developed world, the worst preventable death rate in the developed world, cities designed to discourage exercise and healthy living and encourage driving everywhere while public transport and cycling is deprecated, agriculture subsidies that make a salad more expensive than a Big Mac (while at the same time working people make less money than they did 10 years ago), and spends about one-millionth promoting healthy eating that fast food companies do advertising their processed fat and sugar.

But yeah, let's go right ahead and blame ordinary Mississippians for being fat and stupid. Easier than talking about serious policy changes isn't it?
posted by Bletch at 11:13 AM on February 1, 2008 [38 favorites]


I wish most state legislatures were moderated as well as MetaFilter is.

Can an admin please delete this bill from it's respective committee?
posted by butterstick at 11:16 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe Mississippi could set up separate lunch counters, drinking fountains, and schools for the fat people?
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:18 AM on February 1, 2008


Oh yeah, and employees working much longer weeks than in other countries certainly doesn't help either. Since starting full time work, everyone I know has ballooned (I work a job that mainly keeps me on my feet and where I can't be coerced into 80 hour weeks.)

On the other hand, if you're a "real american" working two jobs to make ends meet, how the fuck are you going to have time to think about your health on top of everything else?
posted by Bletch at 11:19 AM on February 1, 2008


What if you live in the area and don't have kids?

Huh. Good point.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:23 AM on February 1, 2008


These aren't ordinary Mississippians, Bletch. They're grand-standing legislators of the Southern Patrician class, full of bombast and wretched self-preservation.
posted by boo_radley at 11:24 AM on February 1, 2008


DU: "Anyone tempted to HURF DURF this thread should check their own BMI first. You may be surprised. (You will likely be further surprised as you type lower and lower numbers trying to get down to "normal weight".)"

Nah, not really. I'd have to increase my weight by 40% (60 lbs) to get to a 30 BMI (although just 25 lbs to be "overweight"), and I'm not all that skinny. Sorry, some people really are overweight. It may be their fault, it may not be (although I'm pretty sure usually it partially is)--but nonetheless they need to lose some weight. And yes, I realize that there are some people who are naturally very muscular, and thus have a higher BMI while still having a healthy body fat percentage. I have a feeling this is not most people, however.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:25 AM on February 1, 2008


It's not a reliable metric for deciding who can eat what and where because the whole idea of such a law is clearly stupid for a million reasons, but that doesn't mean that BMI is not a perfectly good blunt instrument for measuring fitness over a large population.

But that's the thing Kwanstar, blunt instruments are really not that useful in creating metrics of things that are so individual, especially for concepts like physical fitness. And just as there are a million reasons this law is stupid, there are millions of reasons a height to weight ratio is insufficient to measure fitness.
posted by butterstick at 11:25 AM on February 1, 2008


I heard on NPR that soon something like 1 in 6 Americans will have Diabetes becuase of obsesity. There was some former CDC official and a spokes person from the Surgeon General that we both unequivocally stating that this trend due to American obesity will break the US health care system with in twenty years. The problem is very serious.

I think a poster up thread nailed it we have to reach kids. I think it's too late for most US adults. Clearly they don't care enough about themselves nor do they care what effect this will have on their own children or the future.

To me it's all symptomatic of rampant consumerism out of control. From the cynical careless and usstainable way our food is produced, shipped, and priced to the individual psychopathology of over consumption. Consume, consume, consume. Be it owning three HDTV's, three SUVs, or eating three Whoppers a day. It's all the same unsustainable conceit and disease of greed. And it (is) will be our undoing.
posted by tkchrist at 11:27 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Put me down as another hater of PE. What we ought to do is just put nice gyms in High schools with ellipticals, weights, etc. and have PE teachers give kids customized goals, etc. My HS got a pretty sweet weight room my senior year, but PE stayed the same except a couple classes where we went in there. I wish I had taken advantage of it more.
posted by delmoi at 11:27 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dirtynumbangelboy, most kids (at least in my state) aren't allowed to go off campus for lunch any more, so it really doesn't matter how close the fast-food places are to the school until they get out in the afternoon. I agree, though, that the school lunches are really awful. My youngest loves fruit, and his elementary school served it--I am not kidding--covered in cheese. Not even cubes of cheese, but melted cheese. WTF?

I was underweight for most of my adult life. When I hit thirty-five or so, after having a hysterectomy, I developed hypothyroidism (runs in the family). Now I'm on medication and struggling with my weight in a way I never thought I'd have to worry about. It's really uncomfortable being the girl with a few extra pounds, when I used to be the one that everyone would say "Wow, you're so thin, I wish I had your body," to in envy. At least I was never one of those people who looked down on others who were over-weight, even when I was thin.

This law is just plain stupid. What are they going to do when all the poor kids who are diagnosed with autism grow up, force them to get jobs as social workers?
posted by misha at 11:32 AM on February 1, 2008


Pollomacho: If introducing a bill means that it will actually happen, I'd think twice about hitting a casino boat on the Ohio River.

Bah, you beat me to it..I was going to post that as well! But yea, this is the nature of introducing House Bills. So many of them never see the light of day that in the south I think there's a running joke on introducing ridiculous ones just so they go through the process (like the one you linked, using decommisioned submarines to sink gambling riverboats).

It's kinda a shame tho...because while funny (in some respects) it has to be wasting tax payers money somewhere.
posted by samsara at 11:34 AM on February 1, 2008


Air-drop Hawaiian Chairs on Mississippi.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:35 AM on February 1, 2008


it's funny but not as funny as the time Olive Garden had to replace all their chairs with larger ones because their customers asses didn't really fit in them
posted by matteo at 11:37 AM on February 1, 2008



But yeah, let's go right ahead and blame ordinary Mississippians for being fat and stupid. Easier than talking about serious policy changes isn't it?


I agree we are not doing nearly enough to promote healthy eating habits or holding the food industry's feet to the fire on these issues - but what policy CAN we enact that isn't regressive and essentially tyrannical? We can ban Trans-fats from certain foods. Stop subsidizing the production of corn based sweeteners. But that is only part of the problem. I would love to hear some suggestions.

I honestly don't think there is "policy" legislation that will work - top down. Ultimately, given maintaining personal freedoms, it HAS to be individuals taking responsibility for them selves. And being held to the results of their own choices has to be part of that. It's grossly unfair to punish members (by making them pay much higher insurance premiums, for instance) of society that are, at great personal cost, doing things "right."
posted by tkchrist at 11:38 AM on February 1, 2008


What if the fat person was dieting for a whole week and decided to go out for that one meal?
We're looking at a nation of angry fat people who will eventually turn cannibalistic towards skinny people and other minorities. Then the movie ends with me on a horse, on a beach,
with a fine looking skinny woman on the back, and there's the Statue of Liberty sticking out of
the sand. I yell, " You sonsabigchez did it! You finally did it. Damn you all to Hell!"
posted by doctorschlock at 11:38 AM on February 1, 2008


I'm so glad someone has decided to tackle the health issues of obesiity by talking about how unpleasant it is to watch fat people eat. That really cuts to the heart of the issue, right there. Our tax dollars at work, America.
posted by shmegegge at 11:38 AM on February 1, 2008


The problem with PE is that its real easy for kids not to participate, or put in 10% effort, especially if the kids aren't used to excercising in the first place. Getting a good workout is not something easy (if it were, I don't think we'd see such an epidemic in the first place). I say make kids run for a half hour every day starting in 1st grade. They might not like it, but there are plenty of things we make kids do in school for their own good that aren't all that fun.
posted by SBMike at 11:39 AM on February 1, 2008


Man, I love The Onion. This is hilarious!!
posted by Skygazer at 11:42 AM on February 1, 2008


Fat people need an organization like AARP. I'd join.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:42 AM on February 1, 2008


"What do they do in Scandinavia, where everything apparently is better?"

What we're doing? Getting fatter, it seems:

"Young Swedish men have become so overweight that they may soon pose problems for the healthcare system, new research has shown."

"Swedish women have becoming progressively heavier over the last few years, a new study has shown. /.../ ... by late 2007, 490,000 women (14 percent) were found to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30."

This thread's made me hungry, so I'll leave it to someone else to dig up the corresponding figures for Mississippi.
posted by effbot at 11:43 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


We can ban Trans-fats from certain foods. Stop subsidizing the production of corn based sweeteners.

We can? Seriously? If we could do that (while we're at it, let's just generalize that to "stop subsidizing corn and soy") I really think America could make serious progress on its obesity problems and the attendant Western diseases.

But we can't do that. Local and restricted trans-fat bans, like the one proposed in Seattle, might pass. But it will take a hell of a lot of political will to change the Farm Bill, and I don't see that coming from anywhere right now.
posted by gurple at 11:45 AM on February 1, 2008


Jesus, SBMike- what a ghastly idea. In case kids weren't already sure the "exercise" was misery- that would do it.

In my experience the teachers were weirdo jock/gym-junkies who couldn't figure out why doing squats for 20 minutes didn't thrill us. Exercise should be fun- you don't need to be able to do 18 pull-ups (or whatever the standard was) to be in shape when you're a kid, and you don't need to have exercise associated with shaming.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:45 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I recall some NPR coverage about a town in Norway where the industry was dairy, so there was too much meat and dairy consumption, and a high incidence of heart failure at young ages. The government intervened and subsidized produce, with success. But noe processed foods are available to them at cheaper still prices, and they're fattening up again.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:47 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why stop there? Ban BMI 30+ from shopping where food and/or cooking appliances are sold. That'll sort the problem out pretty quickly.

I think I recently read an article about an obese guy who is trying to sue because he was charged double at an all-you-can-eat because he ate all he could.
posted by necessitas at 11:51 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Anyone tempted to HURF DURF this thread should check their own BMI first. You may be surprised. (You will likely be further surprised as you type lower and lower numbers trying to get down to "normal weight".)"

Holy hell, I just weighed myself and found out I have a BMI of 31! Well, I'm not too worried, I get BMIed pretty often. For those that are over, we get out neck and waist measured (roped and choked) to see how much of our weight is muscle. I, being pretty stocky, am not going to normal weight for my height unless I dropped 40 pounds. Yikes! At the same time, lot's of people at my school have to be roped and choked, most of them pass, and all have to run under a 7 minute mile for a mile and a half (along with other physical tests). I mean, this isn't a small number of people that would be over weight according to the body mass index but are actually rather fit, or at least pretty good. I mean, I could loose some weight, but there's no way I can get down to 155 pounds again.

Okay, this was a personal anecdote, I know, but I'm also observing what I see. Sure, there are truly obese people. And that's bad. But the same way that drinking too much is bad and will destroy your health. Do what you can to help, recognize who has a problem and who is just heavy set (fat people are sometimes really great, ya know!), and don't get too judgmental on individuals or populations. And by the way, I've seen some thick Italians and Germans, so Sweden can suck it.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:53 AM on February 1, 2008


SBMike: thanks so much. People like you are the reason why it took five years for my exercise-induced migraines to be properly treated. They flare up any time I run, and the first two pediatricians I saw about it -- after years of suffering and figuring I was just weak and that everyone got a huge headache after a run -- said that the best way to stop them was to run. Every day. For an hour.

Every day, for over a year, I ended up in crying, horrible pain and was told it'd get better if I just kept at it.

The culture of "kids don't like it, so it must be good for them" is a relic of Puritanical bullshit that should be weeded out as much as possible.

The reason kids don't exercise is that it's regimented and made competitive. Kids used to exercise all the time. We called it PLAYING OUTSIDE. I've often thought that the problem of underexercised adults in the U.S. would largely go away if we made some giant Chuck E. Cheese style tunnel-playgrounds for adults. Exercise wasn't supposed to be something we had to do in a regimented fashion day after day, not for our ancestors. It was part of daily life, both work and play. Since many of our jobs are sedentary, the least we can do is remember what it was like to be a little kid, playing in tunnels and building forts. What's wrong with doing that now?
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:54 AM on February 1, 2008 [18 favorites]


I say make kids run for a half hour every day starting in 1st grade. They might not like it, but there are plenty of things we make kids do in school for their own good that aren't all that fun.

The average kid in first grade will run around like a maniac for hours. Children can usually not burn enough energy if given an opportunity. It's when they hit 8-10 year old that they start with sedentary habits. By the time they are teenagers habits are set. And sitting in a chair all day at school with only 15-30 minutes of recess doesn't help. Though it is great training for corporate America isn't it?

PE is awesome. Potentially. The problem with typical PE (from middle school on) is that it a merely a proving ground and distillery for what ever competitive sports bias that district entertains. largely they don't give two shits about giving the "average" kid a means to physical expression or an appreciation of physical culture. They are looking for "players." And this is the shame.

I taught kids Karate for years. By the early 1990's I noticed there were more over weight kids who really struggled with being physical. Most had never been given a chance to understand that being "uncomfortable" was a short term thing and that it was okay and normal. You know. That whole "pain is weakness leaving the body" thing. But ALL of those kids wanted to be fit deep down inside - they wanted to move. ALL of them. We are animals. We want to move. Lethargy and malaise is the alien state of being to animals. You have to run a physical education program to be challenging but not competitive until a kid discovers how they want to move. What they like. What suits them. Then let them test themselves against others. But first they have to understand the test is really about surpassing their own limits.
posted by tkchrist at 11:56 AM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's been a huge campaign here in Iceland to get kids to eat healthier, exercise, etc., for around 7-8 years. I haven't seen any statistics about how successful the effort has been, but it's harder than ever to be the fat kid in school. Some people will always tend to be fat, and fat kids tend to be picked on. But now, it's like being obese has been criminalised, and I bet a lot of kids are going through hell because of it.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 11:58 AM on February 1, 2008


Dirtynumbangelboy, etc: You wouldn't have to get rid of the restaurants, would you? Couldn't you just enforce a law where fast food restaurants are not allowed to serve to unaccompanied minors during school hours? Or could only serve them from a special healthy menu?

(I'm not saying I necessarily support this, I'm just participating in our thought experiment...)
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:59 AM on February 1, 2008


Who said anything about shaming? I suppose it might end up that way but it doesn't have to. What I remember from PE as a kid was being shamed twice a year when the president's physical fitness test rolled around and I had to run a mile or whatever and ended up walking the rest after the first 2 minutes. Then, the rest of the year trying to blend in and do as little activity as possible, which my gym teachers were often more than happy to accomodate. I didn't improve from year to year because we had no training or conditioning. I think if I had been forced to run every day, I certainly would have seen improvement, and I think I would have felt less shame in class. I'm a bit torn actually. Yes, it seems draconian, but it's also pretty bad when we've gotten to the point that running for 20-30 minutes a day seems draconian to the average kid. But probably implementing such an idea now without a radical change in physical education culture does seem like an idea doomed to failure.
posted by SBMike at 12:00 PM on February 1, 2008


Ridiculous.

Utterly ridiculous.

If they were to make everyone else in the entire state with a health condition or unhealthy habit stay out of the various "vice dens" where they get their "fix", that would be one thing.

But I somehow don't see those risking STDs being put on house arrest without access to computers, telephones, or even answering the door.

Nor those who drink or smoke being kept out of super markets and convenience stores.

And where would the soccer moms be if they couldn't have their Starbucks, despite its complete lack of nutritional value and caffeine's role in various health conditions?

No, the true sin of being overweight isn't how one got there, it's that you're completely incapable of hiding it from those who think they have any business at all judging someone else when they are certainly aren't perfect specimens of health and humanity, themselves.
posted by batmonkey at 12:01 PM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Let's just kill all the fat people and use their bodies for fuel.

For fuck's sake...
posted by dbiedny at 12:03 PM on February 1, 2008


Isn't the guy who invented BMI as a measurement of fitness the same guy who came up with medicinal leeches?
posted by crunch buttsteak at 12:08 PM on February 1, 2008


Stunning absurd!


posted by salvomix at 12:10 PM on February 1, 2008


It was part of daily life, both work and play. Since many of our jobs are sedentary, the least we can do is remember what it was like to be a little kid, playing in tunnels and building forts. What's wrong with doing that now?

I've been working on a business plan that takes this idea in some fashion. Without going into too much detail the idea is a fun version of the US Army confidence course. With the obstacle course, wall climbs, tunnels, tire walls, sand hills and dug outs and all that. You perform each part of the course for time and according to the work out goals. We tested it and the original prototype course run was supposed to be only 22 minutes. But everybody, even the control group of my laziest unfit friends, wanted to it MORE. So I think your idea has legs.
posted by tkchrist at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


If you want to start kids eating right, you must start in the cafeteria. I eat the same food as my kids every day down there. Over the course of this week I ate a cheeseburger, french fries (lots of fries), refried bean burritos, chicken fingers, and pizza. Today mixed vegetables were an option, though covered in cheese. We're a title one school, so we also are required to serve breakfast, which is usually cereal, but is frequently french toast sticks, sausage wrapped in pancake, or some other breakfast-time abortion.

I've thought on several occasions I should start a photoblog dedicated to taking a picture to the lunch and breakfast offerings, if only to depress the hell out of myself and possibly get fired.
posted by absalom at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now if only they could invent a vacuum cleaner that had a liposuction attachment.
posted by doctorschlock at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2008


Fast food restaurants all post their caloric values on their websites and often in their establishments. I really liked being able to walk into Wendy's and order up an Ultimate Chicken Grill and a side salad and know exactly how many calories I was eating, and how many I had left for the day. Fast food restaurants helped me lose weight.

Well, no, then, actually the Federal Government (more frequently referred to as the "evil nanny state" in arguments like this) helped you lose weight, because they're the people who actually mandated restaurants put up those charts. The fast food chains fought the legislation tooth and nail.

Not really trying to stir up shit here but I feel like 99% of these debates turn into pseudo-libertarian whinges about how the horrible, awful government wants to stop you from making your own choices about your body and by your own example, they actually helped you with that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:22 PM on February 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


I've thought on several occasions I should start a photoblog dedicated to taking a picture to the lunch and breakfast offerings, if only to depress the hell out of myself and possibly get fired.

That would be 12 kinds of awesome. The photoblog, not the fired part.
posted by phearlez at 12:23 PM on February 1, 2008


some other breakfast-time abortion

Well, that's one way to lose weight...
posted by Sys Rq at 12:32 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


absalom declared:
"If you want to start kids eating right, you must start in the cafeteria."

No. This must start at home.

Kids should be taught portion sizes, nutritional balance, the importance of regular meals, and basic preparation skills at home.

They should be provided a healthy breakfast or the time, ingredients, and skills to prepare it themselves. Ditto for lunch. And I think dinner goes without saying, but, just in case: dinner, too.

And here's the thing that makes it tricky: poverty. Learning how to eat right when there's no food? Cruel, if not impossible. Poor kids have to eat whatever's given them, mostly, because they don't know when the next meal may come along.

And that's where reform of school lunches comes into play - for those who have no choice, these meals should be as nourishing as can be. Those who have a choice will benefit alongside.

One of the reasons school lunches suck so much is because of the kids who DO get to eat fast food and prepared food all the time - they won't eat anything that doesn't meet the narrow taste/appearance spectrum of processed crap.

It's not a catch-22, but it's surely not the most enjoyable battle fought by parents, educators, and concerned members of the public.
posted by batmonkey at 12:32 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone tempted to HURF DURF this thread should check their own BMI first.

I know, BMI can deceive. Height and waist size are a more interesting metric.
posted by matteo at 12:32 PM on February 1, 2008


Yeah, it's really complicated!

Please, by all means, explain it Einstein!
posted by P.o.B. at 12:33 PM on February 1, 2008


I think my point still stands, Kwantsar, that it's obviously not a reliable metric. I'm 5 pounds away from being "overweight" according to this thing and yet I can see my ribs. The law is already bad for so many reasons, and the fact that it uses BMI as its diagnostic tool is one of them.

Whoops, someone beat you to it.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:34 PM on February 1, 2008


Next up: Alabama proposes legislation to ban nerds from attending Star Trek conventions
posted by The Gooch at 12:40 PM on February 1, 2008


iamkimiam: "My what-the-fuck-o-meter just broke.

Why don't we just create a back door and dining area, or separate drinking fountains and utensils, or create little camps where they can eat together and we could even put them to work so they could get in shape?
"

Fat is the new Black!
posted by symbioid at 12:42 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


dbiedny: "Let's just kill all the fat people and use their bodies for fuel.

For fuck's sake...
"

I've always wanted to sacrifice myself for the greater good, great idea!
posted by symbioid at 12:44 PM on February 1, 2008


Someone up thread mentioned the Old Country Buffet, which brought me to wondering... I'm Canadian and it's true, we are getting heavier here too but nowhere near at the same rate. I live in Vancouver where half the restaurants are independent sushi joints, and once you're out of the mall food court I'd say easily 75% of restaurants are independents or part of a Vancouver-only chain. When I'm in the US it seems like almost all the restaurants are chains, is that the case?

Anyways, the Old Country Buffet is not in Canada, so I decided to eat at one on a visit into the US. I was....a little surprised. The salad bar had a section where you could make your own burrito or taco, the entree section included cinnamon rolls, and there was steak, ham, chicken AND turkey on offer. The vegetables were either boiled mushy corn or boiled mushy carrots. However, if you wanted french fries or chicken nuggets, there were plenty to be had. At the buffets I've had up here it's very different, one maybe two kinds of meat, much bigger salad section that wasn't 80% pasta salads and burrito fixings. I'm told that the farther south you go the worse it gets.

I just don't see how lower income families stand a chance. Fresh foods that are healthy are so much more expensive. Shouldn't state governments being trying to deal with that? How about everyone with a BMI over 30 is given a one year pass for the local gym or rec centre? BMI over 30? Here's your card giving you 25% off the price of produce in the supermarkets. This law, even though it wouldn't pass, just seems like further punishment.

And yeah, some people are lazy. I'm lazy, too.
posted by Salmonberry at 12:45 PM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


absalom declared:
"If you want to start kids eating right, you must start in the cafeteria."

No. This must start at home.

That's a great idea, but unfortunately won't work--it's very clearly not working. That's why you start in the schools, getting kids eating healthier and getting more exercise. Their kids will learn about nutrition and portion control at home.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:48 PM on February 1, 2008


Where did people get the BMI of 30 cutoff? It's not mentioned in the bill.
posted by JanetLand at 12:49 PM on February 1, 2008


Very funny. I thought when the BMI calculator got posted, the MeFites would be proudly posting their BMIS, just like then the grains of rice game went up. In the game, I didn't score so high as this crowd, and felt deflated, out-classed. Underapprecited, even by my own self. I'd post my own BMI, but as a person with low self-esteem, I don't like to brag.
posted by jimmietown softgirl at 12:49 PM on February 1, 2008


They could always eat dirt.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:50 PM on February 1, 2008


No. This must start at home.

Perfectionism often is the enemy of progress.
posted by phearlez at 12:50 PM on February 1, 2008


Oops, didn't check the spelling. "When," not "then." Apologies, and more self-inflicted blows to my fragile self-image.
posted by jimmietown softgirl at 12:50 PM on February 1, 2008


Isn't the guy who invented BMI as a measurement of fitness the same guy who came up with medicinal leeches?
If so, it speaks well of him: medicinal leeches are a superb tool for microsurgery and plastic surgery.
posted by scrump at 12:50 PM on February 1, 2008


We can't legislate this kind of shit. Clearly we need to do things like stop subsidizing HFCS and promoting much healthier diets in schools. But this is stupid.

I was fat once. 6' 4", 270. So I walked every day, cut the soda, and limited my diet—not what I ate, but how much I ate. Now it's all gone.

What boggles me is the miniscule amount of effort that is required to lose weight (for most people), and how so few people are willing to put that energy in. I won't go so far as to say it's a trivial amount of energy, but when it boils down to "don't drink that Coke, go on a short walk when you get home, and don't fill your plate to the rim", it's pretty damn close.

In any case, don't you think the whole "fattie thread" phenomenon is a little overplayed?
posted by symphonik at 12:55 PM on February 1, 2008


Salmonberry: "However, if you wanted french fries or chicken nuggets, there were plenty to be had. At the buffets I've had up here it's very different, one maybe two kinds of meat, much bigger salad section that wasn't 80% pasta salads and burrito fixings. I'm told that the farther south you go the worse it gets."

Yeah, no kidding. Around here, mac n cheese, rice with butter, and french fries all count as a "vegetable."
posted by Deathalicious at 12:55 PM on February 1, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy opined:
"That's a great idea, but unfortunately won't work--it's very clearly not working. That's why you start in the schools, getting kids eating healthier and getting more exercise. Their kids will learn about nutrition and portion control at home."

Our schools can't even teach kids to read and do math - do you really believe this will be considered a priority?

It won't be.

Do it in your own home, spread it to the kids who visit your home, and hope that it all pays off.

Schools aren't going to do it for us. Never have, never will.

phearlez stated:
"Perfectionism often is the enemy of progress."

While true, it's a lot easier to control what goes into your kids at home than to try and force a public institution receiving an increasingly smaller amount of funds to do it for you.
posted by batmonkey at 12:59 PM on February 1, 2008


tkchrist: I honestly don't think there is "policy" legislation that will work - top down. Ultimately, given maintaining personal freedoms, it HAS to be individuals taking responsibility for them selves.

So why are so many Americans overweight and obese? Is it because they are so much freer than people in other countries? Bullshit. Policy has everything to do with it: farm subsidies and policy, urban planning (bike lanes, green space, walkable neighbourhoods, public sports facilities), physical activity in schools, free sports programs for kids, and so on. Sure, in the end individuals have to take responsibilities for themselves, but there are a million things that can be done on a policy level to make it much easier for people to stay healthy.
posted by ssg at 1:09 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


You have a point, batmonkey. I'm not sure how to get around that.. but as I said above, it's very clearly not working at home.

What would you propose?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:12 PM on February 1, 2008


It seems downright bizarre not to think of this as a policy problem, with multiple potential policy solutions.

Potential solution: make veggies much cheaper than red meat.

Why, currently, aren't veggies much cheaper than red meat? It's all a matter of policy, namely the farm bill.

Individual responsibility? Teach kids the right way to eat in their own home? Fantastic, I'm all for it. But "rah rah individual responsibility" doesn't cause nationwide trends to change.
posted by gurple at 1:19 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Our schools can't even teach kids to read and do math - do you really believe this will be considered a priority?

Now, from what I understand you do have some pretty messed up schools in the USA, but it really doesn't cost that much to serve some healthy food, teach kids a little bit about nutrition and get them to do some exercise. In my town, the local schools have kids running pretty often. That costs almost nothing. Teaching kids about nutrition doesn't really have to cost more than teaching them anything else. Serving healthy food is going to cost a little more than crappy food, but surely the richest country in the world can afford a few extra cents per child per day?
posted by ssg at 1:19 PM on February 1, 2008


batmonkey: You are correct. However, at least in my personal experience, home training is nil and I know of no way to change people's at home behavior. If one is talking about changing the youth of America, then that must begin at the schools, where behavior and diet can be at least someone managed and mandated.
posted by absalom at 1:28 PM on February 1, 2008


A friend of mine made some really good points after looking at the link, so I'm just going to drag them over here.
The idea that this is about "the health of Americans" is false. It's about a perceived drain on the healthcare system.

If you believe that the majority of obese persons are lower-income and it's about class, then you have to accept that the 'health issues' that this bill is supposedly going to help them avoid is going to end up with people having to turn to Medicaid or simply still not being able to pay their medical bills if they don't. The working poor tend to not have the best health care options, even if they are employed and how can you stay employed if you are rife with health problems brought on by obesity? Forget about examining why they don't have adequate health care. Too much thinking from the Good Ol' Boy Network for that.

You would also have to poke into the issue of why eating healthier is more expensive. Why is it that better quality foodstuffs are usually found in markets in more affluent areas? Canned ravioli and Hamburger Helper is simply not as healthy as hummus and tofu - but compare the prices. Compare the difference between your leaner cuts of meat and even the quality of fresh produce in a store in a less affluent neighborhood. It's not news that thinness is a mark of affluence, but there are more reasons for this than the cost of gastric bypass, gym memberships, etc.

I'd also like to see the type of restaurants that this would be enforced in. Probably not LaCharelle, or some other fine dining establishments that your average lower-middle class or working class family/individuals aren't really frequenting in the first place.

It of course is all tied in to the idea that obesity is the result of a lack of self-control. So - since these people are so clearly out of control and Poor/Female/Minorities, we (the patriarchy) must once again decide what is best for them. It is also about shame. "If you will not conform - then be shamed into the fact that you cannot eat in certain places and we get the perk of not looking at you. Not that we go to these places anyway. Ugh."
posted by FunkyHelix at 1:33 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


additionally: People have commented above. Individual choice is dictated by means, not ideals. It's a fact that the cheapest calories available in the grocery store are the ones found in the middle: processed and frozen manu-foods. The periphery - fruits, veggies, whole grains - are way more expensive per calorie. Why? It's not the vagaries of the free market, but an inevitable consequence of policy decisions. The problem is that these policy decisions are so grandfathered in that they are all but invisible to the average consumer, so the idea that prices and availability of food is simple supply and demand.
posted by absalom at 1:33 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or, you know, what FunkyHelix said. There was actually a wired feature on the subject recently.
posted by absalom at 1:37 PM on February 1, 2008


Policy has everything to do with it: farm subsidies and policy, urban planning (bike lanes, green space, walkable neighbourhoods, public sports facilities), physical activity in schools, free sports programs for kids, and so on. Sure, in the end individuals have to take responsibilities for themselves, but there are a million things that can be done on a policy level to make it much easier for people to stay healthy.

Okay. Let me re-phrase it. Physical activity in schools, free sports....take MONEY. AKA. Tax increases. Which said policy makers and the people they represent repeatedly vote DOWN.

And according the plethora of studies I have read the reasons other countries are not as obese, though they are gaining in that area very rapidly BTW, has little to do with governmental policy and everything to do with culture. Also how food is grown, produced, and transported (and the distances involved) and the fact those populations are not as ruled by the automobile and they tend to walk more.

So I say bullshit to your bullshit and we are stalemated. So. Seriously. I want to see a few more of the "millions" of policy ideas. That are workable that won't be ignored or end up being viewed as tyrannical by Americans who are babies about that kind of thing.
posted by tkchrist at 2:01 PM on February 1, 2008


Potential solution: make veggies much cheaper than red meat.

Why, currently, aren't veggies much cheaper than red meat? It's all a matter of policy, namely the farm bill.


How? Just saying "the Farm Bill" doesn't mean anything.
posted by tkchrist at 2:02 PM on February 1, 2008


but surely the richest country in the world can afford a few extra cents per child per day?

Again it has nothing to do with what we can afford. Can we afford a trillion dollar war in Iraq? It's culture. And getting Americans to raise their taxes is worse than pulling teeth. Perhaps you have not been listening to the presidential candidates?
posted by tkchrist at 2:04 PM on February 1, 2008


There's a reason Americans are opposed to more taxes - most of them aren't paid a liveable wage. And around and around it goes.
posted by agregoli at 2:08 PM on February 1, 2008


Okay. Let me re-phrase it. Physical activity in schools, free sports....take MONEY. AKA. Tax increases.

Yes, money is involved, but not that much. Urban planning so that cities are not dominated by cars? Not very expensive and reduced oil consumption will save money in the long run. Kids go for a run in school or play capture the flag? Not very expensive. Stop subsidizing the production of sugar? Saves money that could be used to subsidize the production of vegetables. Will it be easy to make changes? No, but not everything worthwhile is easy to do.

Again it has nothing to do with what we can afford. Can we afford a trillion dollar war in Iraq? It's culture.

Fine. Nothing can ever change in America. Give up.
posted by ssg at 2:20 PM on February 1, 2008


How? Just saying "the Farm Bill" doesn't mean anything.

Fair enough.

For my own personal eating guidelines and for my outlook on food policy I often look to Michael Pollan, of /The Omnivore's Dilemma/ fame. Here's a NYT article by him lambasting the current state of the farm bill.

I hesitate to try to compact the argument any farther than he does there. But here's a whack at it: we subsidize corn too much and don't try hard enough to promote diversity in our crops.
posted by gurple at 2:25 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Urban planning so that cities are not dominated by cars? Not very expensive and reduced oil consumption will save money in the long run.

You're not a planner, are you? Public transit has to be massively subsidized because people won't pay for it. People really, really like their cars, and often use them even when there are perfectly viable alternatives. This is not to say we shouldn't plan for walkable cities - we definitely should. But they ARE expensive to plan - both in monetary and political terms. For example, the Chicago Transit Authority was bogged down in debt and was going to be forced to drastically raised fares until the state legislature decided to raise taxes to bail them out. Who pays for that? Chicago homeowners.
posted by desjardins at 2:33 PM on February 1, 2008


Fine. Nothing can ever change in America. Give up.

Why are you being an asshole? It's totally not necessary. Just trying to have a civil discussion here.

I'm trying to inform you of how complicated the problem is.

I've shown you that the"other countries" you mentioned ARE beginning to have this same obesity problem. And the reasons it has been arrested before now in these places is largely due to culture and geography. Why does this reality make you so exasperated?

Obesity is growing in Europe, in China and in INDIA (of all places) and it's becuase cultures (work habits, use of automobiles and more fast food) are shifting to American modern standards and it's not ONLY policy that is the solution. Obviously.

It's changing cultures. Which means reaching and changing people. Which involves convincing people to take responsibility.

I'm not sure why when your presented with the facts you suddenly have throw your hands up and cry "give up." The point is it's complicated. And to think that a policy change or other words somebody else — namely the sate—that isn't me, the consumer, must force me to do my thinking and making my decision for me — will work. Because clearly the problem involves cultural attitudes. As well as issues with poverty, economics and geography. However. It's not ONLY poor people who are fat in the US. That is a myth. The middle class is getting fatter as well. People who can afford healthy habits.

There are no policies anybody her has articulated that have not been tried or discussed ad infinitum that don't have serious hurdles. So I'm waiting to hear some better policy ideas that are workable with in our culture. Which I have yet to hear.

And regardless. Policies are only one part of the issue. The individual HAS to pick up the gauntlet and make choices for themselves and take responsibility for their choices.
posted by tkchrist at 2:39 PM on February 1, 2008


I hesitate to try to compact the argument any farther than he does there. But here's a whack at it: we subsidize corn too much and don't try hard enough to promote diversity in our crops.

I mentioned that already and somebody got all feisty and contrary about it. I think the likelihood of no longer subsidizing corn sweeteners anytime soon is minimal.

So in the meantime, while we wait for Government to come to the rescue somehow 1 in 6 Americans develop diabetes and collapse our health care system. I'm sorry but the near term solution that is gong to work the best is to try and change the culture. Starting with children.
posted by tkchrist at 2:43 PM on February 1, 2008


It's changing cultures. Which means reaching and changing people. Which involves convincing people to take responsibility.

For heaven's sake, what does that mean? Do you mean that you, personally, will encourage everyone you know to change? Bully for you and for them. But how does that impact the nation as a whole? You deride policy changes as a) insufficient, and b) all having insurmountable hurdles. Fine, then, what other type of solution is there?

The culture needs to change, yes. I'll posit that one of the reasons the culture is the way it is is because of the food that we grow. Fast food is part of our culture. Would it be such a big part if it weren't so cheap? If it became more expensive, would the culture change? I think so.

People like their cars. That's part of the culture. Would they like them so much if gas was suddenly $5/gallon?

Policy impacts culture.
posted by gurple at 2:45 PM on February 1, 2008


I'm not trying to deny that policy changes in this area can be really difficult and very complicated, but if you are going to dismiss as totally unworkable anything that would require spending even a small amount of money or require any political effort, then there really isn't any use discussing this.

I'm not going to write a 400 page report laying out a massive plan to bring these changes about. All I'm saying is that these are some things that have worked in other places. If US culture is so different from the rest of the world that you can't possibly adopt any of the policies that other countries have, then I have to give up because I'm not an American and so I can't possibly tell you anything useful.

I am, in all earnestness, saddened after reading the pervasive cynicism about American politics in this and the Nader thread.
posted by ssg at 3:00 PM on February 1, 2008


tkchrist, I think what ssg was referring to was your quick shooting down of any thoughts anyone had besides yours.

How about changing subsidies? Nope won't happen! How about chang... -No! I tell you, No! It's all useless!

Obviously this is a subject you feel passionate about, but your presentation is off-puttingly combative and preachy, and getting more so.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:03 PM on February 1, 2008


right. what ssg said.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:03 PM on February 1, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy, ssg, et alia:

I don't want have a point on that, and wish that the answer was something other than "yet more hard work on the part of the American citizenry", but that's the only answer we have.

Our governments - from city level on up - have thrown up their hands and essentially walked away, unless they can get some kind of travel junket out of pretending to care for five minutes.

We have to work at every level we can possibly reach, through voting, community education, and holding our public sector institutions responsible for spending our tax money responsibly and in ways that will further us as a nation.

This is the hard part of maintaining a true democracy. If we don't do this work now, it won't get done and this will all only get worse.

And crazier. Mississippi is "one of the poorest states in the nation", and I think they might have other fish to fry grill before trying to enforce what the insurance companies want.
posted by batmonkey at 3:03 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


gurple, what politician in the US, given the precarious state of our economy would ever in the next ten or twenty years propose a $2 a gallon gas tax? Or proposed to raise the price of meat and dairy?
C'mon. They would never get elected and you know it. THAT'S the culture. Our culture doesn't believe in investment. We would need a dictator to get through that kind of legislation with out the culture demanding it from the bottom up and creating some kind of support base for the policies.

Plus that doesn't even make economic sense. Our food is SHIPPED vast distances in the US. Which costs money. You proposing to double the cost of fuel will some how make fresh vegetables cheaper? Currently there is no model for food production that CAN feed our domestic population that isn't factory farmed or otherwise too expensive. So we have to import a huge portion of our vegetables and fruit. Gas taxes, even if you DO make special dispensations for transport companies, will still rise for everybody.

Well. It's moot. Fuel prices will $6 a gallon by 2011, anyway. And people will STILL be getting fatter. I guarantee it.

I don't deride policy changes to be an ass or out of some kind of idealogical fetish. I'm simply observing reality, man.

I agree subsidies must end. But there will be pain beyond just price increases. It's likely smaller producers would actually at first fail with out subsidy. Many would go out of business. Or resort to growing crops that won't help with our nutritional problems based on the vagaries of market prices.

It would be awesome is meat prices reflected the reality of what they REALLY cost us. Personally I buy all organic CSA produce and meat. And it is very expensive. But it's closer to the real costs of food. Luckily I get a majority of my food in trade out and therefore it's somewhat free.

I'm talking the majority of the MIDDLE CLASS, here. A demand has to be created with the middle class first. We have to break this insane consumer cultural cycle. If people consumed less bullshit they don't need they could afford better food.

Parisians, for example, pay premiums in rent, in fuel, and in consumer goods. They make less money than the Average American. They buy stuff, but they don't buy in excess. So they spend more on living well. Better food. More free time. They walk. They live. But they sacrifice in material wealth.

Americans want 6000 Square foot houses in the burbs. So they have to drive two hours a day and don't get exercise. Then they buy a bunch material bullshit (on credit) they don't need and eat at Outback Steakhouse because there is no decent food anywhere near them. These are choices.

I am all for lobbying for policy changes. But hoping the government will rescue us just defies history in regards to these kinds of complicated issues.
posted by tkchrist at 3:21 PM on February 1, 2008


I have been giving this a lot of thought lately...I am old enough to have noticed how our cultural attitude to food has changed over the decades. In the 1960's, not only were portion sizes smaller, but there was real social pressure not to eat too much. Couple that with most mothers were still at home, preparing real food (McDonald's and their ilk didn't really start kicking till later in the sixties, and the start of the seventies, at least in our area. ) Those same moms rode herd on the fridge, and if you were a kid, you had to drink water between meals, not soda, not koolade, not juice. If you didn't want water you "weren't thirsty."

Restaurant dinners were a rare treat, not a weekly indulgence. When you did go out you were served ONE soda or tea, no free refills.

And, as people already mentioned, kids went outside to play. We were not allowed to come back in the house whenever we wanted, sometimes. (I can remember literally being locked outside. And no, it wasn't abuse. It was common, to keep us kids from "running up the heating/cooling bill." ) No sitting inside in front of the tube.

Our society has changed in drastic ways since then. We are a culture that makes walking to places difficult, that makes sticking to healthy eating difficult, and that makes any effort at self-restrant difficult. We are stressed, not getting enough sleep, not having enough hours in the day, etc. etc.

I walked into a small pizza joint the next county over about a month ago. Literally every single person I saw in there-and they were crowded that night-was overweight/obese. That did NOT use to be the case, people.

All I can do is hit the gym-and I do, at least five times a week for more than an hour at a time-and I walk a mile to get there. And I am still too fat.
posted by konolia at 3:23 PM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


ssg... I never said policy changes are impossible. I'm saying it's a vast decades long effort that in the mean time people are going keep getting more obese and dying. And the types of things you mentioned we have seen time and time again simply not working out in any practical sense. I'm not saying I don't support them. I do. But they are not happening, okay?
posted by tkchrist at 3:23 PM on February 1, 2008


I'm not going to write a 400 page report laying out a massive plan to bring these changes about. All I'm saying is that these are some things that have worked in other places. If US culture is so different from the rest of the world that you can't possibly adopt any of the policies that other countries have, then I have to give up because I'm not an American and so I can't possibly tell you anything useful.

because these "policy changes" though you haven't been specific haven't worked in other places. Obesity is on the RISE in Europe, okay. That is a fact. So sorry. And these countries implemented these policies (what ever ones your talking about) becuase the societies supported them becuase they had cultural values in line with the policy. Which we don't have the critical mass for yet.

Policy is only part of it.
posted by tkchrist at 3:27 PM on February 1, 2008


By the way, Konolia, I just returned from Paris on Tuesday. Portion sizes are not that much smaller in terms of calorie from fat. And they dink much more wine, which is calorie laden.

A common lunch likecroque monsieur (a toasted ham sandwich, basically) in most Cafes is decent sized and high calorie. I think the difference is...that's it. They eat that one thing and not a bag of chips and 24oz's of Cola.

I have gone to Paris every year in January for a while now. And we eat out every day. The food, while much fresher, has way more fat in it. But you also walk more. I have never gained weight while on vacation in Paris. Or even Italy for that matter. Because you walk everywhere.

Your right, though. Our culture has changed.
posted by tkchrist at 3:43 PM on February 1, 2008


konolia: doesn't the way you describe your childhood - and then the current state of affairs - indicate that it doesn't matter what kids are taught, they'll still do what they want when they're adults?
posted by desjardins at 4:00 PM on February 1, 2008


They're grand-standing legislators of the Southern Patrician class, full of bombast and wretched self-preservation.

Take out the "legislators of the," add Bourbon after "bombast" and you have an excellent description of my extended family and the C-grade Faulknerian dramas they leave in their wake. Oh, Mississippi . . .

All I can do is hit the gym-and I do, at least five times a week for more than an hour at a time-and I walk a mile to get there. And I am still too fat.

Konolia, I can completely relate
posted by thivaia at 4:06 PM on February 1, 2008


This bill is not wrong because it lacks practicality. It's wrong because it is bigoted. People don't like looking at fat people, so they want to ban them from public. It always comes down to looks. This is not about health. This is certainly not about mortality rates. The way fat people are treated is much worse for them than the fat on their bodies. Being denied health care and shamed by strangers and friends alike (and now, the government) is worse than a hundred "extra" pounds. Dieting is worst of all.

And people will STILL be getting fatter. I guarantee it.

And taller, and living longer.
posted by Danila at 4:06 PM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Portion sizes are not that much smaller in terms of calorie from fat.

Which doesn't matter. What matters is total calories. A meal in Paris at a non-tourist place has significantly fewer calories than a meal at a typical american place.

You're absolutely correct about walking everywhere on top of that, of course.
posted by Justinian at 4:12 PM on February 1, 2008


Yeah, first they're going to have to somehow get my lardass onto a scale so that they can prove what my BMI is. Good luck!
posted by Flunkie at 4:12 PM on February 1, 2008


Let's just kill all the fat people and use their bodies for fuel.

It should be noted that bones don't really burn, though they are useful for scrimshaw.
posted by Tube at 4:22 PM on February 1, 2008


"Government needs to crawl back into its fucking hole and we'll call you out when we need you........God, we really do need to move to New England, don't we?"

(My boyfriend, after I read the initial post out loud).

"How about we pass a bill that says the nanny-state Republicans don't get to go out in public, EVER?"

(He's still ranting at this point, actually...)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 4:31 PM on February 1, 2008


I really want to know more about this BMI thing, because I'm sure it's pretty fucked. Certainly no indication of your healthiness.

I just used the calculator and my BMI is 32.8, based on 183cm tall and 110kg.

I am overweight. I have got a bit of a gut. But damn it, I'm not obese. I work in a reasonably active job, as an environmental scientist, that involves a lot of walking through forests and swamps for hours at a time, carrying equipment. I have weighed 110kg, no more, no less, for at least the last 10 years, since I was 17. Last time I went to the doctor for a check up, two months ago, he made the usual comment about how I could afford to lose a few pounds, but the rest of my vitals came up peachy. I ride my bike on short trips rather than drive. For dinner last night I had grilled lamb and baby spinach salad. I'm not the fittest guy around, but nor am I a couch-bound ball of lard, and the thought that people of the same dimensions as me are considered so grossly overweight and unhealthy as to not be allowed to eat out at restaurants suggests that BMI is completely bunk.
posted by Jimbob at 4:43 PM on February 1, 2008


Or it suggests that you misunderstand the purpose of BMI and that the author of this bill is making a political statement rather than intending it as a scientific judgment on what is or is not grossly overweight.
posted by Justinian at 4:46 PM on February 1, 2008


Here's an idea. This guy gets his law passed, and all the obese people in Mississippi get a nice workout by going to his house every night and punching him in the face repeatedly until they lose weight. It's a win-win situation!
posted by Eddie Devil at 4:55 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well what's the purpose of BMI, if not to put people into these "normal weight", "overweight", "obese" classes?
posted by Jimbob at 5:00 PM on February 1, 2008


Jimbob,

The BMI obviously does not take into account such things as bone density, and more to the point, muscle mass.
It's an "instrument" for the masses, and quite an old one at that, and is useless for a large number of people due to its retarded simplicity.

"Tools" or "Rule of Thumbs" like this should be discarded. Others I would include would be Max Heart Rate (220-age) and the "four to eight cups of water a day to stay hydrated"
posted by P.o.B. at 5:18 PM on February 1, 2008


and living longer.

Not in the US (Or Russia, FTM). I thought the Average Lifespan in the US was projected to trend downwards.
posted by tkchrist at 5:19 PM on February 1, 2008


I am sure some Mefite has suggested before that schools imitate ancient Sparta.

The boys (this was military training for Sparta's future warriors) could eat only what they stole.

I don't think Mississippi's legislators would be keen on that one.
posted by bad grammar at 5:39 PM on February 1, 2008


If you want to start kids eating right, you must start in the cafeteria.

Exactly.

I admire British chef Jamie Oliver's efforts in this regard: 'Feed Me Better: School Dinners' (aka lunches).

Likewise, there is Alice Water's Edible Schoolyard project, as well as Emeril Lagasse's efforts at Children's Storefront School.
posted by ericb at 5:47 PM on February 1, 2008


Making meat drastically more expensive would be more akin to a cigarette tax: it would be borne by those who didn't wish to change their lifestyle. It would not have to destroy the middle class or whatever, since eating meat is entirely optional in the first place, and in my experience easier to quit than cigarettes anyways.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:54 PM on February 1, 2008


My BMI is 22.5. Yay!
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:09 PM on February 1, 2008



Not in the US (Or Russia, FTM). I thought the Average Lifespan in the US was projected to trend downwards.


Could you find a source for that? All I'm finding shows just the opposite. Life expectancy is at an all-time high in the United States and is expected to continue to rise. Here's the most recent article I found.

If you want to start kids eating right, you must start in the cafeteria.

I keep seeing this sort of statement throughout the thread. Give up on the adults, we have to start with the children, we need more phys ed, etc. While I'm sure increased physical activity and better nutritional choices may improve health, instituting these changes in schools has already been demonstrated to be ineffective with regard to body weight. Large studies have been done, such as the Pathways trial. Native American students were approached from three areas: physical activity, family support, school cafeterias. It was everything people have been calling for in this thread.

The primary measure of intervention effectiveness was the mean difference between intervention and control schools in percent body fat (adjusted for baseline percent body fat) at the end of the fifth grade. Percent body fat (PBF) was estimated using an equation developed during the feasibility phase using measurements of height, weight, skinfold thickness, and bioelectrical impedance.

Secondary outcomes included improved changes in terms of physical activity, dietary intake, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior.

While the program had significant effects on several components of knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, it did not reduce the students' percent body fat.


A twenty million dollar study over 8 years. The children learned a lot about nutrition, physical activity increased, they ate less fat. No effect on weight.
posted by Danila at 6:17 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


America's rampant obesity is what's going to save the nation from the machinations of its government in the end. So many people are going to die from their inability to control their eating habits (or afford better eating habits) that the scarce post-recession wealth will become concentrated into the hands of the survivors.

Kind of like what Black Death did in its days.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:20 PM on February 1, 2008


The few who want to change will do so. Start with the kids.

None of those will do any good if the kids are spending 99% of their days sitting on their asses or being driven from point A to point B.

Notice how nearly every post in this thread is "portion-size-this" and "healthy-diet-that"? There's your problem. The American problems with obesity have almost nothing to do with the food. "But corn-syrup subsidies etc.!" I hear you exclaim. Yeah, we eat some terrible stuff. But that's not our problem.

The problem is we don't fucking move all day. If you had to walk two miles to get to school and another two to get back, throw in an hour of physical education and a day on the weekend spent solely outside (biking, running, walking, playing, doing shit that didn't involve a car), you could eat whatever the hell you liked and your BMI would be fine.

But that would involve a massive shift in our culture's thinking about cars, urban life, city planning, public dwelling... fuck that. I want my goddamned ten-acre backyard! I deserve it for busting my ass all day. My precious children need a huge yard to run around and play. I need the safety of suburban life with plenty of space to insulate me from the crazy foreigners and poor people and prostitutes and drug dealers and (egads!) child molesters that permeate the alleys of your typical city. Why, it's be positively unconscionable to let your children walk to school these days, with all the lurking threats to their private parts.

People in Europe and in Asia walk, run, bike and swim an order of magnitude more than your typical American. That's why they're not as fat as we are.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:07 PM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Eddie Devil writes "Here's an idea. This guy gets his law passed, and all the obese people in Mississippi get a nice workout by going to his house every night and punching him in the face repeatedly until they lose weight. It's a win-win situation!"

It will never pass, but if it did, the only scenario I could predict is that the prohibited patrons would take it out on the waitstaff and/or cashier (or maître d' if you will - whomever has to do the measuring and gatekeeping). I bet the bill's sponsor, Rep. W.T. Mayhall, Jr., never worked in a restaurant, or he never would have attempted to subject the workers to the inevitable abuse that would be hurled their way if his bill passes.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:13 PM on February 1, 2008


Civil_Disobedient writes "Notice how nearly every post in this thread is 'portion-size-this' and 'healthy-diet-that'? There's your problem. The American problems with obesity have almost nothing to do with the food. 'But corn-syrup subsidies etc.!' I hear you exclaim. Yeah, we eat some terrible stuff. But that's not our problem."

That really is a big part of it. Obesity rates in other nations are correlating with their diets changing to be more like ours, as well as physical activity. But the diet is the major catalyst, it seems. But don't take it from me, here's what WHO has to say.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:16 PM on February 1, 2008


The problem is not isolated to the US.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:24 PM on February 1, 2008


Danila: That's an interesting study.

A twenty million dollar study over 8 years. The children learned a lot about nutrition, physical activity increased, they ate less fat. No effect on weight.

The study was over three years, not eight. I'm not really surprised that there was no change over three years, as that isn't a very long time for this sort of thing. I also wonder about the portion sizes for the school lunches that had less fat: the study site seems to suggest that they weren't changed, which seems like an obvious problem if you want people to decrease their body fat percentage.

I think the most important point comes at the end of their press release:

The physical education component of the program did not produce a substantial increase in physical activity as investigators had hoped, but the data showed a trend of increasing activity in the intervention schools over the three years. Investigators believe that a longer intervention may further this trend and succeed at reducing body fat in this vulnerable group.

A trend of increased physical activity sounds like a good thing to me. The study also suggests that school-based programs aren't enough on their own, which seems reasonable enough. I don't think anyone in the thread is suggesting that a few years of physical activity, lower fat foods, and nutrition education is going to solve the problem of obesity.
posted by ssg at 8:35 PM on February 1, 2008


I think I recently read an article about an obese guy who is trying to sue because he was charged double at an all-you-can-eat because he ate all he could.
posted by necessitas at 2:51 PM on February 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


The current champion eaters in the world tend to be small people - their stomachs have room to expand.

Isn't the guy who invented BMI as a measurement of fitness the same guy who came up with medicinal leeches?
posted by crunch buttsteak at 3:08 PM on February 1 [+] [!]


Well, I'd be very impressed by his longevity if he was, considering that leeches have been used from the middle ages at least, if not for millennia before. The Old English word for "doctor" is related to our word "leech".

-------------------

I am also someone who would remind people that while you may think you know obese when you see it, you probably couldn't pick out someone on the street with a 30 BMI (obese) over somone with 25 (high normal). For a woman of average height, the difference may only be about 30 pounds, and people wear those 30lbs differently. There are women with a BMI of 30 who might wear a size 20, or they might wear a size 14, depending on their body type and/or their bone or muscle mass. And, of course, there are people with a BMI of 30 who can cycle 30 miles easily on a fun Saturday trip.

I am deeply concerned about obesity - my family is prone to it. It is a serious health issue, and it is tied up with issues of both diet and lifestyle -- and the choices in both of those areas are affected strongly by policies which make high calorie and low activity lifestyles simply the easiest way to live.

But people who have been isolated from personal experience of obesity are often woefully ignorant about what different BMIs really mean.

The next time you see a moderately plump woman going down the street, wonder - does she have a high normal BMI, an overweight BMI or is she "obese"? You might not even be able to say.
posted by jb at 10:45 PM on February 1, 2008


The next time you see a moderately plump woman going down the street, wonder - does she have a high normal BMI, an overweight BMI or is she "obese"? You might not even be able to say.

True, that.

If I guessed high, though, I'd be right more often than not. Hence the worry about our collective future. We're ultimately all in this together. Other people's health does affect me, enough to be noticeable on a personal level when there are so many unhealthy people.

I've a couple uncles who have basically eaten themselves to death and a father-in-law who is doing the same. Their decisions have personal impact on dozens of other people in their lives. For one of them, the life-saving hospitalization for his health issues has caused stress and emotional strain, and has financial consequences in lost wages and adaptive home renovation. Plus there's the social tax burden. I'm entirely supportive of universal health care... but I question whether it can be sustained when more than half the population is engaged in slow suicide.

I think the USA is going to have difficulty dealing with the health issues of its fat population.

I know Canada is going to end up losing its universal healthcare system if we don't wise up to the fact that the system doesn't work if we all end up placing big demands on it.

I expect other nations will face the same challenges and consequences.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:36 PM on February 1, 2008


I would strongly support a law like this. I just got home from Steak 'n Shake with some friends and the folks at the table beside us literally couldn't fit into a booth without their stomachs hanging over the table some. My meal would have been much more enjoyable without those folks sitting there with their multiple glasses of soda with no ice, milkshakes, multiple cups of chili, and hamburgers.
posted by mikeo2 at 12:02 AM on February 2, 2008


I would strongly support a law like this. I just got home from Steak 'n Shake with some friends and the folks at the table beside us literally couldn't fit into a booth without their stomachs hanging over the table some. My meal would have been much more enjoyable without those folks sitting there with their multiple glasses of soda with no ice, milkshakes, multiple cups of chili, and hamburgers.

Stay the fuck home, asshole.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:03 AM on February 2, 2008


I am also someone who would remind people that while you may think you know obese when you see it, you probably couldn't pick out someone on the street with a 30 BMI (obese) over somone with 25 (high normal). For a woman of average height, the difference may only be about 30 pounds, and people wear those 30lbs differently. There are women with a BMI of 30 who might wear a size 20, or they might wear a size 14, depending on their body type and/or their bone or muscle mass. And, of course, there are people with a BMI of 30 who can cycle 30 miles easily on a fun Saturday trip.

posted by jb at 10:45 PM on February 1


Along those lines, there's the illustrated BMI project (which has been linked here before, I believe), where contributors posted photos of themselves with their height, weight, and BMI. I wonder if any Mefites would have kicked this woman out of a restaurant.
posted by kosher_jenny at 6:09 AM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Once Peak Oil hits, problems like this will be a thing of the fondly-remembered past.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 9:19 AM on February 2, 2008


Physical activity in schools, free sports....take MONEY. AKA. Tax increases. Which said policy makers and the people they represent repeatedly vote DOWN.

I think the physical activity in schools is much more a function of time than money. Which, I think, does a good job of arguing with the claims of folks who say that policy doesn't and can't have an impact. No Child Left Behind has certainly had an impact, and on phys-ed programs in particular.

You can debate whether it's a net positive or not, but NCLB has indeed changed the ways schools "do business," and part of that is slashing phys-ed programs in order to allow sufficient classroom time to try to meet the set metrics.

There was a brief bit in a recent Washington Post about extending school hours notably to allow for a number of changes, including re-introducing phys-ed classes into a longer day. I think it's an interesting concept, though that's easy for me to say now that I've been out of the K-12 system a lot longer than I spent (miserably) in it. I wonder how successfully we could alter our programs to use a longer day versus the problems it would cause even beyond cost impacts.
posted by phearlez at 10:20 AM on February 2, 2008


Hm, my BMI is 30.4.

Time to go firebomb Mississippi, I guess.
posted by Lucinda at 10:57 AM on February 2, 2008


I wonder if any Mefites would have kicked this woman out of a restaurant.

I would. Not because she's obese, but because it would be such a rush of power to kick anyone out of a restaurant.
posted by cytherea at 11:48 AM on February 2, 2008


School doesn't need a longer day. What it needs is a complete overhaul so that it isn't such a total waste of time. 10th grade World History--where we learned who fought in World War II and colored maps of Europe. In tenth grade. After I had already read Anne Frank, read a lot of histories and memoirs of the era, and played Wolfenstein 3-D.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:52 PM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


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