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Eat Less! Government Finds Tool Against Obesity Epidemic

Washington thought long (and hard?) about how to best tackle the obesity problem in this country. This week it published new dietary guidelines for Americans: eat less, avoid oversized portions, drink water instead of sugary drinks. According to the two agencies which came up with the new plan - the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture - the new recommendations provide "authoritative advice for people 2 years and older about how proper dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases". The suggestions are "based on the most sound scientific information". Which information? Scientific? Avoid oversized portions. Isn't that a no-brainer?

The governmental departments of Health and of Agriculture have been in the dietary recommendation business since 1980 and have published new suggestions for healthy eating habits every five years since then. All the while we have grown bigger and bigger. Two thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. One in three children are obese. Their risk for diseases such as diabetes is high; they must expect to live shorter lives than their parents; their nutrition related health issues will eventually cost us an arm and a leg, either through tax dollars or through insurance premiums.

It is time to change our eating habits, definitely. But maybe we need more than that: a new approach to how we think about food and, most of all, whom we let think for us. 30 years of dietary advice by scientists and public servants have obviously gotten us nowhere. What if we took the science out of what's on our plates and put a good dash of common sense into it? What if we stopped paying the government to tell us what and how we must eat and started listening to our bodies instead? That, after all, is what Europeans do. They are slimmer than we are.

Comments

Lorraine Seal said…
Hi Christina

I was out and about Salzburg this morning, thinking as I so often do about the fitness and handsomeness of the people I see it. True, not everyone is absolutely slender, and one does occasionally see very overweight people, but generally people are trim and fit looking, at all ages. I rarely see an obese child, yet we saw them all the time in Ireland and in America.

My husband suggests that in part, the answer lies in history. For instance, during the 19th century and early 20th century, food was very scarce in Ireland, throughout the famine and in the poverty of the early part of this century. Perhaps the genes that allowed individuals to store fat were selected as a result.

And here in Austria, there is so much activity in the culture. Guys he works with climb Untersberg in the mornings, ski down and then go into work. Everyday, and particularly on Sundays, we see people of every age walking, Nordic trekking, biking, skating and running along the river. People keep moving.

I don't know what the answer it -- I carry more weight than I should myself. But it is a shame to see so much obesity in young people. It will become for them a life-long burden.

Lorraine
Reese said…
Hi Christina,

Interesting discussion you’ve brought up.

We watched Food Incorporated last year and the documentary really opened our eyes to the foods that we consume everyday. It is appalling to learn that many dietary issues in the US are tracked back to the source of the food supply, with large corporations as the main culprit. They have so much control in our daily consumption habits and lifestyle than we ever imagined.

Even in Asia, we’re seeing more & more obese children than before since parents are cooking less at home. People are opting for processed foods rather than natural foods. And we’re speaking of affluent and educated people that are adopting such lifestyles. We also stop walking anywhere now as everyone owns a car. Children stop running around because they prefer to stay indoors with their video games. Conveniences come to be the drivers of our modern lifestyle.

This can only be changed if the individual wants to change. And true, we will have to embrace some common sense and consciousness to take care of our bodies.

Reese

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