mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

How can we force fat people not to be fat? You can't...

In my previous post, I discussed how losing large amounts of weight may be difficult, but is not impossible. Which brings up a related question, which Megan McCardle discusses here - how do we get fat people to stop being so damn fat? She discusses a number of changes, from advertising bans to "fixing schools", to make people less fat - and pretty much rejects all of them.

I agree. The reason I lost weight was quite simple - I decided I didn't want to die before I hit retirement age. I had taken one of those "when will you die" quizzes that someone had posted in a forum, and it said I was going to be dead at age 57. Sure, I know the scientific accuracy of something like that is questionable, but it made it obvious that I was making lifestyle choices that were going to lead me to an early grave - and I decided that I didn't want that to happen.

The thing is that there are plenty of smaller, but still good reasons to lose weight, ranging from being able to buy clothes like a normal person to climb stairs without wheezing to being more attractive to the opposite sex. But the whole not dying thing pretty much takes the cake - and makes you lay off the cake.

So about the only thing I could see the government doing is reminding people of that fact - that being morbidly obese will shorten the amount of time you spend on this earth - the time you will have with your parents or your children, the time you will have to enjoy your retirement, the time you will spend on the top of the ground instead of the bottom. If that doesn't make you change your lifestyle, it's unlikely that ad bans or increased gym time at school will do it.

But the reality is that people routinely do things that have a substantial chance of shortening their lives - drinking excessively, smoking, using heroin or cocaine or a number of other drugs, having unprotected casual sex. Like overeating/under exercising, all of these activities are fun (or so I've heard). And like overeating, people participate in them despite knowing that it has a substantial chance of killing them. The fact that several of these activities are illegal hasn't stopped people from doing them. When you add in the fact that food - unlike booze or random hookups - is necessary to survive, it becomes apparent that convincing people to make changes related to it is a difficult task.

It's possible to lose a lot of weight, but it's difficult. In order to succeed, you have to want to succeed. The best you can do is hope to convince people to want it, and I'm not convinced that is something the government - or anyone else - can do.


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