The Government Should Stay Off My Scale

New state obesity rankings will bring on calls for legislation ... and more stock film footage of Philly's fattest on your local TV news

You have probably heard by now that America is fat, the fattest country in the world, in fact. If America were to ask Canada, “Do I look fat in these jeans?” Canada would scream “Yes!”

We know we are fat because we are told just about every day in the news, except they don’t use the word fat anymore. We are obese; that’s the new politically correct term. Have you noticed that many modern euphemisms are actually worse than the word they replace? That kind of ruins the whole point, doesn’t it? I mean, I would much rather be called fat than obese.

If you have a body mass index over 30, you are considered obese, according to the U.S. Health Department. I am 6’3″ and 220 pounds. That puts my BMI at 27.5. Apparently I am a trip to McDonald’s away from obesity. Right now I am officially listed as “overweight.”

Now there is a euphemism I can live with. “Overweight” means I have a chance. I just have to drop a few pounds to make “normal.” There are four categories: underweight, normal weight, overweight and then it jumps right to OBESE. No chunky, husky, big boned, thick, thyroid disorder, baby fat or retaining water to hide behind. You go right from overweight to obese.

Recently two organizations, Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, released the list of state-by-state obesity ratings. It is a media gold mine for the Trust and the Foundation because local TV news loves lists like this. It combines three of TV news’s favorite things: reporting health news, keeping it local and not having to do anything. The local stations just picked out Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware from the list, made a graphic and pulled file tape of heavy people on the street.

Oh those poor people.

You have seen the headless video of women from behind and guys from the side, pot bellies and plump bottoms on parade. It is one of the worst assignments a TV news photographer gets, “Go out and shoot random fat people.” They do it undercover so they are never asked the question, “Hey, why are you videotaping me?” And they can’t show faces to avoid lawsuits.

The poor weighty people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time then become the example of the city’s big belly and butts for years to come, as the video is filed away and pulled out for stories like last week’s obese state list.

I think one of the headless heavies I saw on Fox was wearing a Nehru jacket.[SIGNUP]

In our tri-state area, Pennsylvania is the most obese. One in three adults in the Commonwealth is obese, putting PA at number seven on the big list. Delaware tied for 34. New Jersey has the skinniest people in the area, ranking 42 out of the 50 states.

The fattest state—Tennessee. Think post-election and pre-Nobel Prize Al Gore. The South was by far the heaviest region. Think Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard. The skinniest region is New England; Maine and Vermont were 49 and 50 on the list. Connecticut is also in the bottom 10. It is difficult to eat a lot of food through clenched teeth.

So what does this all mean?

Forget climate change, fat is the new cause. Lists and statistics are inspiring new laws, regulations and taxes.
Philadelphia and other cities across the country have banned transfats. California may be the first state to do so this year. The “soda tax” is still on the table in Philadelphia, and the U.S. Senate is considering a tax on sweet drinks. Los Angeles city council is considering a ban on McDonald’s. Santa Clara County in California passed a law banning McDonald’s from giving out toys in Happy Meals.

This is just the beginning of a national trend to legislate health. Count on the government to continue to try and pull the Twinkie from your hand before you take a bite.

Politicians love causes like this as it gives the appearance of caring when actually it is an excuse for more bureaucracy and another revenue source. The more government can impose itself in our lives, the more powerful and richer it becomes. The politicians are emboldened by an army of do-gooders who jump from cause to cause demanding that something must be done. These are people whose hearts are in the right place, unlike those who use their energy for political and financial gain.

And so expect an avalanche of stories and statistics about how your big butt can kill you, with the only solution being more government regulations about what we eat.

The problem is obesity had its own climate-gate a few years back. You’ll remember climate-gate as the embarrassing disclosure that some scientists fudged research to make it look as if the global climate shift was greater than it actually is.

In 2005, the CDC released a study that refuted claims by the public health community that the number of deaths in America caused by obesity each year was as high as 400,000. The CDC found it was actually 26,000. The food police were only off by about 1500 percent.

That same study found that for those in the “overweight” category, with a BMI of between 25 and 30, there was a “slight reduction in mortality relative to the normal weight category.” In other words, if you are a little chunky like me, you live longer.

I am certainly not arguing that it is good to be a glutton or a couch potato, or worse, a gluttonous couch potato. Michelle Obama should be applauded for championing the cause of fighting childhood obesity. Those who fight the good fight to get kids to exercise more and make better food choices are equally impressive.

Leading the way with education and example is the way to go. Keep the government out of this fight. There are already enough incentives to get in shape.

Just the threat of being the headless fatty on TV should be enough to get most “obese” people to work at reaching the healthier alternative of being simply “overweight.”