YOUR good health is OUR true mission


Democracies Usually Move Slowly

Posted on 03/24/2009

Kelly and I were struck by the frequency of a term of support given me recently.  I guess I’d heard it before, but never related the words to myself.  In a way, the use of the phrase demonstrates the fluid power of language. 

What was said?  “You go, girl.”  Now that’s an usual appellation to give a 77-year-old grandmother.  I appreciate the sentiment, though, and am growing quite fond of the description.  There’s a great deal of communal solidarity in such a remark.  Hearing it and reading it, I felt connected.  So thanks.

BTW, the word “girl” originally meant a child of either gender.  That’s changed, of course, but it’s another interesting demonstration of language evolution.
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In my last blog, I wrote about recent research that “proved” a link between obesity and a shorter life span.  Common sense abetted by scientific research.  So what’s to be done?

One way to evaluate America’s options is to take a look at what is being done in other countries.  Of course, since we’re discussing obesity, we’re not really considering the problem of governments which are trying to find sufficient food to meet the minimum requirements of their citizens.  That’s very bad, because, while it’s true that obesity shortens the life span, starvation ends it immediately.  We all have an obligation to help in these situations.

However, today I am focusing on how wealthier governments are trying to combat obesity.  In Japan, for example, health officials regularly measure the waistlines of citizens over 40.  Those found to be obese are required to undergo diet counseling.  Failure to slim down can lead to fines.  

New Zealand does not allow people it deems “too fat” to immigrate.  Germany is budgeting $47 million on healthy-eating and sports programs.  They are also establishing tougher nutritional standards for school lunches.  Additionally, the Germans are asking candy makers to stop targeting young children with their marketing, and, separately, are guiding software companies to develop games which require more “active” players.

In Great Britain, where sixty percent of men and fifty percent of women are expected to be obese by mid-century, residents of a few cities are being recruited to wear electronic tracking tags to calculate how much they move each day and how many calories they burn.  Daily exercisers are rewarded with store coupons and days off from work.  Britain's National Health Service is paying for at least 30,000 people to take weight-loss classes.

When you look at these programs from a Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating point of view, what is being done is clearly insufficient to meet the challenge.  But it does demonstrate a dawning awareness that a government’s responsibilities to its citizens and its fiscal security absolutely require actions that remedy the obesity epidemic.   To me, we’re still in the early stages of figuring out what to do.  

Democracies usually move slowly when it comes to asking their citizens to make lifestyle changes, but we’re racing time here.  Obesity threatens our entire health care system.  And it definitely undermines the quality (and quantity) of life.   While doing “something” is a start, it’s not enough.  We need to actually solve the problem.

For a long time, being an advocate of as little government as possible, I’ve thought that the key to ending the obesity epidemic was the participation of insurance companies.  After all, spending a little money now to subsidize healthy eating, portion control meal programs (yes, I’m talking about Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating) would absolutely save far more money in long-term health care.  Seems to me that insurance companies would have wised up by now.   Doesn’t seem to be happening, though.  Insurance company stockholders should be furious that their bean counters are so short-sighted.

Be that as it may, the insurance companies don’t seem to buy into the logic that their long term profits would be enhanced by a more direct assault on obesity, a plan which would include support for people buying our meals.

So if it’s not going to be private insurance companies that take the lead in fighting obesity, it’s going to have to be the government, because if it’s not the government, who’s it going to be?   Probably no one.  In that case, our system will break down, and millions of individuals will endure immense and on-going suffering.

In a near future blog, I’ll give my opinions on what our government can and should do.


Seattle Sutton, BSN, RN

She made healthy eating her mission in life long before anyone else did, in hopes of helping her own obese father. A registered nurse by training and entrepreneur at heart, she lives, eats and breathes everything about healthy eating and helping to improve people’s eating habits and overall health. She enjoys never having to bother with grocery shopping, cooking and counting calories. Her favorite SSHE meal, although it’s hard to pick just one, is the Potato Gnocchi with Basil Pesto Sauce.

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