*The federal government’s idea to “counsel” obese people on their eating habits is as backwards as the government’s war on drugs championing the D.A.R.E. program after the CIA supported the trafficking of cocaine into the U.S. to help finance the purchase of guns for the Contras.
The announcement Monday that a federal health advisory panel recommended that all obese adults receive “intensive counseling” in an effort to rein in a growing health crisis in America is to me just another sign of our government’s “hero complex” and leads me to believe that maybe they are the ones in need of the counseling.
As someone who falls into America’s clinical definition of being obese, let me be the first to say that intensive counseling is not to going to tip the scales one weigh or another for me. Besides, if I wanted to be counseled on my eating habits, all I have to do is turn on my television to [insert the name of network here] and watch the latest craze in celebrity TV doctors.
America’s obesity epidemic wasn’t created overnight. It was methodically planned out and designed by the same people who are now overly obsessed with how much I weigh—but not necessarily what I eat and where I can exercise.
The same institution that wants to send people like me to “intensive counseling” co-signed the land use permits that paved the way for theproliferation of fast food restaurants we see today. It’s also the same institution that would rather see a 24-hour gym erected where taxes can be collected than design apark using taxpayer dollars where residents can exercise for free.
And what about the cost of food? Everybody who eats fast food doesn’t enjoy it. But when you can feed a family of 4 on a 10-piece bucket of chicken (with biscuits) for $5 verses spending $20 or more at the grocery store to buy the same ingredients to make the same meal—what are you going to do? The unemployed and those living on a tight budget will tell you that dollar menus start to look pretty good when you’re broke and hungry.
And even though I can appreciate the First Lady’s White House Kitchen Garden—a lot of the same obese people she’s targeting with her Healthy Food Initiative and Let’s Move program, don’t have a yard—let alone a garden to grow vegetables for their children to eat. I like a good farmer’s market as much as the next person, but urban communities plagued with obese children and adults still need a grocery store that offers more than lettuce, corn, apples, bananas, and oranges. A variety of fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables should be available all and not just the wealthier and healthier communities.
But alas, the plot thickens because almost seemingly in cahoots with the government and the fast food industry is Big Pharma. Thanks in part to Big Pharma, I ended up with a RiteAid, CVS Pharmacy, and Walgreens all in one block and I guess that wasn’t enough because now Kaiser is moving in.
So after I guzzle down my hamburger, french fries, 32-ounce soda, with a side of diabetes and stoke, I can just drive next door to the pharmacy and get my insulin prescription refilled, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart medicines. How convenient.
Obesity is big business. The more we eat, the fatter we are. The fatter we are, the sicker we are. The sicker we are, the more drugs we need and on and on.
At the end of the day, everyone cops a profit—right down to the clothing designers and manufacturers who are trying to keep up with ourdesire to fashionable and trendsetters coupled with our ever-expanding waistlines.
If the government really wants to put a dent in America’s fat problem, why don’t they commission a national study on the impact of price reductions on fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods in urban neighborhoods where obesity is an issue? What about the development of a taypayer-funded program targeting the clinically obese with free memberships to their local gym? Then the government could report back on whether or not access to cheaper healthier food and a gym free of charge resulted in better eating habits and living choices.
Offering or even mandating counseling as hope or a solution for the millions of obese people in America is just another one of those sound bites that sound good but means nothing. Eat on that.
Chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, Jasmyne A. Cannick is a campaign media and public affairs specialist. She is also a radio and television politics, race, and pop culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and @fatdiary and on Facebook at /jasmyne.