Wisconsin is not that fat

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All the cheese curds and beer only managed to get us into the top 25 for obesity rates in the country. It must be that goddamn “MGD 64.” Make no mistake – Wisconsin is supposed to be a fat state.

Paul Soglin says we should care about obesity because it plays a big role in health care costs. He compares society’s indifference to fighting against obesity to those who are against motor cycle helmet laws – because we end up paying for the health costs regardless. However, he fails to propose what we should do to combat obesity. I would propose labeling foods with high fructose corn syrup, or high levels of it. Also, while we’re at it, we might as well end subsidies on corn. Neither will ever happen.

Obesity will soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.

That the two conditions are comparable is telling. The smoking rate nationwide is generally put at around 18-20%. The number is declining and our generation’s smokers are not the smokers of the Marlboro cowboy era. My grandfather, who died of lung cancer at 53, easily smoked upwards of two packs a day. He smoked when he worked, when he ate – any time was a good time. President Dwight Eisenhower once expressed interest in decreasing his daily cigarette intake from five packs to three. These days it’s practically impossible to have that kind of smoking habit without becoming a social troglodyte. The cultural restrictions are much more powerful than the recent onslaught of legal restrictions that politicians focus their attention on. Most people would be stunned if a guest lit up a cigarette in their house without asking, and frankly, very few smokers even bother asking anymore – the social stigma associated with smoking is too strong to bear. People aren’t used to hanging out in big clouds of smoke, having the smell seep into their clothes – something that used to be a given at any social gathering.

It will be interesting to see if a similar cultural backlash against bad foods could do something about America’s obesity problem. Although I don’t have numbers to cite, I have a strong feeling that attitudes towards fast food have changed significantly since I was a kid. I remember McDonald’s being something semi-respectable, something that parents weren’t ashamed to treat their kids to on a regular basis. My older brother (who was in high school at the time) talked about spending all of his allowance money at Mickey D’s, in part as a reaction to our family’s cooking, which he described as “rabbit food.” Now McDonald’s is something of a caricature of American indulgence, and the idea of going there for a real meal, meaning anything besides french fries at 2 a.m., is considered somewhat of a joke. Trips to McDonald’s always seem to be accompanied by self-deprecating humor, and the inevitable statement that “you only live once.”

Yet the numbers show that McDonald’s grew 27% between 2005 and 2007. Let’s hope it’s in other countries. The French could use some fat people.

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