10/04/04 — Obesity: Weighing in on a growing problem

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Obesity: Weighing in on a growing problem

No one is more indignant in the presence of a lighted cigarette than someone who has quit smoking. There is no more dedicated tee-totaler than an ex-drunk. No one is more pious than a converted villain.

Which brings us to Mike Huckabee. He used to be fat, which in the eyes of some people is as villanous as smoking, drinking or beating your spouse. It’s something from which one must reform. Huckabee did.

He took to eating right and exercising, and he lost more than 100 pounds. Looks fine, too.

Huckabee happens to be the Republican governor of Arkansas, and the success of his weight-loss efforts has reminded him of the dangers of obesity among his minions.

Indeed, it is true that being fat is not healthy, especially among children. It can lead to diabetes, eventual heart failure, slothfulness, slouchiness and shiftlessness, none of which are good for Arkansas.

So Gov. Huckabee has decided that reducing the size of his subjects will be an objective of his administration. Among other things, he has started a program called Healthy Arkansas in which people are encouraged to use something called a “Body Mass Index” to determine the extent of their obesity.

Among the provisions of this program is one that requires that the height and weight of every school child be taken. Some people don’t like that. All this weighing and measuring — unlike, for example, eye examinations in schools — invariably leads to chiding and teasing among the children. Besides, there are some parents who think their children’s height and weight are not the state’s business. They have a point.

Anyhow, parents of offenders, if you can call them that, are notified so they can start nagging their youngsters to slim down.

On another front, the federal government has declared fatness to be a disease, which means Medicare payments will be allowed for obesity treatments like diet programs, behavioral counseling and stomach stapling.

So while Gov. Huckabee is prevailing upon the folks in Arkansas to hunker down and reduce the obesity problem, or just reduce, the feds are telling us we can’t do it without medical help.

Nonsense. Except in cases when obesity is caused by an unusual medical condition, every adult can and should take the responsibility for his own weight. The taxpayers should not have to pay for someone’s failure to do so.

It is true that obesity is a growing (pardon the pun) problem. But it is a problem for individuals, not one that should invite further intrusion into our lives. Unfortunately, some people in government see every purported crisis as a reason to tighten the government’s control over us.

Published in Editorials on October 4, 2004 11:19 AM