Some claim that the solution to our obesity epidemic is better education. A couple generations ago, more than 40% of Americans smoked. Today, less than 20% do. Did it happen through education? To some degree. Warning labels and advertisement raised awareness. However, a much larger influence was the collective effort of society that changed smoking from being socially acceptable to a publicly unacceptable activity. Smoking was attacked at many different levels. It was successfully reduced because people became less tolerant of it and created policies and laws that restricted it. Workplaces, bars and restaurants, government buildings, retail stores and public areas became “smoke-free”. And, cigarettes became lawmakers' favorite “sin” tax, which made it an expensive habit to indulge in.
Obesity is the most serious chronic health condition in the United States. It is every bit the health threat that smoking is. It contributes to the poor health and premature death of millions of Americans. Yes, we need to “educate” the masses by making healthy lifestyle information a priority in every school, workplace, healthcare facility, government institution, and house of worship. But, more importantly, as a society we need to make the lifestyle that contributes to obesity unacceptable.
Food manufacturers and retailers must provide healthier options. Food and drinks that lack nutritional value should be subject to the same sin taxes that target cigarettes and alcohol. Sedentary behavior must be discouraged everywhere. Physical education and nutrition classes in schools must equip students with lifestyle skills that will help them eat healthy, move more, sleep well, stress less and avoid tobacco.
To reduce obesity, we need a far more serious effort than what is being done today. Eventually, the financial costs associated with obesity will demand a different approach. Only then will real change occur. Only then will we smoke out obesity.
M. J. White is the creator of “LEAN Wellness”, which transforms work environments with a radically different bottom-up approach that inspires continuous improvement in health and wellbeing. To learn more, visit the website at: www.wellstreet.us or email M. J. directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.