Free Markets, Free People

Why are we fat and what should we do about it?

That’s a collective “we” and I’m talking about the so-called “obesity epidemic” in this country.   We’ve heard all sorts of theories and reasons for our steady weight gain – the sedentary “couch potato” lifestyle, TV, fast food, etc.

The newest study on this now includes the workplace as a partial source as well.  As we’ve transitioned form more labor intensive and active manufacturing jobs to more sedentary jobs in an office environment, that too has helped expand our waistlines.

OK.  I see no problem with that particular theory.  The study says the change in our workplace activity has, on average, seen a decline of 120 to 140 calories a day in job related physical activity.

Sounds like something those interested in losing weight need to consider and remedy, right?  

“If we’re going to try to get to the root of what’s causing the obesity epidemic, work-related physical activity needs to be in the discussion,” said Dr. Timothy S. Church, a noted exercise researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and the study’s lead author. “There are a lot of people who say it’s all about food. But the work environment has changed so much we have to rethink how we’re going to attack this problem.”

Really?  See here’s where today’s “science” and I diverge.  Thank you for the information Dr. Church, but while you may have hit upon something solid as a reason for increased obesity, and that information is useful to me, I don’t need anyone “attacking” the problem for me.  So you can leave the “we” out of it.  Because we all know what that usually means.  And you can see it in the words of those who’ve taken an interest in this aspect of fighting obesity:

Researchers said it was unlikely that the lost physical activity could ever be fully restored to the workplace, but employers do have the power to increase the physical activity of their employees by offering subsidized gym memberships or incentives to use public transit. Some companies have set up standing workstations, and marketers now offer treadmill-style desks. Employers can also redesign offices to encourage walking, by placing printers away from desks and encouraging face-to-face communication, rather than e-mail.

“The activity we get at work has to be intentional,” Dr. Ainsworth said. “When people think of obesity they always think of food first, and that’s one side of it, but it’s high time to look at the amount of time we spend inactive at work.”

It shouldn’t be up to employers to have to provide incentives or subsidies.  What happened to American willpower?   Look, I lost 40 pounds and have kept it off (a year next month).  While I wasn’t “obese” in the clinical sense, I was heavier than I needed to be and was starting to have a sugar problem (diabetes runs in my family).  I started walking every day.   I now do about 4 miles a day (day off every 5th day).   That’s approximately 500 calories burned during a walk and I just finished up a physical where my doc said “you’re in great shape, I don’t need to see you for a year”.  Seriously, it just wasn’t that hard.  Blood pressure is down, weight is appropriate, cholesterol in the 130s, sugar in the green, all the right things.  

And people, claiming that you’re just too busy or can’t make that sort of time is nonsense.  You can.  You just don’t want too.  And if you can’t make the time to walk around your neighborhood for 30 minutes, you’ll certainly not have time to take advantage of a “subsidized” gym membership, will you?

The point, of course, is it is your (speaking collectively) responsibility to monitor and do something about your weight if it is a problem.  Not business and certainly not government (whose solution is usually some one-size-fits-all abomination that penalizes everyone).  The way to “attack” the problem is to recognize it and do something about it – not rely on others to do things for you.   We all know that regardless of what others will spend to give you the opportunity to lose weight, for instance, unless you’re willing to make the lifestyle changes to do what is necessary, it is a waste of money and time.

You go to work to work, not lose weight.  That’s on you.  Not business. 

My rant/pep talk for the day.


Twitter: @McQandO


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44 Responses to Why are we fat and what should we do about it?

  • You walk 4 miles in 30 minutes?

    • No – I walk 4 miles in 58 minutes. The 30 minutes is a minimum one should walk (plus or minus 2 miles). I walk 4 miles because the trail where I walk is about that long and, frankly, I’ve gotten to where I just enjoy the hell out of it.

  • Find this hard to believe. I’ve spent all my working life in “desk jobs” and remain a skinny-ass guy and I definitely do not work out a lot. What I do find interesting is that the number of chubby kids nowadays is a lot more than what I remember growing up. Perhaps it is more that if you chub-up as a kid, you don’t lose it easy as an adult? Maybe if kids were sent outside more often to take their chances with the sun and rain then they’d not turn into potatoes when they start work? There is no control-freak fun in ordering parents to send their kids out to play though… everyone would get too much enjoyment from it.

    • “I’ve spent all my working life in “desk jobs” and remain a skinny-ass guy and I definitely do not work out a lot”
      Oh, stop bragging.

    • I’m the same 170 lbs that I was 30 years ago. I don’t eat garbage, I don’t snack, I do eat large portions, and I avoid exercise. I do bike to work five months of the year when the weather is nice but that’s only 9 flat miles roundtrip.

  • As far as the chubby kids go, sitting in front of a video game or the computer is not going to help.
    I grew up in the 50’s and when school was out we were out playing.  Running, swimming, climbing trees, riding horses.  Then there was the stables to clean.   We were a lot more active than most kids today.

    • It might help if helicopter-moms (and dads) didn’t think little Dicky and Sarah are always just one second away from being snatched off the streets by the villains from Law and Order SVU, Numbers, Criminal Minds, Without a Trace, Numb3rs, etc.
      As a kid I was out roaming from 3:00 PM till dark and the ‘gypsies’ never managed to get hold of me.
      I’m with you, the only time we were in doors was if weather or darkness kept us there.

    • I agree with you John. I grew up in the late 70’s early 80’s and inside was where we went when the street lights came on. There is a way to get around having to go to the evil outside. There are games that can be played on game systems that are exercise related. Because of the medications I am on I have to be very careful out in the sun, so a year ago i bought a Wii for the express purpose of using it for those programs. They work, in the last year I have lost 65 pounds using them. Parents, if they would actually turn into parents, should tell there kids that if they want to play the fun games, they have to play the exercise game.
      A very large part of the weight problem with kids is their parents. Instead of actually cooking a healthy meal, which takes all of a half an hour, they buy crap and stuff the kids face. There was no ” I don’t like vegetables,” when I was a kid, we ate what was put in front of us, and we sat there until it was eaten. Parents need to grow some balls and stop acting like their children are their friends and start acting like real parents.

  • I have read that US portion sizes, especially in restaurants, have skyrocketted in the past few decades.  For example, when I was a kid, a McDonald’s quarter pounder was a “big” burger.  Now, it’s the double quarter pounder. 

    Many Americans eat more than ever even while their lives are more sedentary.  It’s not surprising that they are fatter.  I have battled my waist since grammar school.

    But I absolutely agree that this is an individual problem, not a matter for public policy.

  • “not a matter for public policy.”
    Hah! If they can require individual mandates to buy insurance because it cuts costs, they can require you to exercise to cut costs. And if you don’t cooperate, off to a work/reeducation camp with you!

    • My sister-in-law, who is not exactly a poster child for screaming socialist liberal democrat (BIRM) takes that attitude with regard to things like motorcycle helmets and seatbelts.  “I have to pay for the idiot’s health care if he splatters his brains all over the highway, so he’d damned well better wear a helmet!”

      In a way, it makes sense: if I MUST be my brother’s keeper, then I think it only fair that I get some say in how he is kept.

      O’ course, I don’t WANT to be my brother’s keeper, and I’m especially not interested in being kept, myself.

  • But I absolutely agree that this is an individual problem, not a matter for public policy.

    Yeah, but you know what the nanny-state rebuttal to this is,  “oooooh, but your choices manifest in medical issues which is ruining medicare, etc etc etc”

  • PS-

    As to the initial question “why are we fat”?



  • ” …but employers do have the power to increase the physical activity of their employees by offering subsidized gym memberships or incentives to use public transit. … ”
    So how exactly does sitting on a bus or train improve one’s health over sitting in a car?  Talk about an “any means at hand” approach to pushing a separate agenda!

    • Public transport never takes you where you want to go, only to vaguely near to your destination.  Walking is always involved. 

  • I always laugh at people who drive to the gym to run on the treadmill. Why not skip the gym fees and simply run or walk  to and from the gym? Anyway you cannot create fat from air, it only comes from taking in more calories than you are burning. There are only two food “issues” in this world: starvation and self-control. The rest is just psychobabble bs.

    • Yep.  The Krebs Cycle and the laws of thermodynamics are are bitch.  Nobody gets fat from breathing.
      Of course, that is harsh

      • Nah its evolution. This last generation or two some gene has mutated that gives it the ability to convert zero point vacuum energy into hip fat and beer bellies. Thus by merely existing most people accumulate fat from the entropy of the universe. (I have a PhD in physics, therefore I know this is true.) That is why you nowadays hear so many people blaming their genes for being lardy. It’s just like the X-men, except the girls aren’t as hot and wolverine is more of a three-toed sloth.

  • Agree with the lack of need for gov’t intervention on this. A couple other related issues: 1) people seem to cook for themselves less and less and eat out more (in part because of two-career families; you need two incomes to maintain that middle class lifestyle, you know), and 2) Americans consume a lot of conflicting information about nutrition. Processed food manufacturers will load up an item with sugar, lower the fat, and presto! Low-fat! Astronomically high sugar, but technically low fat. This sort of quasi-bait-and-switch happens a lot, especially in highly processed foods. There’s very little the government can do about this, short of banning certain foods or requiring new labeling (which people won’t read anyway). Ultimately what one puts into the body has to be one’s sole responsibility.

    • Not under ObamaCare, it damn sure is NOT.

      • Another good argument for repeal via either legislation or judicial fiat. Not to mention all those waivers, which as McQ has pointed out, is just more evidence that this is truly awful legislation.

  • So will high speed rail help us remain slimmer ?

  • I know of one large plant that put in a jogging track way at the back end of their property. I asked if the employees were getting exercise from it and was told the guys are getting a lot of exercise walking all the way out there to sit and watch the girls jog by.

  • The study says the change in our workplace activity has, on average, seen a decline of 120 to 140 calories a day in job related physical activity.

    120-140 calories is less than a single can of soda. Doesn’t exactly require a company exercise room / gym subsidies / etc. to compensate.

    • I went for a 30 min jog today and my little smartphone GPS app said i had used approximately 420 calories. Therefore in 30 mins I’ve compensated for about 3 days of changed work conditions. So to compensate a work week’s worth of change I need to do less than 1 hour of exercise a week. Or, as you say, trade off a few cans of soda against that extra hour. However you look at it, to claim employers or work conditions are responsible for obsesity is just outright bs.

      • Exactly – I use the same thing (smartphone GPS app) that calculated a 512 calorie burn (based on my weight) for a 4.63 mile walk. Or in a little over an hour, I pretty much compensated for most of the week. Do that a few times a week, and suddenly you see the weight begin to drop off. It truly isn’t that hard, which is why I questioned American willpower – you don’t have to do an hour a day. 20 to 30 mins will make a difference, and anyone who says they “just don’t have the time” are really saying they just don’t want to make the time available.

        • Notice also what is not discussed… the number of calories not burnt due to changes in “leisure” time activities. I’d bet my skinny white ass that that number would dwarf the 120 cal/day from work. I’d guess more like 1200 cel/day.

          • That’s probably very true. Leisure has changed for many from participatory activities to observational activities (doing something vs. watching someone else do something as in entertainment or sports).

        • I used to have a gym membership that ran me about $200 a year.  Lost more weight with a $20 pedometer.