Health: Fighting obesity is up to us

Fall is in full swing, the holiday eating season (from Halloween candy through New Year’s feasts) is nearly upon us. Some folks may already be bracing themselves for the annual winter padding they put on, and burn off in the spring, when fresher foods and a return to outdoor activity are possible.

News from the National Center for Health Statistics may put the brakes on that idea, however, as research it released Friday shows nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese, as are 19 percent of youth (ages 2 to 20). We are not just talking a little overweight here; the report shows an alarmingly high percentage of American adults qualify as obese, with a Body Mass Index higher than 30. The range for normal weight is a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9.

It comes as no surprise that the response to such startling numbers included plenty of calls for new rules and regulations, new taxes on items such as sugary beverages, giving out even more through entitlement programs … you get the idea. Clearly more government is needed, according to those people.

But here is the thing: Data from 1999-2000 to 2015-16 shows a 30 percent increase in adult obesity and a 33 percent increase in youth obesity. In other words, during precisely the same time period the government was beginning to get into the business of creating rules and regulations (and White House vegetable gardens) to turn the problem around, it got much worse.

Humans prove on a daily basis they cannot be forced by the government to make decisions that will improve their health and wellbeing. When stubborn human nature is paired with the kind of laziness that comes with myriad electronic devices claiming our every waking moment, and “convenience” food that saves a few moments in the kitchen while it shaves years off our lives, a new tax on soda does not stand a chance of making a difference.

It would make local governments a little money, though; which is, of course, the real goal.

Dr. Ihuoma Eneli, professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University and director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital sounded a note of reason. Families play a huge role in preventing obesity. Eneli suggested avoiding fast food, eating healthy meals together, planning family activities. One could add put down the devices, get off the couch, go outside — make better food choices and move more.

You do not need a government agency to tell you that, folks. It should be common sense. And if the results of 16 years of bureaucratic efforts and data collection are any indication, we could all use a heavy dose of it.