Tuesday, 1 August, 2006
It’s For the Children
This article is, obliquely, about the anti-tobacco movement and their absurd smoke-screens. It may not, at first, appear that way, but it is, and you’ll have to read to the bottom to see how it plays out. But, here’s a hint: While they pummel us with fallacious studies about ETS, attempting to appeal to our parental instincts with their whiny and insidious “It’s for the children” rhetoric, a far greater threat to our kids’ futures is raising its head, and being almost completely ignored.
According to recent statistics, approximately 70% of the population of the US is somewhere between overweight and obese. This has, apparently, resulted in researchers and nutritional scientists looking into the causes of epidemic obesity, probably at great cost. Their conclusion? We, as a nation, eat too much, and don’t get enough exercise. I wonder how much money it cost to come up with that conclusion.
I’m blessed with a fairly high metabolic rate, and am pretty active. I walk, bike, fence, do martial arts. I eat like a football team, but am generally pretty good at keeping my weight almost where I’d like it to be. (Truthfully, I’d like to shed about 20 pounds that I picked up in the winter of 2000, and have apparently been nurturing since, but that’s another story.) I’m one of the lucky ones.
Of course, I know a few, in fact, probably about 70% of the people I know, who struggle with weight issues at some level. They try all the quick cures, from Atkins Diets and their derivatives, to the myriad weight loss drugs that are available at the local WalMart. Some have been somewhat successful, but most continue to find themselves riding an endless roller-coaster.
According to the researchers, the way to lose weight is “portion control.” In other words, to reduce weight, reduce your intake of food. It’s hard to imagine that it cost money to figure something like that out. I grew up with the understanding that if you burned more calories than you consumed, you’d lose weight. Conversely, add pounds by consuming more and burning fewer. Makes sense, really. Granted, it’s not quite so simple, and here is where diets typically fail. Reducing your intake alone does not result in a shedding of pounds. Unless activity level is sustained or increased, the body will tend to reduce it’s metabolic rates to conserve energy. A few pounds may be dropped, but they’ll come back when when the diet is stopped, and they’ll bring their friends with them. Portion control, alone, is probably not the answer.
On the other hand, exercise tends to, after a period of time, increase metabolic rates, resulting in a more efficient use of the calories we consume. It doesn’t happen overnight, though, and in the land if instant gratification, this is less than attractive. We’d rather take a pill, which is why the multi-billion dollar diet-drug industry continues to thrive; it is estimated that Americans spend between $30-50 billion per year on losing weight. Remember this number.
The truly troubling part of all this is that children seem to suffer the most from our increasing national mass. One in five children are currently overweight, and this number is growing. And, there’s a greater tendency for overweight kids to become overweight adults, and develop weight related health problems earlier in life.
Too many kids sit endlessly in front of video games and computers, eating super-sized meal-deals, never seeing the sun, and plump up like Thanksgiving turkeys. So, the current generation of kids is facing greater risk of cardio-vascular disease when they reach their 20s and 30s, and increased lifetime risk of premature death from coronary disease. We’re nurturing a generation of Augustus Gloops.
Here’s where the anti-tobacco movement comes under fire. While they’re busy spending billions of dollars rattling their cages to warn us of the perils of ETS, and the inevitable doom that will befall us from a single whiff of someone’s cigarette smoke as it ravages our bodies, all based on mythology and pseudo-science, our children, now spared this unspeakable horror, are facing the a far greater likelihood of serious health risks as they enter adulthood. The antis would have our attentions turned toward their agendae, whilst a silent killer lurks behind our kids, waiting for an opportunity to plunge a coronary catheter into their backs. “It’s for the Children,” the antis say, but if there was much truth in that statement, wouldn’t their efforts be better spent on something real? Well, yeah…
I’m not really a consipracy theory kind of guy. Like most thinking people, I often wonder what is really behind the machinations of governments and industries that claim to be operating in our best interest, but I don’t attribute the toil of the world to the clandestine efforts of the Illuminati, or anything like that. Rather, I think there’s something far simpler and more comprehensible at work; good old fashioned avarice.
People are making a great deal of money on our collective flab. Fast-food joints thrive on wallet-thinning, waist-thickening super-sizing, represented as a “good deal,” but really, just a way to extract a couple extra bucks from each customer. The diet pill industry is massive, with a few cents worth of ingredients effortlessly converted into tens of dollars worth of pills that are of limited effectiveness, at best, and potentially dangerous at worst. There are the Jenny Craigs and Weight Watchers, not to mention the fitness centers, video tapes, exercise machines sold on late-night TV, and on and on, all of whom prey on the overweight.
So, what about “The Children?” Obese kids, according to the research, grow up to be obese consumers, and that’s just what these industries need in order to continue to thrive. We’ll keep them from smoking cigarettes, but stuff them with cheeseburgers to keep the wheels of commerce turning, supported by the Legion of the Large.
Now, if I were a consipracy kind of guy, I’d be speculating on the fact that nicotine is known to be something of an appetite suppressant, and that people who quit smoking often turn to binge eating to satisfy their cravings, gaining weight in the process, and wondering just how to get rid of it…