Fellow Americans, we're fat.
Not all of us, but a lot — more than enough to prod our government into action.
Last month, just days after a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a rise in adult obesity, the Senate approved a $4.5 billion bill to boost child nutrition and improve the quality of school meals. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln hailed the bill's "commonsense solutions for tackling childhood hunger and obesity."
It's a reasonable bill, and might help on the margin. But if Lincoln or anyone else thinks it will solve the broader problem, think again. The Arkansas Democrat and her comrades on Capitol Hill could launch a new Apollo program aimed at obesity and, fellow Americans, we'd still be fat.
Government can do only so much without doing too much. In fact, most of the options for making a difference on, ahem, a large scale would be doing way too much. But like dentists who never tire of hectoring their patients to floss, lawmakers just can't leave us alone.
Consider, for instance, the periodic proposals to tax junk food and soda pop. Does anyone seriously believe American couch potatoes would suddenly switch from nachos and cola drinks to celery sticks and skim milk? The results are in. After years of obesity task forces, prevention programs, government-funded studies and related "War on Fat" initiatives, waistlines keep expanding.
Kudos to first lady Michelle Obama for leading a youth exercise class on the White House lawn, but here's what government fails to understand: Not only are we fat, fellow Americans, but we know that we're fat. Inexplicably, we accept it. We've … forgiven ourselves.
True, some studies show that people view themselves or their children in less-dire shape than the scale indicates. That's human nature. The latest CDC report on obesity noted that we aren't fibbing as much as we once did about our size when responding to the agency's telephone surveys.
It's a safe bet that most people have no illusions about obesity being on the rise among children, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws and neighbors, not to mention some very conspicuous summertime beach-goers. This is, after all, the same population that sits in its well-worn easy chairs night after night watching The Biggest Loser.
We don't need the government food police to inform us that eating an apple would be healthier than a bag of chips.
We hereby acknowledge the benefits of getting up and moving around a little.
We know being fat is bad for us. And we know it's not all the fault of farm subsidies, video games, an aging population, growth hormones in the food supply, our love affair with the automobile or the ubiquity of quick-service restaurants.
We get it: Eat less, exercise more.
Doughnuts, no. Ice cream, no. Deep-fried anything, no.
Walking at a brisk pace for at least 30 minutes each and every day, yes!
Satisfied? Now mind your own business.
© 2010, Chicago Tribune.