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mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

What steps could a government take to try and reduce the weight of it's people?

Asked by mathsphysicsnormally (324points) January 2nd, 2011

And improve overall health in general?

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41 Answers

Rarebear's avatar

People should take personal responsibility and not rely on the government to force them to lose weight.

rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t want the government telling me what I should eat! People have to be accountable for themselves. In most cases, people are overweight because they eat too much. Is there anyone who doesn’t know this???

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

This isn’t the question of how should people lose weight, I’m saying what could a government do?

Such as in the UK banning all adverts of unhealthy foods during shows aimed at children, what has made many companies reduce the number of calories in their foods but still keeping the nice taste.

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

Personally I don’t mind if the government taxes me for unhealthy food in the UK as they pay for my health care, I’d love a huge tax on unhealthy foods

Rarebear's avatar

@mathsphysicsnormally And my answer is why should the government be involved at all? Should taxpayer dollars be spent on a lose weight agency? Is that efficient?

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

I showed a good example how government polices have reduced the number of calories in food.

Like I said I would love to be taxed more on my unhealthy foods, the government should look after it’s people

ragingloli's avatar

Food products that exceed healthy levels of fat or sugar by a large margin could be required to come with a warning label similar to what is done with cigarettes.
Some disturbing pictures coupled with a message like “Fat destroys your health.”

iamthemob's avatar

Shift farm subsidies away from GMO grains used in various parts of the processed food and CAFO industries and toward varied nutrient-rich vegetable products.

@mathsphysicsnormally – If people choose to negate your question rather than attempt to respond to it, I would refrain from engaging. ;) Welcome to Fluther. ;)

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

Thanks loli

The banning of smoking in public and these other polices have reduced the numbers of smokers in the UK over the last few years

Maybe similar policies for unhealthy foods will also work such as banning all adverts for unhealthy foods, these companies will be quick to reduce the number of calories in their products

marinelife's avatar

Reign in the food industry.

Ban the addition of high fructose corn syrup to foods and the addition of sugar to foods that don’t need it.

Stop all of the extra processing of food so that only whole grains are marketed.

john65pennington's avatar

Actually, there is nothing that government can do to help overweight people. i agree, there should be a solution, but this would be a direct violation of a persons right to be what they want to be. our police dept. use to have a weight to height requirement, years ago, for police applicants, my police union sued my police department in Federal Court. my police union won the case. its discrimination to not hire or fire a person, because of their weight. this ruling set the standard for police departments throughout the country. this is why you now see short police officers and overweight police officers.

Odysseus's avatar

Lower taxes of fruit & Vege. Increase tax on junk food.

ragingloli's avatar

What could also be done is, like for alcohol and cigs, is to limit the sale of such products to adults (18+). They are all detrimental to your health in the long run and can be similarly addictive.

But could it not be argued that being overweight a direct limitation of a police officers job performance, like pursuing and subduing a suspect?

iamthemob's avatar

@john65pennington – As @ragingloli points out, there are clear ways that the government can incentivize and disincentivize behaviors that, although based on personal choice, disproportionately shift the cost of those choices on to people behaving more responsibly.

jaytkay's avatar

Draft them. .

National service, whether military or civil, everybody spends a year or two between 18 and 24 living in a barracks, training and working.

There is plenty we need done and the lots of idle time being wasted on Xbox and PS3 games.

We could even be free of oil imports. Forget the Prius. Hitch up a team of young ‘uns to get you across town.

Kidding about the hitchin’. Not kidding about national service.

josie's avatar

Ration their food to a certain caloric intake per day.

ucme's avatar

Steps…..steps, steps? I got it! Aerobic ones! :¬)

LuckyGuy's avatar

Stick approach – Place an extra surcharge on health care and insurance costs for overweight people above a certain level. It could be graduated based upon BMI.

Carrot approach – Reduce health care and insurance costs for people with “healthy” BMIs.

As part of welfare or public assistance payments you must stand on a scale before the payments are renewed. If I were king, I would also demand a urine test for drug use.
(I have to do that as a condition of employment and contract work, why not for public assistance? But that is getting off topic.)

tinyfaery's avatar

Tax high fat, high calorie, unwholesome food. Anything else reeks of fascism.

Coloma's avatar

I could see warnings such as has been suggested, but, overall, it is about personel accountability.

Isn’t part of ‘freedom’ the freedom to destroy yourself if you so choose? lol

I just looked at the pic @ragingloli posted, and..seriously, I just had lunch and seeing that makes me feel like throwing up. Poor kid. Just sad.

perspicacious's avatar

Not the government’s job.

josie's avatar

Before I retire from this thread, I will comment on the notion of the government and “it’s people”.
The whole point is that it is the people’s government.
We are not “it’s people”.
Those idiots are our government.
They should not be telling us anything. We tell them.
Where did you come from?

Pandora's avatar

Put PE back in the schools. Starting from first grade till senior year in high schools. Give a tax break to people who go 3 hours a week to a gym.

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

You don’t have PE in school, if this is true I am disgusted.

In the UK they are fazing out all unhealthy foods in school what I also think is great

Americans have such an idealogical view, I mean I find it almost impossible in the UK to find people who don’t want to government to help us lose weight, I mean that point of stopping adverts for unhealthy foods for kids please how is that bad ?

Pandora's avatar

@mathsphysicsnormally Many schools in the US have cut PE out all together (especially by high school) or only have it for 2 or 3 days a week or have it that you can exchange it for a health course that requires you to learn about living healthy but doesn’t practice it. Some will also maybe do it for half a years time only. Those that do have it may only have 15 minutes of actual physical education.
It is a sad situation. It wasn’t like that when I went to school. We also had plenty of junk food back then but I remember not only having actual required PE in school but also going out to play 7 days a week. Kids today have little or no PE and then spend the remainder of the evening after school playing video games. Some games do have action involved now, but they are so expensive that most kids can’t afford them or they get bored and move onto something that requires less physical activity. The only kids that are fit are the gangsters. The running from bullets seems to keep them in shape. LOL

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

Eating healthy I would say is more important than exercise, if you eat a McD’s everyday the amount of exercise you would have to do to burn that off id phenomenal, I’m not saying exercise isn’t important I go cycling most days, walk most places but if I eat unhealthy I would still be fat.

bkcunningham's avatar

@mathsphysicsnormally in an attempt to improve the overall health of people in general; a few of the things that a local, state or federal government could control could be the sale of/and tax on cigarattes and alcohol products; tell people at what age they can smoke or drink; where we can smoke; how much we can legally drink in public; give money to people below a certan income level and restrict what they can purchase in the way of foods; offer free and reduced price lunches to certain income children in government run schools; control all of the food served at public schools; establish federally controlled agencies of the government that oversees the production and manufacture of food and drugs; take control of the health care in the country; offer free and reduced medical care to women and children of a certain income level and the elderly after a certain age; have the First Lady champion the cause and call it the Healthy Food Campaign; get involved and control of community-based food pantries and offer USDA foods to the poor; ban trans fats; take control of our air quality; control the quality of the water we drink; control the advertisement of certain food, drink and health products; control the insurance industry in a manner that allows them to charge higher premiums for smokers and people who have health issues so they can be penalized and pay higher premiums; control tanning beds and other devices that may affect one’s health; control the sound level of commercials who advertise products on televisions; control the manufacture of vehicles and how they are operated and take control of our money in the form of taxes for these programs which all cost monies but benefit the common good.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Government could outlaw video games.

perspicacious's avatar

The big misconception seems to be that we are the government’s people. Not so. The government belongs to the people. The people do not belong to the government. That’s a huge difference.

klutzaroo's avatar

How about staying the fuck out of our personal lives? That might be a good step for government. Wait, they’re doing that because our individual whatevers are not their business nor are they up for regulation. Individuals are able to make their own choices, good or bad, because of the personal freedoms that they’re guaranteed. Why would you want a nanny state where the government has nothing better to do than to monitor our personal weights and try to make us into whatever they decide is right at the time? To make us meet unrealistic goals based on inaccurate measures? For example, let’s say that the government decided that everyone should have a certain BMI. Olympic athletes, some of the most healthy people in the country, are considered obese by BMI alone. Those teeny tiny, muscled up gymnast girls who can’t get a period because their body fat is so low are overweight or obese by the BMI scale. So the government would tell these girls, some of which already have major problems with food, that they should lose weight. This is an example of the type of absurdity that could take place when governments try to regulate shit that’s none of their business.

The government can regulate the food, but not the consumption. And has no business whatsoever doing so.

iamthemob's avatar


I believe that there are a few steps, slightly smaller, in between doing nothing about an issue that’s costing billions in taxpayer money and becoming a nanny state measuring its citizens.

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

“For example, let’s say that the government decided that everyone should have a certain BMI. Olympic athletes, some of the most healthy people in the country, are considered obese by BMI alone.”
But that’s actually just a bad policy, it’s nothing to do with should government make it easier for us to be healthy that’s actually just bad policy.

I shouldn’t even take that point on as it’s a slippery slope argument and not a legitimate point.

iamthemob's avatar

@mathsphysicsnormally – I would say it’s more of a straw man – but I think it’s just jam – packed with fallacies…so it’s probably a little bit of them all.

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

Yeah you’re maybe right, it was more of a straw man.

klutzaroo's avatar

@iamthemob Yet when did governments ever do anything by halves when a complete overreaction is possible?

@mathsphysicsnormally Do you even know what a straw man is?

A legitimate point was made using an extreme example. Do you think that governments are prone to good policy of just lots of over-regulations on things that make little sense? Why do something to improve actual health when they can cut out or regulate high fructose corn syrup, for another example, never mind what it would be replaced by. Governments are more prone to bad policy than good, more prone to bowing to what people are saying at the time without adequate thinking things through… And anything they can actually agree on to get passed isn’t likely to make much sense anyway. The government spends enough time regulating our diets through regulating foods. Any other steps they’re likely to try to mandate would most likely be misguided and ultimately stupid.

iamthemob's avatar

@klutzaroo – If you’re point is simply that the government can do nothing, then state it and go. This is one of the few times that I’ll argue a priori that you will not, in any way, be able to show clearly that there is no way a government can possibly improve the general dietary habits of its citizens.

And if government will pretty much always mess up, it’s weird that it’s been around for as long as it has been….

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

You set up an extreme point that I myself do not hold, so you are arguing a point I myself would not agree with.

I think government should make polices based on evidence to show that their polices actually work or if they’re polices are shown not to work to remove them.
In the UK our government has been pretty good on the most part at bringing in polices to help us loose weight.

Can you prove all government are prone to bad polices?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, the media is a powerful, powerful thing. Perhaps the government could simple start putting ads out about healthy living. O. Wait. They do that already.

klutzaroo's avatar

@iamthemob My point is not “simply that the government can do nothing.” My point is that they can do a great many misguided and ineffectual things that take time and money and leave us just as screwed up as before, if not more. How’s the “war on drugs” going, for yet another example? There is a remote possibility that they will manage to do something good that they won’t find out later was a big mistake.

There are plenty of ways that it could try to improve the dietary habits, but one of the most basic freedoms that we have is what we individually choose to put in our mouths. They can spend billions of dollars and maybe reach and help some people, but odds are pretty good that people are going to eat what they want to eat. You’re dealing with people and their access to their cheetos or whatever… there’d be an uproar that would almost negate any “good” that the government actually accomplished. They can also spend billions of dollars replicating research to figure out if things are really bad or us and if they can be or should be pulled…. oh wait, they already do that.

Yes, there’s plenty they can do. Will it work? Probably not. Is it worth the money and time to do things that probably won’t work when they could be putting that money into places where it will do good? No.

A government failing to function at all and failing to function well are two entirely different things. On another point, if you think that all you need to do is throw out a few “big words” to have people “go” in a conversation where you can’t argue with the actual point but instead go around it, you are mistaken.

@mathsphysicsnormally Every government has idiots, corruption, political gain and loss… the list goes on. All of these things lead to inefficiency and bad policy, even in the UK. The government should “make polices based on evidence to show that their polices actually work or if they’re polices are shown not to work to remove them.” The problem is that this doesn’t happen, its not how the world works. We’re all throwing money away into programs that don’t work every day for whatever reason. Yes, even in your precious UK. Can you prove all governments aren’t prone to bad polices?

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

The question I asked “Can you prove all government are prone to bad polices?” I would agree is very difficult to prove in definitive terms or even relative terms without falling into the fallacies

You keeps backing up your arguments with these, I’m not saying your wrong because of that but it’s a bad way to base arguments, but I’m not saying it isn’t always effective.

“Every government has idiots corruption, political gain and loss”
Even without you actually proving this I think we can both agree this to be true or I would also agree to this being true even without hard evidence. I hate using analogies but the same as a business.

You are making the link that because there is some degree is these things in governments that most polices will be worse for us and I think this is where you take an ideological view and I take a pragmatic view.

The last Labour government actually did start to make more polices that are based on evidence, of course you can’t do it with many polices but educations, health and a few others you can, things that are more subjective or that the main axiom points on what is good or bad in the first places it can become difficult.
There are a few ideas on why Labour slipped off doing more evidence based policies is because, it actually takes a long time to get hard evidence for policies and many MP’s didn’t want to look like they were doing nothing and some say this is why it didn’t work.
But that is not a reason for why it would never work.

“Can you prove all governments aren’t prone to bad polices?”
Like I said at the beginning, it’s very difficult to prove but as I also said I take a more pragmatic view and debate every policy.

I’ll have a think on this a bit more

iamthemob's avatar


The main problem is that you’re not making arguments…you’re stating assertions, and providing scenarios or assumptions that are results of those assertions or tautologies that cycle into the assertions.

Why won’t regulation work? Because government is generally wasteful. But why is government wasteful? Because regulations generally don’t work. That’s the essence of what you’re saying.

This leads to why I’m criticizing it – you’re making an a priori assessment of the success of all regulatory possibilities without any evidence that there is no regulatory path that will be more productive than wasteful, or if economically wasteful not socially productive. By stating “it can’t work because inevitably this will happen” you are making an absolute assertion without supporting it.

In making such an assertion, the burden is on you to show that (1) there are no programs of any type (monetary, educational, industry regulation, etc.) that may produce more benefit than waste and (2) there are no programs of any size (local, federal – volunteer based or employment based – large or small) that will do the same.

That’s a high standard.

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