Solving America’s Obesity Problem

Revenue-neutral suggestions for solving America’s obesity epidemic. Lets start by looking at why we have this problem in the first place.  Our obesity is caused by a combination of social, cultural, and political factors.  I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or sociologist – I’m an engineer.  I’m good at analyzing problems and coming up with solutions.

First thing we need is data –  we need to find a similar country that does not have an obesity problem and then examine the differences to see what our problem might be here in the USA.   I have seen a fair amount of the world over the last three decades and of all the countries I have visited, the most similar to the USA in terms of standard of living, educational level, and health consciousness is my homeland, the Netherlands.   Lets start by comparing the extent of the obesity problems in America and the Netherlands.

Netherlands America
Percentage of population obese 8.1% 23.9%

Similar countries, huge differences in the obesity problem. America has three times more obese people than the Netherlands. Lets look at why this might be the case by comparing some differences between the countries:

Netherlands America
Percentage of population obese 8.1% 23.9%
Amount of sugar in diet 13.5% 18%
% of GDP spent on McDonalds food  .043% .109%
liters/year/person soft drinks consumed  96.1  216.0
hours TV watched per week  20.0  28.0
Percent of trips taken by public transit 5.0% 2.0%
Percent of trips taken by bike 25.0% 1.0%
Percent of trips taken on foot 22.0% 9.0%
distance average person walks per year 377km 141km
distance average person bikes per year 848km 40km
Countries ranking of bike friendliness  #1  off bottom of chart

And we wring our hands wondering why America has an obesity problem?  Seems pretty clear to me from looking at this data!  Of these two similar countries, America is three times fatter than the Netherlands because:

  • we watch 40% more TV
  • we drink 200% more soft drinks
  • we eat 33% more sugar
  • we spend 2.5x more at McDonalds
  • we only walk 1/3 as much
  • we only bike 1/20th as much

Add that all up and you get an obesity problem!  In summary, America is fat because our nutrition is bad and we are sedentary.  Nothing earth shattering nor complicated.  OK, the problem is clear but now comes the hard part – how to solve the problems.  To solve the United States obesity problem requires that we attack both factors – we have to increase physical activity and we have to improve nutrition.  Funny, anybody got deja-vu?  On the top of my losing weight and getting 6-pack abs I say that losing weight is simple as 1-2-3, exercise a little bit more, eat a little bit less, and drink lots of water.

By this point a few of you who disagree with me are fuming.  You say that as an engineer I am not ‘qualified’ or capable of analyzing something this complex.  You say that teams of researchers with doctorates have not been able to come up with the solutions so how could a lowly engineer have anything valuable to say?  Let me tell you why, the solutions ARE simple but the problem is that they are very expensive and there are very powerful lobbyists who do not want changes.  Obesity is big business.  Fast food is big business.  Gastric bypass surgery is big business.  Soft drinks are big business.  Diabetes and heart disease drugs are big business.  All these groups contribute to PACs and make it clear to the politicians they support that the status quo is good for them.  A lean healthy population is not profitable!  The other huge problem we face in solving obesity is that America is incapable of long term thinking.  Like our corporations, our horizon only extends out three months to the end of the quarter.  We would gladly save one million dollars this month even if it costs us a billion dollars ten years from now.  Many politicians seem to only care about re-election and anything that happens after the election is somebody else’s problem.  So having got that out of the way, lets look at how I would solve our obesity problem if I was given a magic wand.

Eating Less

Education is key to improving the nations nutrition and helping them to consume fewer calories  I know our schools are cash strapped and many schools don’t even seem to have enough money to teach the kids reading, writing and arithmetic but we need to teach our kids about health and nutrition.  Thats the job of the parents you say?  Well its clear from our skyrocketing obesity rates that the current generation of parents know very little about health and nutrition so how can they possibly teach their kids?  Yes, parents *should* teach their kids about nutrition but since the government picks up the expensive health care tab when the parents fail, its in America’s financial interest to step in and teach the kids.  Kids should be able to read nutritional labels and analyze list of ingredients.  They should be taught about the value of high fiber unprocessed foods in reducing weight.  They should be taught about fats and simple carbs.  I would make the final exam 20 pictures of various foods and they would be required to estimate the calories in each to within 25% and write an essay explaining what they think are the three healthiest and three unhealthiest foods. Functional, practical nutritional knowledge.  Yes, these health classes would be very expensive but if you look at the long term health care savings and increased national productivity – its clearly an excellent financial decision.

We also need to stop the advertisement of unhealthy foods to our youth.  Just as alcohol and tobacco ads targeted to kids are prohibited, we need to prohibit the advertisement of candy, soft drinks, sugar-cereals, and snack foods to kids.  To make things simple, I would propose that no food or beverage products can be placed in children’s programming at all.      To jump start the nation’s nutritional educational process, I would propose an ad campaign similar to the “stop smoking” campaigns that have been so successful in reducing teen smoking.

Bikes As Transportation

Exercising More

Lets start with PE class and after school sports programs.  In most of America, after school sports programs have been cut from the budget long ago.  Many kids are left without safe venues to play sports.  Again, this investment would require making a small short term financial sacrifice for a very large long term gain.    Providing parks,   sports facilities, and staff to run after school sports programs is expensive but obesity is even more expensive.  Happy, busy, tired kids don’t get in as much trouble as bored kids either :)

I am a product of the United States public schools and I can tell you that the PE classes I had were horrible – truly horrible.  I obviously overcame this and found my love of sports but PE class was so bad that i was nearly scarred for life.  My PE teachers took roll call then went inside to read the paper.  Teachers of PE class need to have impressed upon them the seriousness of their responsibility to instill the joy of sports upon the students.  Students need to be taught the rules of the games, coached in skill drills, and taught strategy.  PE should be fun both for the jocks and the clumsy lanky kids like me.  Kids who are given a positive experience in PE class will be more likely to be active and exercise more outside of school.

We also have to start educating people in America that transportation does not automatically mean “car”.  This is a huge cultural shift that needs to take place as the United States is a country defined by the automobile.    Transportation can be walking, public transit, or biking.  This training has to start with our youth as I mentioned in last weeks article, Is walking to school healthy or dangerous?  My suggestion is for parents to lead their kids by example and escort them to school on bike rather than driving them to try and break this cycle of  car-dependence.  Driving our kids to school starts a lifelong pattern of automobile dependence.  As soon as the kids are old enough to get a learners permit, most kids end up driving to school – why not, their parents drove them to school every day when they were kids and thats just the way you get to school, in cars.  Then the kids graduate from college and get their first job.  How do they get to work?  The way they always have, in a car.  For the sake of the nations health, we have to educate the next generation that walking, biking, and public transit are valid and excellent forms of transportation.  But wait you say, its not safe.

So why don’t Americans walk and bike more?  Because America is hostile and dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.   Solving this safety issue requires two things: we need better drivers and safer bike lanes.  As someone who has been bike commuting for decades I can tell you that the cellphone revolution has made streets even more dangerous.  Texting and talking drivers seem oblivious to their surroundings and wouldn’t even notice if they ran me over.  The fines for texting and phone-to-head talking need to be made so expensive that people will stop doing this – make it an even $1000 to get peoples attention.  We also need a federal law stating that automobiles must give way to pedestrians in a crosswalk similar to the California law.  There are many places in the country where crosswalks are just a waste of paint.  Again, I would make the fine serious – a round $1000 is a good number to impress upon people the seriousness of keeping our pedestrians and cyclists safe.  So that takes care of the drivers but it still doesn’t solve the problem because in most places in America there is no safe path to bike on.

The Netherlands is rated the most bike friendly country in the world, its no wonder they bike 20x more than we do! In America, our government seems to think “transportation = automobiles” and thinks that biking is a recreational activity that we shouldn’t subsidize.  Biking IS transportation!  In Germany and the Netherlands, bike paths are typically specially designed small roads paralleling the street that are completely isolated from automobile traffic.  In America if  bike lanes exist at all they are nothing more than the narrow, bumpy, glass shard ridden shoulders of roads with a bit of faded paint labeling it ‘bike lane’.  Its no wonder Americans only ride bikes 1/20th as much as the Dutch!

Now we obviously can’t fix this over night, I’m a practical kind of guy.  Retrofitting all our roads to be bike/pedestrian friendly would cost us even more than the Iraq War did and there is no way we can afford that. What we need is a new federal transportation act – “Scooby’s Transportation Act“.  A new federal law that states that anytime a new road is built or an existing road is widened it must provide at a minimum a 6′ wide bike lane (3′ wide each direction) that is separated from the road by a curb, low wall or crash rail.  In addition, an unobstructed 3′ wide walking path would need to be provided that is separate and distinct from the cycling path.  Fast bikes and pedestrians are just as incompatible as fast cars and bikes are – they need to be kept separate for safety.  Often this problem is solved by making half the path paved for the bikes and the other half bumpy cobblestones for the pedestrians.   “Scooby’s Transportation Act” would also require that every intersection have either a crosswalk and a “push to cross” button or a bike/pedestrian overpass/underpass.  You say we cant afford these bike lanes?  You say that bike lanes wont pay for themselves?  Infrastructure never pays for itself, its a cost of making a country productive.  Roads are necessary but they require huge subsidies,   the gas tax only pays a small fraction of the costs of our road infrastructure.  The bike lanes added by Scooby’s Transportation Act would slowly transition our sedentary automobile based culture to a more active one.  We would decrease congestion on our existing roads and people would exercise more and lose weight, win-win.

While I have my magic wand out, might as well improve public transit.  With a few exceptions of the larger cities like New York, Washington, and Chicago the public transportation system in America is an embarrassment.  People always use the argument that we can’t have good public transit like europe because we are so spread out.  I say thats an excuse.   If there are traffic jams everyday then that is sufficient proof that public transit is needed.  When people take public transit they end up walking more, they walk to and from the station on both ends.  Investing in public transit is investing in the nations health.

Summary of Proposals to Solve America’s Obesity Problem

  1. Require health and nutrition class in grade school and high school
  2. Prohibit advertisement of junk food to those under age of 18
  3. Nationwide campaign similar to the very successful “Stop Smoking” campaigns to provide health education
  4. Take PE classes seriously and teach kids to enjoy sports
  5. Provide after school sports programs to all youth
  6. Provide safe and viable alternatives to the automobile as transportation
    •  Invest heavily in public transit
    •  Require separated bike lanes and side walks on all new roads
    • Increase fines for texting and hand-to-head cellphone usage while driving
  7. Teach kids that bikes are transportation by escorting them to school on a bike rather than driving them.
  8. You could easily cost justify all the above expensive programs with the long term health care savings from reduced heart disease, diabetes, and other weight related diseases.   If you want to make this a revenue-neutral program from day 1 then simply add a national gas tax to bring our gas prices up to European levels.  That would provide more than enough money for all these programs and provide immediate incentive for people to reduce their auto-dependence.

 

I know many of you think I’m a liberal crackpot, dont worry, you are not alone as my own mother thinks that too :)  We are even though,  I think she is crazy for thinking that that market forces, good old capitalism, and spending more money on expensive drugs and gastric bypass surgeries will solve the nations obesity problems.  Mom and I will just have to agree to disagree.  OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now.  I’ve caused enough trouble for this month.  I am planning on doing a bike commuting safety video as part of 2012 bike to work day though.

 

References:

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/8/200/figure/F1

http://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/pucher/jpah08.pdfhttp://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/pucher/ajphfromjacobsen.pdf

Top 10 Most Bicycle-Friendly Countries Outside the U.S.

World’s Most Bike Friendly Cities

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/foo_sof_dri_con-food-soft-drink-consumption

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/med_tel_vie-media-television-viewing

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/foo_mcd_res_pergdp-food-mcdonalds-restaurants-per-gdp

 

 

131 thoughts on “Solving America’s Obesity Problem”

  1. Lol I havent drunk anything but water and little to no juice over the past year and a half. I have a problem with junk food tho :/ Anyone have ideas how to kill the temptation of eating junk food ? I want abs and this crap is not helping me out at all! I am at 212 pounds and I am 6,2 I do work out ALOT, but this junk is hard to stop eating.

  2. I believe generally the less control the govt has the better, sure i would support a ban on smoking, and such, but I realize it is a slippery slope.

    I enjoy junkfood occasionally, a soda with dinner occasionally, some cake, maybe a pizza once a week, but I have never had weight or health issues, and I can control it, if the government tried to tell me I was banned from eating a pizza once a week, that wouldn’t go over so well.

    In my experience, the moderately obese people tend to get that way from endlessly snacking, I know a girl who kept saying she wanted to lose weight, and talked about how she hardly ate anything at all, then I find out she drinks like 6 sodas a day, and has random little snacks, a 1 pound burger is a lot of food, and most people realize it, but those sodas and little pieces of candy don’t seem like much until added up.

    I agree certain junk food should cost more, to make overeating of it less viable. But I think education is the answer. Most people don’t even know how to lose weight. Especially with the conflicting Info on TV.

    And I do think capitalism is better then socialism, people are not good at doing stuff cause they should, people need reasons, most people work out for the rewards involved.

  3. Here in Mexico we are number one in child obesity and regrettably I’m not surprised. In this side of the world we are very ‘americanized’ in many ways, it’s easy for parents going to a Mc Donald’s than cooking their children their own food or even when choosing more ‘traditional cooking’ ins establishments called ‘fondas’ where you may eat more and significantly cheaper but the nutritional quality of food is arguable.

    But I think criticizing fast food chains is somehow badly exposed. I mean, certainly they give junk food but it’s not like they are pointing a gun at your face to eat it, even with all the media exposure they have. More likely, it should be an obligation to parents and community to have good nutrition and go to those fast food chains ‘once in a while’. It’s like traditional restaurants, you can eat in there and will probably go out with your friends or family to a nice restaurant on weekends, but not everyday.

    Me for example, I’ve never liked candies or sweets since I was little, I never liked them and the responsibles for that are my parents and I thank them for that since my dad’s family tree has some diabethes problems.

    When thinking about ‘obesity’ we should think of it not as a fashion or ‘good looks’ problem, but a nutritional one and being in good shape not only represents a 6 pack abs or ‘being hot’, but it also represents less risks of dying form pancreal cancer or diabethes.

  4. I totally agree with you, Scooby.
    I’m German, 44 years old, female and a landscaper. I don’t need a car because I live in a very bike- friendly city, and I bike approx. 20 miles every day or more (on training days).
    An active and healthy lifestyle is well possible over here, but in a country like the US without bike lanes or sometimes even sidewalks people are totally depending on using cars, trains and buses.
    I used to live in San Francisco for a while and even I put on weight over there! :-(
    In the US it’s a lot easier to buy junk food than healthy food (all “for your convenience”) whereas healthy, plain food is more expensive than fast food. Even the information given on the product itself is not really clear…”x calories PER SERVING”- if you’re bad at maths you will never really know what amount of energy you’re exactly consuming cause you cannot easily compare the “servings” of the different brands. ;-)
    Don’t get me wrong, the US are a great country but when it comes to obesety there is homework to be done!

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      You mentioned one thing that jarred my memory, the availability of junk food. People in the USA dont realize this but most of the world does NOT have vending machines filled with candy bars around every corner! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a candy vending machine anywhere in Asia, I know I never saw one in Peru. If you have a sweet tooth in those countries you are out of luck – and thats a good thing, at least for obesity!

  5. Instead of taxing junk food let’s limit the amount of junk food you can buy at once (either by taxing the excesses or prohibiting the sale of more than X to a single customer).

    I know that people will find their ways to bypass that, but how many of these so called obese would be just mildly overweight it they hadn’t been tempted to eat a lot at once (by all these ads telling you how much you save by buying the XXXL and all-you-can-eat promotions). I

    Greetings from Poland
    Keep up the good work Scooby

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      I just had a horrible thought that would make a great plot for a futuristic sci-fi plot. A world where there was no personal freedom and the state controlled your well being totally. Solve obesity the big-brother way. You go into a restaurant to eat, your medical record is scanned, and you only get a choice of menu options that are healthy for you. 5 pounds overweight, you get the veggy dish with no sauce and no desert. High blood pressure? They leave off all the salt. Indigestion? They leave off all the spices. I know this is what many commenters here are worried about, the slippery slope when the government takes too active a role in making sure that people stay healthy.

      1. Government caring about your health and implementing such things you have mentioned in my mind would be considered a good thought!

        Regarding taking all your freedoms away, one must understand that many of our freedoms have already been taking away from us along time ago, no matter what country you may live in, some have more than others.

        I would of worded it as taking another one of our freedoms away for the betterment of mankind and oneself.

        Most sane, educated and caring people agree that parents should monitor what there children eat and implement a varied healthy diet and take up some form of exercise. Are they ridiculed? Are they looked upon as taking that child’s freedom away from them? I say they are giving them some form of freedom, one which will last longer and more fulfilled than others who don’t apply such measures. Many people who may a pose this idea are in fact already doing something similar to there own children already……. Some people may argue that they are not adults and can not make the right choices! From my life experience I know that many adults have childish minds regardless of there age and need help whether they realize it or not. Another thing which people should be aware of is that the number 1 thing majority of people talk about in their death beds is regrets, it would free the most stubbornness mind out there if they were to listen to them.

        Implementing such a service Scooby would give some people nightmares, so therefore I would make it voluntary contract which lasted 1 year (preferably starting during January time and ending late December ;) I feel (hope) people (the majority) will eventually demand for it to be law once they see the results in those they love and themselves, the amount of money they would save in taxes and the amount of time they can spend doing the things they love without worrying about calculations etc…. People can still have so called “treats” if they stay healthy and keep away from the black market. Without a doubt taxes and some services would have to be reduced in many areas, this may be one reason why such a idea would never take of, to few have a lot to lose and to many have a lot to gain.

        Finally… What really gives me nightmares and is a worse thought…. Children living with bad and selfish human beings, children being neglected because there parents are allowed to do what they want because they think they are free to do what they want regardless of the consequences. Some people just don’t want to be educated, so education is not always the answer. In the UK we have gone as far as printing “pictures” of unhealthy teeth, lungs hearts on our cigarette packets to try and educate people into giving up, still millions smoke not caring for others (children) who are around them. However the campaign has made a difference but not for everyone… one death of an innocent due to ignorance and selfishness is one death to many!

        1. For You Scoob…

          Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

      2. Government controlling people’s lives is a terrible nightmare. I just wanted to point out that in the field of nutrition we’ve got education on one side and very aggressive marketing on the other.
        Both free market and democracy cannot thrive when the knowledge and information is kept away from the people or it is twisted so badly by propaganda (I guess none of us have ever seen a McDonald’s ad with obese people taking part in it).
        I just believe that if we do not introduce some kind of limits to the overwhelming ads (or ban some of the most unfair strategies) they will twist every bit of information that is inconvenient for the fast food industry.
        If people want to eat fat and be obese I’m OK with that. I just feel that there is not enough information available and it is being pushed away by some smart but unfair marketing techniques. Something should be done to bring marketing and education on even foot. Then we can call it a free choice.

  6. It’s not the government’s job to force people to have self-control. Plus, remember that everything that government has, it must first take (or steal is a more suitable word since citizens don’t have a choice) from the citizens. If I don’t ride a bike, I don’t want to be forced to pay for a service I won’t use. And the corporatism (not to be confused with capitalism) is just awful. Corporations using government funding and lawmaking to increase their profits. You must see, government is the stem of the problem. If the government loses power, then the corporations can no longer influence and fix the market through bribery and lobbying. A free market is always best imo. Taxing something or making something more expensive most certainly will decrease demand. But the cost of government intervention at the expense of our liberty is not worth it. Keep government out of it and just encourage people to live healthier lifestyles. Scooby, I’d say you’re doing great with that. :)

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      Its the basic argument for freedom and responsibility, the helmet laws are a good example. People should be free to ride their motorcycle without a helmet – America is a free country, right? So if the rider gets in an accident and as a result of not wearing the helmet they have expensive medical bills should the state be expected to pay or should the person pay? The rider made the choice to ride without the helmet, do they bear the financial responsibility for their decision? Anybody have any great ideas for how to couple lifestyle choices in terms of exercise and nutrition to responsibility without squashing everyones freedoms? Good luck with this one!

      1. Yes, they should bear the the financial responsibility for their actions, assuming they are at fault for their injuries. It’s like you said, basic freedom and responsibility. I’d rather be free to be fat than forced or even encouraged at the involuntary expense of my own and other’s money to be in good shape.

  7. I think you do have a seriuos point….I end up taking the bus instead of walking or biking simply because i wanna get the most out of my card i use to go to my work in the first place and the train in Sweden does indeed allow you to travel with the bike if you wish… We have a pretty good commute system here imho for only 1150 svenska kronor or 160 US dollars i can travel werever i want in Skåne within a very large part werever i wish for a month…But i guess that i really do need to start using my bike more…

  8. In Europe Liberalism means something completely different. I am a demcratic Socialist, but it appears that Americans seem to confuse Liberalism with Socialism, over here they are two different ideologies.

  9. I think the UK are thinking about implementing a fat tax on foods with high amounts of fat in them (I’m looking at you, McDonalds). One of the biggest problems though is addressing the obesity problem. In the NICE guidelines, they’ve suggested that doctors and nurses don’t call obese patients obese. Why not? They are! I’m fed up of the mentality that overweight and obese people have that it’s not affecting their health when it clearly is.

    In the UK, it’s costing the NHS a fortune in operations, medication and general bed stays thanks to the problems associated with obesity. It’s time to address the problem head on and be brutally honest with obese people. They’ve had things sugar coated for them for far too long.

  10. Scooby_Werkstatt

    Several people have asked how I would implement certain of my proposals. As I mentioned in the article – “if I had a magic wand”. I hinted at this in the article but didnt want to come out and say it but now you have forced me – I acknowledge that given the political realities, America will never solve the obesity problem – period. Harsh but true. There is a very large group of powerful corporations who profits from the current obesity epidemic and they have the ear of the politicians. Lets take an example, my #2 proposal which is to stop the advertisement of junk foods to kids under 18. We dont allow cigarettes to be advertised during saturday morning cartoons, why should it be so difficult to prohibit junk food advertisements? Because General Foods, Archer Daniel Midlands (ADM), and the like would fight this to their last breath. Soda pop, sugary breakfast cereals, and candy are HUGE business and they wouldnt give up the kids market. Start them as kids, get a sugar customer for life. I can see it now, we would pass a “no junk food ads to minors” law then the courts would be clogged with cases for decades with manufacturers suing with claims that their Sugar coated chocolate bombs are part of a nutritious breakfast and should not be covered in the “junk food ad ban”.

    1. A child’s nutrition isn’t to be decided by the government. That’s up to the parents. Though I agree children would most likely have healthier diets, it is a direct violation of liberty and freedom of speech. And yes, I agree, the corporatism is quite horrible, but the corporations get all their power from who? The government, who then fix markets, and pass laws in exchange for reelection funding. If the government loses their power, then so do the corporations. The subsidies need to end.

  11. It’s been a while since I last visited your site. Whenever I do, though, I’m never disappointed! Good, insightful read…

    Unfortunately, America has somehow become a for-profit nation in which big business thrives at the expense of its workers. At least, that’s how I’m going to couch it.

    Because I minored in statistics, I like to think about our obesity problem in terms of regression analysis. That is, I often wonder what variables would significantly contribute to the epidemic (e.g., obesity ~ physical inactivity + diet + score on a standardized fitness and nutrition exam [that will never happen inasmuch as we’re too busy failing our reading and math exams!], free time/vacation + and so on).

    In addition to the factors you’ve already mentioned, I also feel as though paid vacation time, which is generally limited to two weeks (it is actually 13 days), would be statistically significant.

    Compared with the 30 days or more every other developed country across the globe gets, it is almost as though, even if you only work 40 hours a week, if you’re an American, you’re automatically a workaholic. Otherwise, you’re probably unemployed, self-employed, or wealthy!

    Moreover, as a nation of immigrants, who choose to live in overcrowded, dangerous cities, and who also choose to watch entirely too much suggestive TV (i.e., as a South Floridan, I can’t check the weather without hearing about some racially charged murder/robbery case), we may never unite and actually demand more from our seemingly ineffectual government. In other words, we’re constantly being divided and conquered!

    By the same token, should the entire onus be on the government? While it can unquestionably play a critical role by investing in education and infrastructure, the consumers can play an even larger one.

    If we, for example, banded together and agreed to stop eating fast food on weekdays, we could essentially cripple corporations. We are, however, too passive and disorganized to use the mass media to our advantage and will therefore will never change the face of America without pointing finger at someone else, which only results in slow progress, if any at all.

    Then again, the Dutch may just have superior genetics…

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      I’m afraid you found the root cause of our problem, its “our for-profit nation”. Over the last century, Politicians have gone from answering to the American population to answering to the large corporations. Politicians have to listen to those who give them money and put them in power – I’m afraid its too late to go back.

      1. I’ve said this probably a million times beforehand, often to no avail: We can’t allow the for-profits to freely manage our three most most vital institutions: Education, Farming/the Food Supply, and Health care.

        Case in point: as someone who worked in higher education, albeit briefly, I’m very disappointed with what our institutions of higher learning have become.

        Though I still have faith in our public, community, and some private colleges, the for-profit sector of education has indeed been very lucrative for companies like Goldman Sachs. Accounting for more than 50% of the defaults on student loans, they, referring to the for-profits and not just GS, have almost bankrupted our already meager financial aid system.

        The price difference between a burger and beans and rice is negligible compared to the price discrepancies among the universities. And I’m not even talking about the Ivy Leaguers!

        To go to the University of Phoenix, for example, a student has to shell out $570 per CREDIT HOUR, whereas, to go to a public university, such as Florida International University, a student only has to pay $170 per credit hour. For a 3 hour course, that is a $1200 difference, not including die Bücher, die die Studenten kaufen müssen! To me, that is just bonkers, especially considering that public universities offer about 300 more degrees than any for-profit school.

        If you remember, during his inaugural speech in 2008, President Obama did encourage adults to go back to school. In his recent state of the union address, however, he discreetly denounced the for-profits…

        I hate politics.

  12. Scooby, this is one engineer to another…

    USA vs Netherlands???
    Thats crazy.

    Comparing a country 100mi wide (the size of Massachusetts) to our entire nation just doesn’t make sense. The scaling of distances has a massive impact of whether biking works.

    The other fundamental issue with biking is that the productive class fled the cities for a reason. They were expensive and poorly managed. One-party rule in most cities made them self destruct (see Detroit and other midwest cities).
    This led to the explosion of suburbs where community could start over. Normal people are just not going to bike 20mi across town to their job on a daily basis and they are not going to move back to the lower standard of living of inner city life. Normal people will not bike to work in 90deg weather, in 32deg weather, in snow, in rain, in fog, on cloudy days it looks like it *might* rain.

    Second, Netherland and US demographics are dramatically different. The obesity of whites, hispanics, and blacks are significantly different. Obesity is 50% higher for blacks than whites, hispanics are about halfway in between according to the CDC. This makes whole nation comparisons ridiculous.

    “Require health and nutrition class in grade school and high school”
    Most schools do that… doesn’t work.

    “Prohibit advertisement of junk food to those under age of 18”
    We have a thing called Bill of Rights and the 1st amendment. Protects speech, even if it is speech you don’t like.

    “Nationwide campaign similar to the very successful “Stop Smoking” campaigns to provide health education”
    Stop smoking campaigns are/were complete and utter failures. Read book “Tipping Point”

    “Take PE classes seriously and teach kids to enjoy sports”
    Schools do that, doesn’t work. Anytime you force people to participate, it just makes them resent it and hate it.

    “Provide after school sports programs to all youth”
    Schools do that, doesn’t work.

    “Provide safe and viable alternatives to the automobile as transportation”
    ” Invest heavily in public transit
    Require separated bike lanes and side walks on all new roads
    Increase fines for texting and hand-to-head cellphone usage while driving”
    Already discussed

    “Teach kids that bikes are transportation by escorting them to school on a bike rather than driving them.”
    Already discussed

    “You could easily cost justify all the above expensive programs with the long term health care savings from reduced heart disease, diabetes, and other weight related diseases. If you want to make this a revenue-neutral program from day 1 then simply add a national gas tax to bring our gas prices up to European levels. That would provide more than enough money for all these programs and provide immediate incentive for people to reduce their auto-dependence.”

    No way am I paying $6/gal for fuel. That is plain nuts. Talk about crashing the economy. Western Europe is not the same scaling as the US. It just doesn’t work that way, sorry.

    If anything, the increased poverty will drive most people to even lower quality foods and greater obesity.

    1. Admittedly, the obesity rate is too high across the board. That is, even among whites, the obesity rate is unacceptably high at 23.7%. Compared to our European counterparts, we’re still significantly fatter, which makes it a national problem. According to the CDC, the overall rate is 35.7%.(1) I don’t know what source Scooby used to get 23.9%; it would’ve been nice if he used superscripts and numbering.

      1. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/index.html

    2. I agree with you on the size of the country and the suburbs part, but not so much the other parts. I think education is a KEY part of fixing any of these problems, and our education system is extremely messed up–it needs fixin’!

      You said:””Require health and nutrition class in grade school and high school”
      Most schools do that… doesn’t work. “”

      My answer: While they are required–they are not taken seriously and they are not required every year. I took a health class in 9th grade for a few weeks and never took one again. It covered more about anatomy than how to actually take care of myself. There was a day or two we talked about food groups–but the information was outdated and inaccurate.

      You said:””Prohibit advertisement of junk food to those under age of 18″
      We have a thing called Bill of Rights and the 1st amendment. Protects speech, even if it is speech you don’t like.”

      My answer: There are rules made by the FCC that regulate what can go on the radio/tv/cable/communications. If you have an issue with this, you have bigger fish to fry. There are already laws from the FCC saying certain things can’t be done in communication–this would just be another thing. These rules are put in place by representatives of the people.

      You said: “Take PE classes seriously and teach kids to enjoy sports”
      Schools do that, doesn’t work. Anytime you force people to participate, it just makes them resent it and hate it.”

      My answer: I would say they don’t. My gym teacher was extremely overweight, didn’t even do roll call, just checked that everyone was there and gave the whole class a B. It’s not taken seriously, and it’s not enforced. I’ve gone through a lot of schools while moving and often enough the gym teacher often has the job of a glorified babysitter. Resentment for being forced to participate? Children need to be taught–they are children. They need to be shown the rules first, and then when they get older they can make their own decisions about their health–but they should know how to take care of themselves first. As the adults, it’s our responsibility to teach them.

      You said: “”Provide after school sports programs to all youth”
      Schools do that, doesn’t work.””

      My answer: At my school the only sports available were competitive sports. There were no just for fitness or just for fun sports; if you couldn’t place you couldn’t play. While this is fine for sports teams– it meant most of the kids could not participate in sports in any other way.

  13. Well, I really only have a couple issues, how would you impose #2 of the Summary of Proposals to Solve America’s Obesity Problem? And I am just not a fan of the fuel tax hike, lol. I have two kids and we are seperated by 150 miles. I rely on my car to get me there several times a week. However I do agree that that would definately cause people to seek out other methods of transportation lol.

  14. What you say is true, but I think you have confused some aspects of liberalism and conservatism.

    Liberalism is now the same as statism, nannyism, and abrogation of personal responsibility. The government has assumed so much responsibility for every aspect of the average person’s life that they have lost the ability to discriminate between good and bad, beneficial and harmful. There is nothing that can’t be solved by more regulations and more government intervention. The whole world should work like California. Tax this, ban that, study this, regulate that. There is a reason liberal California is losing more people and businesses every day than any other state. Predictable “unintended” consequences.

    Conservatism is personal responsibility. I am the master of my own destiny. If I choose to get fat, I will pay for my own gastric bypass and my own medications. I won’t sit in some ridiculous kangaroo court demanding the government pay for my birth control or my Lipitor. Teachers don’t indoctrinate my kids, they teach them to think for themselves. And all 5 of my kids are high level athletes, competing at provincial level and national level events in gymnastics and swimming. And they know how to eat and what to eat. Market forces don’t work only when the government gets involved and screws things up with inappropriate rules and regulations.

    1. With all due respect, that’s hardly a balanced description of the two forces. If conservatism is defined as the responsibility of the individual, then liberalism is defined as the responsibility of the collective. Both, when overbearing on any society, can play havoc on people. You need a balance of both, but either in isolation is inefficient and destructive.

    2. Scooby_Werkstatt

      My mistake in using terms from political science when I don’t know jack about that :) What I meant by the last paragraph is that although both Mit Romney and President Obama would publicly declare me a daydreaming idiot, in private, President Obama would probably agree with me and Mit Romney would spit on my Birkenstocks – if Mormons spit that is, I dont think they do :)

  15. Scooby. First off, thank you for your great website; your fitness wisdom and your selflessness. You are an inspiration – again thanks!
    Thanks, in part, to you I have gone from a 50 year old stay at home day (that’s right) weighing 250 lb to a very healthy, energetic 50 year old who weighs 213 lb and who religiously gets to the gym 4 days a week at 5:15 AM.
    My kids, 2 and 4 know about food, foods that are good and foods that are not so good. They are already asking: “is this good for you?” “is this healthy?” And they are already careful about what they eat. Furthermore, they are both interested in healthy exercise; bikes, trikes, sports. We as parents know what is good for them and we have worked to ensure that they eat and drink healthy. They do not drink juice. They do not drink pop and they don’t miss it. Further, they do not like it when they try it, because they have been raised on water. Education and discipline are key to healthy and happy kids. Pave the road and they will follow it.
    All the best!!!

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      If all parents were like you, there would be no obesity problem in the world! Unfortunately your combination of nutritional knowledge, active lifestyle, and ability to spend time educating your kids is very uncommon :(

  16. The issue is there are too many people too keep up with the high food demands… So corporations come up with chemicals IE pink slime meat…. to combat the high cost of using pure food sources…. So, now you have all of these chemicals in food, so instead of consuming raw foods you are consuming chemically enhanced bull shit… add this to the lack of exercise and walla you have the issue… The other factor is food is expensive…. a family of four can eat at McDonalds off the 99cent menu cheaper than they could if they eat at home. Some people might argue with that but, go to the grocery store take a look at a family on welfare’s shopping cart…. it is full of bullshit like sodas, cookies beef raviolis in a can, chips, top roman….Nothing but carb, and chemically enhanced foods… and the reason they eat like that is simple… it’s cheap, and all the carbs fill them up… I went to the store last night (Sams club) bought 12 pounds of chicken, some pork chops, a box of protein bars (going camping so hard to eat 6 meals a day) a bag of broccoli, some water (sams club brand) and ended up with 70 dollars worth of food… now with that 70 dollars I could have filled a cart with unhealthy bullshit, and got twice the amount of food…. So, how do we make healthier food cheaper?? Wipe out 60% of the worlds population :)

  17. You’ve got a lot of very good points, for a liberal crackpot :D (nothing but love here though!)

    The sad fact is, people are the real factor. I’m not saying people can’t change, you and others have proven otherwise, but it’s a matter if that person WILL change. Humans tend to be very wiley and weasel-like… if we can find a way around something, we will (heck, that’s part of how I make my living in my industry! ..don’t worry, I’m not hocking Abdominators)

    Personally, I think the problem is lack of discipline and the societal encouragement of not taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Even sadder is that the definition of ‘parent’ has changed for the worse over the years to the point it’s non-existent.

    Maybe we can’t change people, but all we can do is inspire.

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      I have to agree with you, it is very sad. Parents like Paul above who take time to teach their kids about nutrition and exercise AND lead by example are vary, vary rare.

  18. Two great books to read are “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite ” by David.A. Kessler, and “Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think” by Brian Wansink.

    They both fit in perfectly with Scooby’s points, and provide further scientific evidence to back up Scooby’s Transportation act. They also detail WHY some people have such a hard time with eating healthily and having what is termed as “willpower”. These books help explain that food manufactures make foods that are as addictive as drugs to certain people who respond to this stimuli, and that it requires education for them to understand this, and the tools and techniques to reprogram their habits that have been formed over years if not decades. This is why some people can eat one candy and walk away, and other can’t stop till the whole bag is gone. These books are not quick fixes, they are not fad diet books, they provide information so people can educate themselves as to how to improve their lives, and how to be the master of their food intake, and not be a slave to it.

    Keep up the good work Scooby from the UK!

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      I will have to check out those books, if nothing else, to understand why I am the way I am. I am one of those people who cant just have one piece of candy – I cant sleep till the whole bag is gone. I have ZERO willpower but yet I have found ways to deal with this lack of willpower. Fortunately I have a very supportive family otherwise this would not work. We just dont have junkfood, candy, cookies, or ice cream in the house. We dont even have sugar or flour. Why? Because I am SO bad that I would mix them together with milk and eat them as sweet-goo. It really makes me want to pillow-scream when people tell me that “I should just show some willpower” – I am the way I am and I cant change that. I dont use my lack of willpower as an excuse for getting fat though, I control it by limiting access to bad foods as mentioned above.

      1. This is precisely the issue Lustig discusses in his lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” Refined carbs, especially sugar, really are addictive — very seriously so for some of us. The approach you’ve taken in your life, to banish those foods completely, is really the only answer I know of that works. It’s what I’ve done as well. In my case I also had to ban all grains, legumes and dairy for the same reason. I’m even cautious with root crops like carrots, because over the years they’ve been bred for maximum sugar content to make them acceptable to the modern palette. A carrot from 1950 didn’t taste anything like the little ‘baby carrot’ pellet thingies you get at the grocery store today.

        You’ve touched on your problem with sweet foods before Scooby, and maybe its worth its own piece. I think a lot of people with weight problems are slow to accept the level of sacrifice it takes to lose weight and keep it off for the long term. For them, the simple lesson that you can, and should make radical changes to your diet would be a very positive message. For many of these people, as long as they continue to eat foods that they’re addicted to, permanent weight loss is virtually impossible.

        As Miranda’s post above shows, it takes a little courage to make a radical change to your diet. Family and friends (for reasons I cannot fathom), will sneer at you and complain about how your diet is an inconvenience for them. And then, if it doesn’t work (as it probably won’t on the first, second and third try), they’ll resent that you inconvenienced them, and didn’t even lose any weight. This is why people need to be so persistent and and patient. And they need to know that others are like them who did manage to make these radical changes, and that they eventually worked.

        “If it tastes good, spit it out!” is not a life sentence to culinary boredom. It’s the key to gaining your freedom from a set of foods that have you enslaved. Greatest quote ever.

      2. That is exactly one of the techniques to use, if it’s not in the house, you can’t be tempted to eat it! Having a family that supports you is also a major factor in people being able to control their food intakes, which is why obesity is almost heredity now. Not from a genetic point of view, but from a learned behavior. I will have to re read these books myself, as I have forgotten some of the details, but from what I remember it is about how the brain responds to endorphins released when you digest dwarf wheat and gluten, salt, sugar and fat. Also that all food companies have laboratories that are used to find the “bliss points” of each type of food, which is the exact combination of fat, sugar and salt that will make them “moreish” and for us to crave those foods and of course buy more of them. You are bang on when you say that companies lobby governments to keep the status quo, as this would stop food companies from making obscene profits on the back of making people ill and addicted to their food, rather than healthy and happy. It is all about education. I still occasionally eat Haribo’s, but as long as I know what it is that I am putting into my body, then I will eat far less of them. There is only so much bovine gelatin, bees wax, canuba wax (car polish) vegetable oil and tar that you can manage, when you know what they are made of! People who are deemed to have “willpower” are those that simply do not respond to foods in an addictive way. As they have never felt the pull of food in this way, they can’t understand why people can’t resist. Once you understand it is not your “willpower” that is weak, but that you are genetically pre-disposed to respond to foods in this way, you realize that food companies are targeting you to buy their products with a marketing war on your taste buds. Armed with the knowledge, you can then set about re training your body, and you won’t feel as bad when you have these crazy urges to consume junk. It’s not your “willpower”, it’s your genetics. (And agreed, that is still not an excuse to get fat!) But if you don’t know this, how can you ever hope to succeed? :-)

  19. although we here in borneo got less obesity.., we can’t enjoy cycling our bike because people here will stare at you like that you don’t have enough money to own a car…. i wish malaysian people were open minded :(

  20. Speaking as a European Socialist – I have to agree with you Scooby on your last paragraph. Yes in Europe we are under Capitalism, but its capitalism with a small c which has greater checks and safety nets for those less fortunate. It seems in America if you dont have a job, you have nothing. I know I could never have went to university in America (I couldn’t afford to go, the Scottish government paid for me to go) My parents have had their lives saved by our National Healthy Service, so if I lived in America my parents would probably not be here today as we could never have afforded the health care.

    For a while I was unemployed (through no fault of my own) and the government paid the rent on my flat, gave me job seekers allowance until I found another job, and because it’s not as highly paid I am entitled to working tax credit (government topping up your wages to meet living costs). If I had been in America, the government would NOT have paid the rent on my flat, so I would have been made homeless and unlike the USA our weflare does not run out after 26/99 weeks, it lasts until you find a job (the way it should be) some people have rotten luck through no fault of their own in trying to find a job. Being in the UK has meant I was able to continue my training (with Scooby as my coach lol) if I had lived in America, I’d probably have ended up in one of those tent cities or sleep on a friend’s sofa.

    Our society doesnt look after it’s less fortunate as well as the likes of Scandinavia, France, Germany, Netherlands (we have higher levels of obesity and crime too) etc but we are definately a LOT better at looking after those who get left behind than america.

    It’s no wonder that people in these countries look better, feel better and live long and better lives and are more sports orientated than the USA and to a lesser extent here.

    One other point I feel too many P.E departments run P.E in a military way, and too many young people end up with negative views of sports, exercise and fitness. They should package it in a way that makes it fun and keeps young people interested, otherwise they will not participate in sports.

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      I completely agree about PE class. Being a PE teacher is a privilege and a huge responsibility and all the teachers I had in high school failed miserably. PE is not military drills. PE is not baby sitting as all my instructors seemed to think. PE should teach the joy of sports to ALL kids regardless of their physical ability. It wasnt till I was 38 years old that I finally found a role model for a perfect PE teacher – Phil Kaplan who teaches beach volleyball at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz. I took his class for 4 years. He loves the sport and he imparts that joy onto all his students. He teaches sportsmanship by example, not preaching. He makes sure that everyone learns, gets better, and has fun regardless of ability level. He fosters an environment where students try to help one another. THAT is what PE teachers should do!!!

  21. Samuel Lamontagne

    Here in Quebec, there is a law stating that Phone-to-head cellphone is not tolerated. There’s fines, too. It is seldom applied, though. But it’s a good start, however.

    Another thing that’s dangerous for cyclists: drivers not paying attention. I’ve seen a lady fumbling into her purse looking for something, I guess, while driving. I was walking on the sidewalk but she managed to deviate towards me. She looked up at the last moment and yanked the wheel away from me. Woah!

    And cyclists are no better. I’ve seen a teenager texting while biking in the middle of the road! OK, it’s a small road in a safe neighbour, but anyways.

    I went for a bike trip yesterday. I noticed that I was the only one using hands signals to let my intentions known to other drivers. I was also the only one stopping at a traffic light, stepping down my bike and walking to the other side of the street. I was also one of the few wearing an helmet. But, to my shame, I do not have a side flag nor bike lights, so I can’t bike in traffic or after sundown. I also don’t have any fenders installed on my bike, so I got caught by the rain yesterday. I was covered with mud, hahaha!

    As for fast food, eating at McDonald’s or Subway’s cost the same. But I wouldn’t count Subway’s as healthy, at least not since they offer chips and soft drink. Granted, they also offer water, juice and such things, but they charge extra for them. Soft drinks and chips are part of the m(d)eal. The only « healthy » fast food I ate recently was those tasty Buffalo-burger that I cooked on my BBQ two weekends ago.

    Anyway, thanks for reading my ramblings. I know I wasn’t to the point. I just needed to write about it. Have a good day.

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      Hey Samuel, Yep drivers were distracted even before cellphones but its gotten 50x worse in the last three decades with phones. Many states here have laws requiring hands-free or prohibiting texting but because the fines are so low, most people seem to ignore them. Thats why my proposal includes a nationwide fine of $1000 for these violations. We gotta convince drivers that this is serious. To be fair, its not just drivers at fault for biking accidents. As a safe, law abiding, long term bike commuter I am appalled and embarrassed by the antics of some of my fellow cyclists who give us all a bad name. Pissing off cars is a very bad thing, they weigh 4000lbs, we weight 200lbs. You will notice at the very end of this article I mention that as part of bike-to-work day I’m going to do a video on bike safety. My little effort to show people how easy it is to be a good cyclist and the HUGE advantages of it.

  22. Hey man. I enjoy your web site and agree that regular exercise coupled with eating correctly will reduce anyone’s fat percentage.

    however… (yeah, there had to be a however)

    The decades of government trying to encapsulate people in a “Nerf cocoon” of safety, where absolutely nothing can harm them has made people soft… Literally…

    Fitness (among other things) is a personal choice, not a government mandate.

    If you really want to see people get “hard” again.. hers what you do
    – Get rid of Health insurance. Make people responsible for their own medical bills.
    – Get rid of entitlement programs. or make the ONLY thing you get with welfare is bread ,bottled water, and a chicken you have to butcher yourself.
    – Get rid of public transit. If you cant afford a car, you walk or ride a bike.
    – Spend the money you saved on getting rid of public transit on bike trails, lanes, etc.
    – STOP CODDLING PEOPLE! IT MAKES THEM SOFT, LAZY AND FAT!

    Socialism kills…

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      We both agree and disagree. Yes, in the USA we coddle people to death starting with pushing 5 year olds around in baby carriages, then in their school days driving them to school every single day. On the other hand, its the governments responsibility to make sure that infrastructure exists to make the economy productive – nobody else can do this. Just as the government provides roads for cars, it is in the economic interest of the entire country (just not the oil companies and auto makers) to provide public transit, bike paths, and side walks. My other proposals I wouldnt say are coddling, I would say they just make good economic sense. For example, you might consider teaching kids about nutrition in school “coddling” but because the government bears the huge economic cost of an unhealthy and obese populace, its in the countries interest to educate people on how to stay lean.

  23. Please do the “bike commuting safety video”! I recently bought a bike to come to work! Comment on what types of bike exist (mountain, road etc.), affordability to differect groups of people (eg. students) what is appropriate for which occasion, what extra equipment one may need (helmet, lock, other?), weather impact – how to cope with rain or summer heat? I am really new to biking (two weeks) and I could use the advice of someone experienced on town biking! :) Any other topics of concern regarding biking is also welcome!!

    Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful thoughts with us Scoob! :)

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      I’m really looking forward to doing my bike commuting / bike safety video! I just have to rig up my camera trapeze so I can film forward and backward while cycling.

  24. I very much admire, that u present this information here. The origin of americas obesity problem should seem patently obvious to a reasonable person.Yet, some people doubt your “theory”, there was a raging debate some days ago on your blog entry regarding, should children walk to school. As much as i hope you continue to spread reason, i also would like to point out, that some people seem to be simply incapable of listening to reason. There are some (actually quite a few) people which you can present with: 1+1=2. If their scriptures or some other twisted sense of reality tells them otherwise, there is just NO way to convince them. Noone who refuses evidence can be convinced by evidence…(Richard Dawkins). Anyway, im not sure if i made my point clear, but am glad that there are people like you who care about those things and have enough ambition to take that reasoning out into the world. Thanks for that!

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      Often peoples mind is made up and nothing will change it as you mention and many people have points on which they refuse to compromise. Its good to have principals, I admire that. The problem I have is when people are not honest about it. A great example would be if someone argued till they were blue in the face that my proposals wouldnt help obesity when what they really object to is the gas tax that I propose to use to pay for this all.

  25. What are your thoughts on working out for 10 months of the year and then taking 2 months off, and by off I don’t mean sit on the couch and eat ring dings. I mean saving yourself from the heavy workouts and rather just maybe do pushups or pullups once or twice a week and place b-ball, hike, bike, swim, etc.. every day. In the winter I can hang inside and hit the weights with intensity each night, but when summer is here I find it hard to justify being indoors unless it’s raining. Would this kind of stall your efforts or would it be ideal to really give your body a rest from the weights?

  26. Scooby, might I suggest the Australian Road Rules (Road Rules Regulation 2008 in Sydney, NSW) being an easily adapted set of rules in relation to driving. Maybe then you might all drive on the correct side for a start LOL!
    But in all seriousness, as an enforcer of said rules, rule 300 is the favourite – and doesn’t it get up people’s noses. But the amount of due attention taken away from the road by a phone user is ridiculous. Likewise this notion you’ve mentioned of cars not giving way to pedestrians??? Wow. Most of Sydney now is decorated with bike lanes which are readily used by most cyclists, however it does annoy motorists (and duly) when they aren’t utilised.
    As for fitness, I’m getting my boy into Aussie Rules (see AFL on youtube) which is a great sport for kids to play. Tall fellows like you and I are well suited, but it really can be played by all shapes and sizes. Enough parochialism, I have been following your site and you make a lot of sense. Keep it up chap!

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      Hey, I just looked up Australian Reg 300 – perfect, simple and well written. We have something similar in California but in other states you are free to chat and text all you want while driving. States have a lot of control within their borders so the only way to get a nationwide law on this is the same way we get nationwide speed limits – by bribery :) Legal bribery. We just tell states that if they want help paying for freeway maintenance they need to enforce certain rules on those roads. :)

  27. I live in Toronto, ON and in the last few years I have seen many new roads and rebuilt roads that have lanes for cyclists. In most cases I can get to work faster on my bike than by car!

  28. California Realist

    Greetings Liberal Crackpot Scooby,

    Obviously you are out of your element here, talking about health, diet, exercise, obesity, transportation, and politics.
    Since you’re not a doctor, nutritionist, or sociologist, please abandon such philosophical pursuits to those with a vested (and financial) interest in them!

    My experience proves indubitably your crackpot ideas will not improve the nation’s health.

    Although I have been physically active most of my life (3-5 hours aerobic exercises/week, often bike commuting too) and health conscious about my food choices for over 30 years (high protein, calorie controlled vegetarian), I have perennially struggled to keep my strength up and my weight down.

    Your free information, tools and videos did help me approach diet, exercise, and health from a new perspective and with new tools to achieve my goals.
    In two months, I’ve gone from only resistance pull-ups heading down (not pull-ups but let-downs?) to two sets of five controlled pull-ups. My other exercises from your workout plans show similar gains. I’ve modified my diet to include more frequent but smaller meals, that meet my my nutritional needs over the course of the day, and I am less likely to overeat in single sittings. My weight has remained constant, my muscles have toned, my clothes are loose, and I see differences in my physique. I feel good.

    Ahhh, you may say, this proves your point….
    No, I this is an isolated aberration, that speaks nothing regarding the health of the masses.

    Ok, I’ll grant that your eccentric rants help me approach my goals and your commentaries make sense at a basic level. But once we move beyond the basic gut feeling that you’re onto something, and approach the topics with the finesse and surgical precision of a pharmaceutical / governmental partnership vetted attorney your dastardly plan to unweave the very fabric of our medication oriented, consumption based culture is only too apparent. Your free ramblings are a threat to the foundations of capitalism! Furthermore should you be nominated for Surgeon General, I will strongly oppose such nomination, for you have never even performed one bariatric surgery!

    Should you assume the title of unelected Crackpot Health Nut…..you have my full support.

    Hu

  29. Great post Scooby. I live in Edmonton, Alberta, and there are some areas that are very bike accessable much as you describe, however they’re all of the outlying areas. To actually get downtown you’re limited to riding on the shoulder on freeways, across tiny bridges, and through garbage and glass strewn potholed streets. I don’t even try to get downtown on my bike, Albertans have to be some of the worst drivers in the world, I can’t even count how many times I’ve very nearly been run down by some rig-pig in his jacked up monster truck. If I could, I’d totally support Scooby’s Transportation Act! Maybe try to promote it in Canada, there could be a few less lobbists to fight.

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      This would never, ever fly but it make me smile just to think of it. How about insisting that all government officials get to work by either bike or public transit! Can you see the fat, out of shape politicians swearing at the texting Hummers now??? LOL!!!

  30. Here are a few fundamental problems as I see them.

    1. Many US “communities” are too spread out for either public transit or biking to be useful. While I love my ability to bike almost everywhere I go now that I live within the city, in the suburban countryside it was just not reasonable for 90% of the trips I wanted to make. I have no idea how to solve this.

    2. Public school begins too early in the morning. For a good chuck of the year, it is not even dawn before students have to be to up in order to get to class in time. Perhaps fixing this would encourage more individuals to get themselves to school without motorized vehicles. Of all the problems with the current system, I think this might be one of the most awful.

    3. Even with bike lanes, US traffic does not respect bikes. I long ago gave up on being cut off by motorists when using bike lanes and opted to use the sidewalk instead. The solution to this is pretty easy, physically separate the bike lane from the road, incorporating it as extra sidewalk space. This corrects motorists view of bicyclists, and usually benefits pedestrians with nicer walking spaces as a bonus.

    I would love to hear your opinions on these Scooby.

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      #1 Is an excuse in my opinion. In the USA, half of all car trips are 3 miles or less. A three mile bike ride is well within the reach of even the least fit in the country.

      #2 The Netherlands has this same problem but yet 25% of trips are taken by bicycle. Not sure how they manage, perhaps just with good LED bike lights. We have a number of Dutch people following this thread, lets ask them! Do people ride their bikes to work/school in the winter when its dark?

      #3 Agreed. Drivers in the USA are possibly the worst in the world when it comes to being a hazard to cyclists and pedestrians. Thats why 7B in my list of suggestions is to provide bike lanes separated from the road by curb, wall, or crash rail.

      1. #1… might be an excuse. Just checked Google Maps for a quick reference and found trips I believed to be longer were not so long after all.

        Apologizes on missing 6B, must have skimmed it too fast. I guess the trick to that problem then is making bike/pedestrian lanes that are not high maintenance. If the problem was just installation I could image it being somewhat successful.If the lanes are crap then no one will use them just the same, good for three years bad for a thousand kind of problem.

      2. For answer on #2: We just use bicycles with light. LED light or a light that will turn on when you ride the bike. The turning of the wheel will give power for the light. In the winter we just go with the bike.

        1. Apologizes for the misleading question on my part, I had already found the same answer and ridden through some not so fun snow in the wintertime myself. I was more hoping to bring up a broader discussion about several practices that still put school as a convenience to parents as opposed to a tool for children.

          But that said, I have never been a morning person, so maybe my opinion is just that, an opinion.

  31. Good article but I was confused by the “you may think I’m a liberal crackpot” bit, I’m not trying to get into a political debate but I don’t see whats so “liberal” about these views.

    1. Republicans in this country hate me for almost every point I have made on this page. My proposal here is “big government” and they are against that. Trouble is that there are some things that DO require big government to solve and this is one of them in my opinion.

  32. Scooby if its you who wrote all of this then you think same as me.
    Shame we need activist to do this.
    I live in Israel and the laziness here: well it isnt like in US but i dont consider soccer to be a main sport for the whole country.
    Too much fastfood food here as well, Americanization made it way up to here.
    I try to motivate people to workout if its bodybuilding,weightlifting,calisthenics,running etc- but i am just one man in place where people prefer sweet and laziness.
    Hope it will change. Surivival of the fittest.

  33. I live in the Netherlands and I think people here are way more fat than 20 years ago. Just looking at photo’s when i was twenty years old and younger (i am now 45), there were almost no fat people. not even the older people were fat. when i was between 6 and 12 there was like 1 kid per class that was overweight, and a real fat one, just 1 in the whole school. there are lots of them here now, kids, adults. Not all obese, some are, but definately overweight. So don’t worry, we will follow in your footsteps, just takes some time.

    comparing prices, I know Swiss is an expensive country for us dutchies, but the salary there is higher than here. so you should compare it to the average income in percentage.
    i think (never go to McD) a normal menu will be around 8 euro’s. in dollars that is more than 10 US dollars. i have to work 1 hour to pay that. so it’s quite expensive, especially considering the crap it is.
    a bottle of coca cola (1 liter) will be about 1.50 euro’s. i think that is cheap.

    problem is they make things that are edible but are not real food very cheap. people fall for that trick and eat it because it will taste good and it is addictive.
    if you know how to cook, it seems that there are loads of ppl that don’t even know anymore how to cook a meal, it’s not that hard to eat cheap and healthy. it’s just that you either find out yourself or be educated. I learned as a kid, but fast food, take a way, microwave meals etc makes it easy not to cook and so kids don’t learn anymore.

    i am all with you on the PE thing, happened here as well.
    parents take their kids with cars to school so they can drive on to work. so, thats happening here as well, though not in the degree as in the US.

    you speak dutch scoob, or???

    1. Hey Minsk,
      Yes, I saw from the last few decades of statistics that the Netherlands is getting fatter along with America – you do still have a long way to catch up. From the charts it looks like you might need three decades at least :)

    1. True, those on the islands can get lots of exercise rowing for transportation – forgot to include that in my alternative transportation list :)

  34. Hey Scooby here is a fellow dutchman! Didn’t realise you were from dutch origins. Anyway, here in the Netherlands there is as much discussion about health, fat kids and fat-tax as in the US. I agree with you that especially health and nutrition classes might work very well. The lack of health education results in kindergarten teachers who don’t how how to feed the toddlers in a healthy way. I reckon another important subject is the silly emphasis on calories as a measure of healthy food. People should be educated about nutrition dense foods and how to find and make/cook them.

    People always tell me I’m on an extreme diet (very “clean” diet with lots of fruit, vegetables and fish), but I always feel they are the ones eating an extreme, alien diet. And it shows: I’m forty years old and in very good shape. People very often think I’m in my early thirties.

      1. Yes education is important, but there is something else: here we call carbohydrates the poor man’s drug. So I guess it won’t be easy to alter patterns which have existed for many generations in some families.

  35. I have been trying for sometime to lose weight. It is so hard for me it seems. I watch what I eat an exercise but very lil to anything happens. Then I get discouraged. I do understand your point Scoob an also I understand aeodouls point also. Whats also tough I think is its cheaper to buy junk at the store than buy healthy. I never have understood this. Looks like it should be the other way around.

    1. Yes, it IS hard and takes a lot of effort but here in the USA we make it hard for people like you to take the weight off and keep it off. If you wanted to bike to work or walk to work there is a good chance that you couldnt do it safely. Many people are basically forced to sit in a car 1-2 hours a day being sedentary because there is no safe way for them to bike/walk or take public transit. You CAN lose weight, but it would be a lot easier if you lived in the Netherlands :)

      1. While i by no means know how the situation is in the USA, the main problem i see with people is their lack of determination. I’m not saying people don’t want to lose fat, people just expect it to come to them quick. I’ve got to force myself to the gym at days also. When such a situation occurs i just tell myself: You wanted to become bigger, now don’t back down and just go. Motivation is the key.

      2. It is dangerous to bike on the road. People will almost run you over. It just isnt safe unless you drive to a trail. I am determined to get the weight off. My family isnt much help though. If I go over they get mad that I wont eat dinner with them, but I dont thing fried chicken, mash potatoes w/ gravy etc…will help me at all. Thats what everyone eats around here with tons of sweet tea. Ive come with terms they can just get mad at me. I watch your videos an some things I cant do that great, but I will get better at it.

      1. Scooby_Werkstatt

        There are some wonderful exceptions to the good food is expensive rule! My #1 favorite is beans and rice! High in protein, high in fiber, and excellent complex carbs. Beans ROCK!!!!

          1. You seem to be very knowledgeable. I do think keeping better records will do me good. Im bad for missing days I should make sure I write it down everyday. My weight is now affecting me even more health wise with my cholesterol now at 400. I have to work hard an get healthy.

  36. To all the haters bashing Scooby here! EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE!! Even fatties can loose weight as simple as Scooby says, eat a bit less, exercise more and drink lots of water! I used to weight 108 kg, and I lost 30 kg (thats 66 ibs) in 8 months, by eating smaller portions, and exercising more, I didn’t even stop drinking alcohol! I just wish I found Scooby’s website earlier, because it is full of good advice, if I had been better informed, I could have lost my kg/pounds by eating healthier rather than abstaining from food, as I did in the beginning!

    I used to be a real couch potato, and now I am a real fitness and bodybuilding fan, I altered and modified Scoobys workout plans to fit my needs, and exercise regularly! When I watched Scooby’s instructional videos showing inappropriate postures for exercises I could see myself doing the exact same thing when I went to gym!

    I think that the first and most important thing for losing weight and staying fit, is not the nutrition, or exercise, but the WILLPOWER!!!

    Be the master of your body, not it’s slave!

    Thank you Scooby and keep up the good work!

    Best regards from a small country in Balkans!

    1. Thanks Cawa! By the way, aeodoul is not a hater – he has good points. Like everything in fitness and bodybuilding, many smart and educated people disagree.

  37. Well, i’m from the Netherlands also so yeah, i agree with you on the “Dutch bike paths are great” part.
    Another thing that might have something to do with it is the fact that you can start driving a car at 16 in the USA (correct me if i’m wrong). When i need to go somewhere within a 20 km distance i just go by bike. Whenever i take the bike i get the feeling i’m doing something to keep myself healthy (i especially love cycling at 30-40 km/h +. Even though i don’t have a car yet as i’m 17, i wouldn’t even want one. Yeah, it might have some advantages when the weather is horrible in the winter or when you’ve got to go all across the country, but in those cases i would just take the public transport or decide not to go out at all. Even though my body’s nowhere near muscled i have developed a sense of awareness for my being lean. I keep adding healthy products to my food to keep myself in great shape. I might not get fat quickly now as my metabolism is pretty decent but i know this won’t always be the case. I prefer to know how to keep my body in shape prior to something going wrong (in terms of shape).

    Scooby, you started my search for knowledge about my body, so thanks for that ^^.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Hey Eric, good points and I’d like to add to that. One thing that I touched on but didnt expound on is the extreme way we subsidize the automobile. Gasoline in Europe typically costs about 3-4x as much as it does in the USA. Gasoline in Europe is taxed heavily in europe and basically not at all in America. In Europe, many people dont drive for economic reasons because they find its cheaper to take public transit or bike than it is to drive – THATS THE WAY IT SHOULD BE!!!! (in my humble opinion) :)

  38. Achilles Tsilalidis

    I live in Switzerland and here you need to pay a shitload of money if you want to eat in MC Donalds. A normal menu (Big Mac, coke, french fries) costs 12.70 Sfr. (13.45 $)…

    With soft drinks, it is the same, they’re pretty expensiv.
    That’s why we don’t eat that much fast food.

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      I thought about pushing the idea the “junk food tax” that I mentioned last year for the vary reasons you mention. Decided not to though because its just not practical. Its easy to tax alcohol and tobacco because those things are easily definable. Can you imagine our congress trying to write rules defining what “junk food” is? LOL! I would love it if there were a way to financially encourage people to eat healthy food and discourage them from eating unhealthy food but this holy grail has eluded me. I know I pick on the USA a lot but in this case I need to point out that sometimes we are surprisingly progressive and smart. To give our government some well deserved credit, our nutritional labeling laws and the recent law requiring restaurants to list the number of calories in each meal is just plain awesome. Giving people the information they need to decide if something is healthy or not is great. Now we just have to educate people on how to use this information! :)

      1. I can tell you from my own experience what would make a difference. Not taxing junk food, that would make problems with defining “what is junk food”, just like you said. It can boil down to the price of healthy food.

        To eat healthy is more expensive. For many years we’ve bought cheaper, less nutritious foods because we could get more for the money. We cold buy lean meat or the cheaper stuff that costs less and you get more, the stuff that is more fatty and lower quality. Mac & cheese dinner. That’s cheap. We bought that rather than the nice whole grain pasta because it was cheaper. White bread vs. whole grain. 99 cents a loaf vs. 3.89 a loaf. Fresh fruits and vegetables, well canned is cheaper. And also sugar covered and less nutritious. Hot dogs or chicken breasts, 89 cents a pound vs. 1.89 a pound. Guess which one got bought?

        Bottom line, once i got to a point I could afford to buy better I did. But when you can fill a grocery cart with cheap food full of bad nutrition or you can get 1/2 a cart of good healthy foods, you go with the less money for more food option. When you have family to feed, you buy what you must to keep them fed. Unfortunately it’s poor nutrition and unhealthy foods you get stuck with depending on your situation.

        Lower prices on the healthy stuff. Subsidize the market on the good things and make them as cheap and easy as the junk. You’ll see a change. Most people want to eat that good healthy food, but it’s cheaper to buy the junk, and when you have a strict budget and have a family to feed, it’s tough to get that healthy food when you can get so much more of the junk.

        I always felt so bad buying that less nutritious food for my family, but I was stuck with little choice. Now I have more money and can afford the better things, so I get my family the better things. I’ve always wanted to buy food this way but wasn’t always able to buy the good things.

        1. Scooby_Werkstatt

          I agree and disagree. The solution would be straightforward if the problem were simply that healthy food was too expensive and bad food was too cheap. Counter-exhibit #1, beans and rice. I consider beans and rice to be one of the healthiest meals on the planet, its also the cheapest food in America per calorie. If I go to costco, I can get a 6 month supply of beans and rice for about $30. Healthy and cheap. So, why do people eat 99 cent big macs which are way more expensive than my beans and rice? 1) convenience 2) taste

          1. Well, here in México the fast food prices are high too, but somehow, people manage to put a big mac in their mouth as a priority instead of other things like education. We are pretty screwed up, sometimes I dont know how México has made it this far without destroying itself.
            But back to the discussion, I believe mexicans are copying USA lifestyle…and if USA dont get along a solution for obesity we wont do either. Im following your advice of nutrition because I do a lot of excersice, but as I happend to eat whatever cross my way, I was a little chubby, now, after 5 months, Im seeing some results in my core. Thanks Scoob, maybe you should apply for some charge at government in your city or state for instance, related with nutrition in elementary and highschool, because I’ve seen the cafeteria food, not good.

          2. Okay, let me just add – the “junk-food-tax” was also discussed in germany. I personally think it is the wrong way of trying to put a lever on a problem to solve it. In germany there are a lot of people who work their arses off (10-12 h – without time pent on transportation) and simply don’t have the time and energy to cook at home. The price for natural food has rise about (a felt) 100% since the euro came – and the income declined about felt like a decline of 50% … why not make healthy food cheaper???? It’s also tastier!!! ;-)

        2. It’s actually cheap because meat production is heavily subsided by both the US government and the European Union. The real costs are hidden.

          With raising oil and commodity prices plus the crisis biological meat and healthy food will become more and more competitive. People will have no other choice than to eat more vegetables an less (but surely better) meat.

      2. I thought about a similar idea when I took macro economics, you tax menu items at restaurants based on the amount of fat grams. So a Big Mac has 34 grams of fat, lets say we do a quarter for every gram of fat. that’s another $8.50 added to the price of a Big Mac. The results of this would be two fold, people would be persuaded to seek out more cost effective i.e. healthy eating options, and also restaurants would be encouraged to produce food in a way that is more calorie conscious. It would be a lot easier than trying to define what junk food is.

    2. From my understanding, soft drinks and other sugary foods would be more expensive as well in the U.S. if we stopped subsidizing corn used to make high fructose corn syrup. Makes no sense to tax something the government is actively trying to keep low price with tax money, but anyway I also think most of us would be better off letting the real price of processed foods influence the decisions we make in buying food.

      1. Scooby_Werkstatt

        I dont pretend to understand our contorted corn support here in the USA. We subsidize the mega-farms like ADM who grow corn and we pay people even more NOT to grow corn. We then convert expensive corn to expensive ethanol without any net gain in energy. And now ADM is trying to get the name “high fructose corn syrup” changed to “corn sugar” so they can make it sound even better so America will chug more of it down and get even fatter. I’m confused, could someone who understands America’s farm support laws explain all this to me?

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      So I understand that you think I have no idea what I am talking about and that you think my “losing weight and getting 6-pack abs” is garbage and that you think all the people on my “weight loss success stories” are just anecdotal evidence and that my suggestions here on this page to solve the countries obesity epidemic are worthless. So now that you have poo-pooed everything I have tried to do to help people lose weight and get in shape, what do YOU suggest??? How would YOU help people lose weight and get in shape? It sounds like your opinion is fatalistic and that you think people cant lose weight. I disagree with you completely about your “overwhelming body of evidence”. Losing weight is NOT difficult but it does require education and work.

        1. Scooby_Werkstatt

          OK, sorry – I misunderstood you. Thank you for taking the time to explain yourself. I agree with you. The only person who can make an obese person thin is themselves and they have to want it bad enough that they are willing to make some sacrifices to achieve it. Our problem in the USA is that we have some perverse reverse-incentives in place. Perfect example. Insurance will pay $50,000 for a gastric bypass surgery but wont pay $1000 to provide them with a nutritionist to help them come up with a nutritional plan that will help them lose weight and keep it off.

          1. I will definitely check that out! I think I may have heard of Lustig. Is he the one who brought it to light that the Agra-business lobbyists were trying to get legislation to change the name of “high fructose corn syrup” to “Corn sugar”??? Aaargh! Its from CORN, it MUST be healthy!

  39. Just a few comments: Lazy is a value judgment. I don’t know why people don’t walk more but I doubt that it is some kind of intrinsic laziness. However, the percentage of obese people is a measurable fact. I don’t know why people drive their kids to work, but I don’t think it’s because they are lazy.

    The Netherlands is small and flat. US is big with diverse geography and climate. What works in Holland might not work in Appalachia or Wyoming. The point in using nations as monolithic populations is because it would otherwise be hard to construct experiments to measure the effects of this and that. So comparing a country population to another is useful. But it is a convenience that ignores the fact that all countries are not even equal in size. What happens if you compare the Netherlands to L.A. County for example.

    The recipe of more exercise, less bad food seems like a good one. Even if there is a 30% obese population, there is 70% population that is not obese. Of the 30%, maybe there are mitigating factors that get in the way of becoming less obese.i.e. where the recipe doesn’t work. That means for 70% not obese and the remainder of the obese (minus the mitgated population) are having some success in this regard. My point is that it is easy to ignore the 70% who are doing something right with nutrition and exercise.

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      I agree. I dont think Americans are more or less lazy than the Dutch, that is why I never suggested that. Our culture is just automobile based. When we need to go somewhere, our only thought is to grab the car keys – most would never think to grab the bike lock. On your second point, yes the Netherlands is flat but so is a lot of America. There is something even worse for biking than hills and that is WIND and there is a very good reason that windmills are associated with the Netherlands :) Despite the wind and bad weather they STILL ride their bikes everywhere.

      1. I didn’t mean to suggest that you said “lazy” so much as I anticipated where the thread would likely go. I generally don’t even fully understand why I do certain things, including driving when I might walk. I think the most important thing you are saying, IMHO, is that you have to get out of the present way you think about things like exercise and eating. Thinking different isn’t easy to do, but often you can change little things that do, in the long run, make other changes.

  40. I would love to see a piece on the fallacy that artificial sweetener packets and diet colas are good diet/weight reduction tools. If people only knew that they may actually make you fatter and have the potential to cause cancer! thanks Scooby for writing about important and easily preventable or helpful issues.
    -Gonzo

      1. @ aeodoul I’m not sure whether your sweetener’s theory is 100% true…there are so many many different opinions and studies on that subject.
        In my personal opinion as the body does not need insulin to deal with the mentioned sweeteners (and fructose for instance) he will not produce insulin after consuming them.
        In Germany we have a saying “If the farmer can’t swim it’s of course his swimming trunks’ fault…” ;-)

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