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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

America must face weighty issues

Tuesday, February 5, 2002

You may not have noticed but lost between the headlines recently have been a number of stories on the subject of overweight Americans. Granted, there have always been overweight Americans so why the flurry of news reports on the subject? Here's a hint.

There are a number of moves under way in Congress to grant additional medical relief for the morbidly obese - defined as those 100 pounds overweight. If you think the aging population is about to tax the medical delivery community, wait until you hear the numbers on the obese.

Lawmakers across the country are being urged to force insurance companies to provide costly - $40,000 - surgery to shrink the stomachs of the morbidly obese. That promises to hike the premiums of the entire insurance industry. But first, the obese lobby must convince the public and the lawmakers that their weight is a disease and not a lifestyle result. That might be more difficult than losing the weight in the first place.

I don't mean to sound cynical because I do realize there are those who battle the bulge through no fault of their own. I also mean to sound cynical when I say I know of others who are obese strictly through their own bad choices. You probably know one of each kind as well.

Medical technology can now indeed reduce stomach size and "force" a person to eat less, thereby losing the pounds that plague them. And to the best of my knowledge, that process is successful.

But here's one of the leading problems by way of example. One of the leading advocates of having insurers pay for stomach reduction surgery is a former 350 pound woman who persuaded her insurance company to pay for the costly surgery. Today she weighs a healthy 165 pounds. But in her own words, the woman says that when she wasn't dieting her daily intake would include jumbo portions of fast food, Pop Tarts, a two-liter bottle of soft drink and a pint of ice cream. That intake of food is not a disease, it's simply a bad choice. It's impossible to argue otherwise.

I by no means wish to take on the overweight lobby. That is not my mission. But for every person who fights weight out of heredity or some other factor there are thousands who eat themselves into obesity. They shun exercise and maintain a very unhealthy lifestyle.

The real question is how do we get help to those in need and education to those who need education? The answer may elude us just as the weight issue has for many years.

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