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America's fat can't be solved by a tax

The growing obesity rate in the United States is a big fat problem for everybody. Obesity has increased every family’s health care costs by an average of $1,250, according to New York Times writer David Leonhardt who used statistics from the Center for Disease Control.

The unhealthy lifestyles these people lead, which has risen 37 percent between 1998 and 2006, affects not only their own well-being, but it adversely affects our economy, our health care system and our environment. So what should be done to try and reduce the availability of our unhealthy American diet?

The City Council of Los Angeles approved a moratorium on new fast food restaurants specifically in South Los Angeles. The result: an unlikely chance that it will in fact rein in obesity.

Results from the think tank Rand Corp. illustrated that although obesity does target lower income neighborhoods, South Los Angeles had a very low percentage of fast food chains that were accessible to them.

What seemed like a great idea to reduce the amount of obese people in this country turned out to not produce the results the L.A. City Council was looking for.

There is no debate that fast food is an unhealthy option, however the study demonstrates how complicated this problem truly is.

Fast food, junk food, soda are all convenient ways of eating, and the pace of our society continually demands this injurious way of eating. And it takes a large toll, not only the people directly affected by this health choice, but for those families whose health care costs are increased with each pound gained.

For many, fast food is the only option economically. Lower income families resort to the drive-thru line because it is cheaper to feed a family a five in that fashion than to cook a meal of nutritious substance. It is unfair to expect families to go bankrupt trying to eat healthy, when an easier alternative is cheaper.

This order of things needs to change. We need to recognize this injustice and correct it by demanding healthier, inexpensive options for the poor families of this country. And we should not be content when simple solutions are enacted to try and solve these problems.

So while the elimination of fast food restaurants would provide health benefits, obesity might not go away, because the same people will try and find different ways to feed their family while not emptying the bank.

Since the healthcare debate has become headline news for the past few months, other proposals such as the “fat tax” have been articulated that try and lower the cost of health care for everybody, while reducing the number of obese people.

The tax, similarly connected to the tobacco tax, would increase the tax on junk foods, sodas and things of the sort.

Again, this type of measure would predominately fall to poor people who consume more of these products on average than affluent people.

The similarities to the tobacco tax fall short when it is taken into consideration that people who chose to smoke on average are able to afford it. Smoking a cigarette becomes a choice, eating is a necessity.

Any sort of proposal that doesn’t address the problem in a more complex way, would ultimately do more devastating harm than good.

A series of measures needs to be enacted in order to try and sway the normal unhealthy American diet.

First, education about healthy eating and well-being needs to be addressed in a more serious way, i.e. not continually cutting physical education in public schools, providing kids an understanding of what they put in their body and demonstrating the importance of a well-balanced life.

Second, concrete steps need to be taken by our elected officials to endorse slower foods throughout America.

Slower foods means less distance traveled from ground to plate and emphasizes buying locally, eating organically and relying more on wholesome foods.

Lastly, for those who are lucky enough to take on a healthy lifestyle, should. Plant a garden, refuse to buy fast food and pass the awareness onto family and friends. One of the most effective ways for garnering change in this country is to vote with your wallet, and that choice can be made everyday.

The health care topic will continue to be the focus of heavy debate until something is put into place, but before we start looking for others to try and solve our problems, which we should expect the government to do the best we can, lets first look at what we can be personally accountable for.

And simple, unproven solutions to complex problems can be detrimental to those who cannot afford any more problems.

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