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How Can the Government Slow Obesity?

Editor’s note: At the end of a Making News item titled
“World Obesity Federation Shares Worrisome News” (January 2016, 13 [1],
10), we asked for reader feedback on the following question: “In what
ways do you think government should intervene to avoid further increases
in the number of people who are overweight or obese?” A few of your
responses follow.

I have these thoughts:

  1. Encourage (require?) insurance companies to reimburse individuals to
    help pay for personal training services. This ensures accountability,
    as opposed to a membership at a gym where the individuals might not go
    or where they might not find the proper exercise program or have
    enough motivation if they do go. Also, many obese individuals are from
    low-income families and do not have the resources to seek a trainer on
    their own.
  2. Invest in education, which is always at least part of the answer.
    Increase funding to government agencies and grants to private
    businesses that provide free or inexpensive educational programs on
    health, nutrition and exercise for youth and adults.
  3. Give incentives to food producers for making products healthier and in
    smaller portions.
  4. Fund companies (new or existing) to produce healthy convenience food
    for people who eat on the road, to encourage healthy, affordable
  5. Provide incentives for companies that offer and encourage exercise
    throughout the workday (e.g., working out in an exercise room instead
    of taking a smoke break; standing-work-station options; shorter
    workdays or paid time for an hour of group exercise at the end of the
  6. Help people reduce or eliminate stress (a major factor in weight gain)
    from their lives.
  7. “Force” a shorter workday, or have companies provide at least a break
    during the day, to accommodate exercise. This could help address the
    primary excuses of not enough money or time to exercise.
  8. Give rewards to those who maintain healthy weight/lifestyle. Employees
    should be able to participate in any of the programs described above,
    with the added incentive of gym membership or time off during the
    workday for exercise. Workers could also be paid to participate and
    serve as mentors and role models for others.
  9. Jenny Mercer

    Owner and Personal Trainer, Infinite Possibilities LLC

    Purcellville, Virginia

Make training and gym memberships tax-deductible or even
dollar-per-dollar tax-deductible (up to a certain cap). Since many
people would grab a “free” membership and probably never show up to
train, the end users should be required to pay at least 20% of the
membership, which would give them some financial motivation to
participate. The government would pay/reimburse the cost only if the
client made it to the gym three times a week. Also, since just having a
membership and showing up doesn’t guarantee that clients would know how
to train, I think some interaction with a personal trainer should be
part of such a program.

Magdalena Romanska, PhD

Personal Trainer and Lifestyle Wellness Coach

Sedona, Arizona

I think one way to combat obesity is to get the government to allow
taxpayers to deduct personal training and gym membership costs on their
tax return. It would give people an incentive to use a trainer regularly.

Jason E. Logan

Personal Trainer and Boxing Coach

Jersey City, New Jersey

[The World Obesity Federation’s] suggestion that government regulation
of junk-food advertising is going to somehow reduce obesity is absurd.
That will not work; how silly. Nor will “offering healthy food choices
in schools.” Kids simply will not eat it. Proper nutrition and healthy
choices start at home, not with the government. People need to
stop counting calories and start counting chemicals. Chemicals in “food”
make you fat. Make meals from scratch. If government officials want to
be involved, here’s how they can help: ban GMOs. Oh, but,
they won’t! Instead, they’ve banned labeling, and people remain ignorant
of what they are eating. So they will keep getting fatter.

Amanda Comstock

Personal Trainer

Park City, Utah

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