I am 59 years old. One thing I have noticed living in the United States is that this country has an epidemic of obesity. It is impossible not to notice it because it is everywhere. I often find myself in a room where a majority of the people in the room are significantly overweight.
As a disability attorney, I have seen this epidemic up close. I estimate that 50% of my clients are more than 100 pounds overweight. I have had clients more than 200 pounds overweight. In all honesty, I have had clients more than 400 pounds overweight.
I have the following observations about this epidemic.
- This epidemic only exists in industrialized, affluent economies. 3rd world countries are not experiencing this epidemic. Years ago I had an interesting experience. I traveled through rural Guatemala for 10 days. I did not see one overweight person. Not one.
- This epidemic closely follows behind the availability of processed, fast foods.
- I understand the economics the food industry that promotes obesity. I understand the socio-economic factors that promote obesity. I do NOT understand the psychology of obesity. I do NOT understand how the obvious negative consequences of obesity do not automatically create incentives to eat healthy and exercise regularly.
- Most of the time, an individual can get by during their 20s and 30s without too many negative consequences. But in their 40s and 50s, the negative complications hit with a vengeance – diabetes and diabetic neuropathy, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, shortness of breath, joint pain (especially the knees), degenerative disc disease with back pain and radicular pain, major depression due to all of the preceding.
- I am in favor of government intervention to control this epidemic. I understand the libertarian arguments against government intervention. These arguments are not unreasonable. But the obesity epidemic is out of control. The costs of this epidemic to the government in the form of disability payments and Medicare and Medicaid payments are astronomical. The economic costs to the individual in terms of lost income are astronomical. The non-economic costs to the individual in terms of pain and suffering are off the charts.