Obesity and The Death of Personal Responsibility

Watching American waistlines expand beyond the point of insanity, experts are desperate to find an answer. As such, we’ve seen just about every “reason” under the sun thrown out to explain the epidemic. Too many video games. Too much television. Unhealthy school lunches. Eating vegetables costs too much money. The FDA food pyramid is messed up. Cereal commercials are too enticing. People are working too many hours. Soda sizes are too large. Restaurants aren’t giving people the nutrition information they need to make good choices. And on and on.

Now there’s a new “reason” proposed to explain America’s widening girth. According to a new study, big discount stores like Wal-Mart are partially responsible for obesity by making it so cheap to buy a lot of junk food. “Variables related to calorie intake,” say the study’s authors, “and particularly restaurant and supercenter/warehouse club densities, are the primary drivers of the results.” In other words, cheap junk food is driving the rise in obesity.

And maybe that’s true. Maybe there is an inextricable link between stores like Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Costco, and higher BMI rates. And if that’s true, bully for the study’s authors in uncovering that link. I’m sure it will be a feather in their career cap. The question is: so what?

Are we going to start seeing politicians advocate for banning these stores? Will they start pressuring Wal-Mart to stop selling Dorito bags that could feed a family of four for six weeks? Will Michelle Obama make her husband declare school zones a Costco-free environment?

America’s soft bellies are a direct result of America’s soft resolve. We’ve abdicated personal responsibility, taken it out behind the woodshed, and put a bullet in its head. If there is something or someone else to blame, we focus our attention on that. We do it at the national level, but more insidiously, we do it on a personal level.

Not where you want to be in life? Oh, it’s those damn Democrats.

Wasted the last five years behind bars on a drug charge? It’s those damn racist Republicans.

Your kids are too fat? It’s those damn school lunches.

You’re too fat? Well, it’s those damn irresistible bargains on Oreos.

Come on. You don’t like where you are in life? There are more educational resources available now than at any point in human history. Don’t want to go to jail for smoking crack? Don’t smoke crack. Want to get your kids in shape? Teach them about proper nutrition, send them to school with a decent lunch, and make sure they are getting enough exercise. Want to turn the scale back for yourself? You don’t need an expensive gym membership, an expensive track suit, a personal trainer, or a ban on junk food. You need to get off the couch, say no to yourself once in a while, and do the hard work that being in shape requires.

Living a life that matters requires discipline and sacrifice. If being rich was easy, everyone would be rich. If being thin was easy, everyone would be thin. We need to stop looking for excuses at both the micro and the macro level. We need to embrace the hard stuff. Our nation was founded on the hard stuff. This myth that life should be easy is killing us in more ways than one. And one political party is riding that myth all the way to the ballot box.

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