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The War on Fat

December 14, 2010

Tis the season to be jolly–unless you’re in the Obama White House. There, Michelle Obama is on to a national security threat. Obesity. Yes, the fat of the land has her up in arms.

In a speech Monday at Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Northwest D.C., Michelle unleashed her latest attack on childhood obesity by saying

Military leaders … tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight…

You can read the full story at Politico. In fact, if you follow their hyperlink on childhood obesity, you’ll find a whole series of stories they’ve done on the obesity crisis. Google the same term and you will get pages of warnings and reports on the epidemic from Health and Human Services and other government sources. There’s a full-court press by this administration.

Problem is, it isn’t true.

Way down in the search rankings, below all the government propaganda, is a 2009 report from the University of Oxford that shows the trend peaked in 2007 and is declining. In part, it says

The forecast number of overweight girls aged 2 to 11 in 2020 has dropped from 34 per cent to 17 per cent, and the proportion of obese girls from 14 per cent to 10 per cent.

Among boys, the forecast number of overweight is down from 22 per cent to 17 per cent, and for the obese it is down from 20 per cent to 13 per cent.

Note a couple of points:

  • At its worst, the fraction of boys is one in five, not one in four
  • The turnaround is because of attitudes and behavioral factors, not government intervention

In other words, the do-gooders in the administration are behind the power curve on this one. One suspects that there is another agenda at work here. The crisis, much like the BP Gulf oil spill, has solved itself pretty much without government intervention. I was an overweight teenager and have struggled my whole life with my weight. I wanted to serve, so I dieted and exercised and eventually achieved my goal. The so-called military leaders who are worried about qualified recruits ought to think about that.

Notice also the very clever packaging of the message. The issue is about control of what we eat and that satisfies the left, who would like us all to be vegetarians I’m sure. But framing the problem as a national security crisis is meant to appeal to the right. And there never is a discussion of the issue without some cost accounting–meant to appeal to fiscal conservatives.

Princess Letizia of Spain, Carla Bruni, the wife of France’s president, and Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama is hardly one to talk, as the doctored image  shows. Although Snopes reveals that Michelle’s image was added to the photo, it still is Michelle Obama. (Now you know why  almost every image you see of her is from the front and mostly head and shoulders.)

Yet talk she does, even going so far as to say that “we can’t just leave it up to the parents.”

Sorry, Ms. Obama. To coin a phrase, “Yes we can.”

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