Americans know that obesity is a health crisis, that junk food is far too prevalent and that we can't get ourselves off the couch to exercise, but, hey! Don't you dare try and force us to eat better through government regulation.
That's basically the finding of a new Associated Press poll, which reveals we're concerned about the country's growing waistlines, though deeply divided on exactly what - if anything - the government should do about it.
Thanks to a multitude of factors, from supersized portions to a more sedentary lifestyle, one-third of U.S. children and teens and two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese. The government estimates that 300,000 deaths a year may be attributable to obesity.
But when it comes to encouraging people to make better choices, the poll found that most draw the line at policies that would try to force healthier eating by limiting our junk food.
Among the poll's findings:
- Three-quarters of Americans consider obesity a serious health problem for the nation, yet most say it should be up to the individual to change eating habits.
- A third of people say the government should be deeply involved in finding ways to curb obesity, a third want it to play little or no role, and the rest are somewhere in the middle.
- Eighty percent support requiring more physical activity in school and providing nutritional guidelines to help people make better choices.
- Seventy percent think it's a good idea to make restaurants post calorie counts on their menus.
- Nearly six in 10 people oppose taxes targeting unhealthy foods, known as soda taxes or fat taxes.
- Seventy-five percent oppose restricting what people can buy, like New York City's recent ban of supersized sodas in restaurants.
The poll also found that women, more than men, blame cheap fast food and think the food industry should bear more responsibility for helping to find solutions.
Patricia Wilson, 53, of rural Speedwell, Tenn., told the Associated Press that she must drive 45 minutes to reach a grocery store, passing numerous burger and pizza joints, with more arriving every year. "They shouldn't be letting all these fast-food places go up," said Wilson, who noted she nags her children and grandchildren to eat healthy food at home.
Others, however, don't want the government involved no matter what the health consequences.
Pamela Dupuis, 60, of Aurora, Colo., who told the Associated Press she has struggled with weight and has been diagnosed as prediabetic, doesn't want the government involved in things like calorie counting. "They should stay out of our lives," she said.
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