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Tough Love Monday: Male Obesity Epidemic Is A Modern Day Black Plague

21 July 2008 15 Comments

Every Monday, Return To Manliness explores a pressing issue in today’s society and offers up a “Tough Love” response to fix the problem. The solution(s) offered are not meant to win a popularity contest and may be seen as harsh or somewhat insensitive. This is never meant to offend anyone or any group of people. It is only an alternative way, most likely not all mainstream in its solutions, of exploring the issue.

This will be the first of many posts, I am sure, concerning the epidemic of male obesity in our society. This issue is so far reaching, you could have entire posts (heck, entire sites) committed to only a sliver of the main topic.

I call this an epidemic and use words like “modern day black plague” for emphasis of the severity of the issue. There are countless articles and research that show how big of an issue this has become. Those same articles give quality reasoning behind the epidemic: sedentary lifestyle; introduction of corn into everything we eat; trans fats in the processed foods we eat; etc.

There are the same amount of articles and research that tell us what we can do to get to the ideal weight for men. We all have learned how to fight male obesity – exercise regularly; eat less fat; eat more fruits and vegetables; drink more water; everything in moderation, etc.

But why are things getting worse and not better? We know it is bad for us, so why do we keep making the wrong choices (on diet and lifestyle)?

Lie to others, but NEVER lie to yourself

My opinion as to why the continuing epidemic continues is not media coverage or knowledge – we have plenty of both of those. It is the fact there are no real, immediate consequences to our every day decisions we make in our dietary and sedentary lifestyle choices.

One of the core manliness traits, NEVER lie to yourself, helps us understand this in more depth. Since there are no immediate consequences to our immediate choices, we lie to ourselves and say “I’ll do better tomorrow.” Or, “this is the last time I am going to McDonald’s for lunch.” Or, one of my own favorites, “I’ll work out tomorrow, I’m too busy (or tired) today.”

This is behavior not consistent with our vision of classic manliness. Some call this procrastination, but in the end it is simply lying to yourself. The ramifications for this act are far reaching for us personally (and for society in general.)

Denial among our leaders

In our society, we tend to put a lot of emphasis on the act of lying. We don’t approve of it and even in some cases with throw you in jail for it (see perjury). But we don’t seem to have any issues in allowing folks to lie to themselves.

I think we tend to justify it by saying “they are only hurting themselves”. We also like the idea of personal choice and personal freedom – so long as it does not infringe on others freedoms. And there’s the rub, isn’t it?

At some point, if enough men follow the same path of personal destruction, it becomes a societal epidemic. Maybe even a national security issue. It is not a huge leap to believe our health care system, our armed forces, our energy consumption, and many more are all in danger of being broken by the epidemic of obesity, in particular male obesity.

Possible Tough Love Solutions

Since common methods of education, research, positive reinforcement and support, and even fear peddling of the impending doom that comes along with male obesity have not worked, maybe it is time for some tough love. Maybe it is time for some new ideas to shake men into making the right immediate decisions with much more immediate consequences.

Here are some of my radical ideas; some of which have already been discussed in our society.

  • Pocketbook warfare – this is the term I use for handling the entire epidemic. Traditional methods of solving this obesity issue have not worked and things keep getting worse. Make our actions, as they occur, cost us in the wallet. This is something every red-blooded American appreciates – just look at what is happening with gas prices and the outrage that ensues.  Prices go way up and all of the sudden, our behavior changes.  Go figure…
  • Airline tickets by weight – Traveling on an airplane, for the most part, is a privilege – not a right. If you make travelers pay for their flights based on an index that measures ideal weight for men and women, it all of the sudden matters if you go for that extra piece of cheesecake at dinner.
  • Fat tax – This one can be implemented with relative ease. Just like a sin tax or luxury tax on items we can easily identify as such, a fat tax could be used to burden high fat content items that we know lead to male obesity. For instance, slap a 25% fat tax on anything cooked in trans fat and see what happens to the sales of that product. Many states are even going a step further and banning the stuff altogether.
  • Health insurance sliding scale premiums – When you sign up for health insurance, the physical could determine what you pay. We do it with smokers as they have different rates – why not with overweight or obese folks?  This falls in line with our overall fix of “pocketbook warfare”.
  • Pay people to lose weight – They do this in other countries for smoking. Doctors and medical professionals are paid bonuses for getting patients to stop smoking. Why not incentivize our doctors here as well for stopping male obesity and getting men to lose weight? There could also be tax incentives to do such things for the individual.
  • Trans fat throw up pill – Just like the alcohol pill causes you deathly ills when you drink alcohol, why not one for trans fat or other foods that we know are bad for us? Maybe the technology doesn’t exist yet, but it should.
  • Curtail welfare and social security payments – If you are not of sound body and sound mind, then you should lose your government subsidies. Again, how quickly would people change their perspective on what they ate and how they lived their lives?
  • Take away privileges we incorrectly believe as rights – So many of us get confused to this notion of rights vs. privileges. Driving a car is not a right – it is an earned privilege. You can lose that privilege if you screw up and it causes MAJOR problems in our automobile centric society. Flying on an airplane is another one we already discussed, but if you can’t get the weight under control, then you can’t fly.
  • Having and keeping children – I can already feel the hatemail coming on this one, but procreation is a privilege, not a right. What if you were threatened with the ability not to have children until you get your weight under control? What if you had to pass a physical (like I did for my adoption) before you were allowed to have children? My wife and I are adopting from China and they have strict rules on who can adopt a child from their country, based on weight profile and general health conditions. Obviously, this is a Communist country, but when does our male obesity epidemic become too important for our society to look the other way?

I know I will get plenty of comments and hatemail from folks explaining that for some they have no choice. I will also hear from people who say experts can’t agree on what really causes obesity.

Both of these may be true and maybe there isn’t a one size fits all approach. Maybe there will have to be exceptions made on a case by case basis. But the vast majority of us who are overweight and exhibit some form of male obesity, are not this way because we have no choice. We are this way because of the choices we make on daily basis that don’t have immediate consequences.

Eventually though, these consistently wrong choices catch up to us. I was recently encouraged by what many experts were calling, the Russert effect. After the shocking death of Tim Russert, due to his carrying entirely too much belly fat for entirely too long, there was surge in the number of men going to see their doctors for physical checkups. It is a shame, but in his death, it brought to light that there were actually immediate consequences to our immediate choices.

What do you think? How is tough love in this situation not the right answer? Or do you agree with some of the thoughts and others not so much?


  • Dave said:

    The times I have traveled overseas, it is amazing how FEW fat people I see, compared to home.

    I vividly remember returning to Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris after staying for a week, and getting in the line for the United flight to Washington. It was chock full of people, many of whom were presumably Americans returning home after some time overseas. It struck me immediately how there was an incredibly higher concentration of porkers in this line compared to what I had seen in the city all week, in the restaurants, and even in the rest of the airport. They were all headed to the States!

  • Samantha said:

    Well, what an enlightening post. There are various reasons to the causes of procrastination. http://www.stop-procrastination.org is an informative website which explains to you some of the reasons of procrastination and help you to prevent them. Very useful indeed. You might wanna check it out.

    Samanthas last blog post..3 Great Tips for Overcoming Procrastination

  • Andrei said:

    There is a good article about “Overweight and Obesity” on our website. I can recommend its reading: http://www.healthocrates.com/Overweight-and-Obesity

  • Mike Bates said:

    Interesting article. I certainly agree that male obesity (heck, all obesity) is a problem in this country (and I say this as a guy who carries around an extra 15-20 pounds that he needs to lose). And I think that pocketbook warfare is a fine idea. That said, with the hike in gas prices, the cost of fresh foods (meat, fruits, veggies, milk) is going up, up, up, while the price of food that can sit on the shelves (anything with preservatives) is relatively static. So while we may be waging war on the fat pocketbook, we’re also under attack for trying to eat healthily. What’s a fella to do?

    Also, I don’t see how having children is not a fundamental human right. Procreation has been encouraged and celebrated almost universally in human culture. It’s a biological and physiological urge, as well as emotionally satisfying. I’m writing at the library right now, and a mother (with her black and white hair) has her son young son in a mohawk. I think that’s ridiculous, but should we restrict her right to raise her child too? Of course not. Saying it’s a privilege doesn’t make it so, no more than saying we’re not in a recession (we’re in a period of sustained stagnant growth) doesn’t mean that we’re not.

  • Kevin (author) said:

    Those are all good points. As an adoptive parent, I can tell you that what they put us through is AMAZING. They make certain that we are not only financially able to do it, but emotionally, physically, mentally. I think we are talking semantics. What I should have said was that the right/privilege could be taken away.

    In either case, you’re right taking away a child from their parents is always a last resort. I wrote it, but I do cringe at the thought.

  • Rasheed said:

    Thank God, someone who believes having children isn’t a right. I’m with you all the way on that one, but implementing restrictions on having kids is a tough sell to the public and perhaps even harder to enforce unless you have an iron fisted government. Such theoretical restrictions may end up leading to the same problem China now faces with thousands of orphaned children. Is a kid worse off with fat parents than none at all? Probably not.

    I love the airline ticket and health insurance proposals you mentioned. I’d venture to say we need MORE negative media portrayals of fat men. From here on out, no TV shows or movies that end up with the fat guy getting the girl; just fat protagonists that wind up lonely and pitiful and dead.

    Rasheeds last blog post..Teabagging Ain’t Right

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  • acnesolutions health site said:

    the best solution for obesity is none other than Exercise and Proper diet. i would try to avoid slimming pills or fat burning food supplements

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    Obesity is really a bad condition to be with. it is the cause of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. i always see to it that i have a healthy diet and a good exercise to avoid being overweight.

  • Caramoan8 said:

    The only way you can manage obesity is throught Proper Diet and lots of exercise. The human body is designed for work so we should always get some form of physical exercise to stay fit.

  • Bridgette said:

    Obesity and diabetes is a growing problems nowadays. It is caused by todays lifestyle which does not involve lots amount of exercise. Most people are just happy sitting in their office chair and they do not even want to sweat.

  • Luca Richards said:

    more people are becoming obese these days because of too much junk food and too much sugar in snacks and fast foods. :

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