Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Forced Fitness by Joshua Carter

Here's an excellent article from Josh Carter.

Forced Fitness
by Joshua Carter

I don’t like being told what to do (just ask my wife). I know, big shock.

But what you might be surprised to learn is I’m not particularly fond of telling other people what to do either - unless they want (pay) me to.

But dontcha just love it when the government tells you what to do? I’m not talking about “please don’t stab people” or stop at a red light. I’m talking about stuff that is none of their business. Or is it?

Well it seems in a few places in the US “The Man” is telling people what to do in regards to their fitness. The places in question: Alabama & New York.

I’ll start with New York (City, actually).

I have frequently been accused asked if I was from New York. Nope. My sparkling personality was fostered right here in sunny California. I do actually have some family in New York though. Why do I bring this up? I have no idea. I’ll continue…

New York has passed a law requiring certain restaurants (those with 15 or more locations nationwide) to post caloric contents out in the open for all to see. No longer is nutritional information hidden on photocopies the manager can’t find, it’s right there like or not.

Fat Free or Fat Ass - you decide.

Is this a good thing? Fuggedaboutit.

Some like it, some don’t. Me… well…

New York’s agenda is clear: “They say calorie labels could reduce the number of obese New Yorkers by 150,000 over the next five years, and prevent 30,000 cases of diabetes.”

That’s a a hard statistic to ignore.

Thus I can see why some would like it. Take the above “fat free” banana chocolate chip cake. It’s fat free so it must be good for you right? Uh, not necessarily. 390 isn’t a huge amount of calories, but I would bet that most of those calories come from sugar. So it is not a great choice for anyone watching their weight. It probably tastes great though.

Regular consumer, Nora Cara, was surprised to find out her normal breakfast order had over 690 calories in it. That seems to be a common trend. People are shocked to find out the caloric load they are plowing through without even blinking.

Well they are blinking now.

With the new labeling law in place Nora can now make a better and more informed choices. She along with 149,999 other New Yorkers will be healthier and hopefully happier within the next 5 years.

Others are just plain pissed off.

I can see that too. Sometimes with bad news I would just rather not know.

Ignorance is bliss, or in this case, fat.

My take: I have mixed feelings on this one. But I think if push came to shove and there was a vote in my area I would vote for it. The more information we have the better decisions we can make. Listing calories is a step in the right direction, the next one is for consumers to be educated about the make-up of those calories.

Also, we can always ignore the labels and eat whatever the hell we want.

Now Alabama is a place I have never been accused of being from.

37,527 state employees are being told to get is shape or pay - literally.

As a state employee in Alabama you are entitled to free health insurance, unless you are fat (but not until January 2010).

Workers who are deemed overweight will be charged a $25 per month premium. This is similar to legislation already passed for smokers who have to pay a $24 per month fee.

So I guess if you are a fat smoker you are have to pony up near $50 per month.

So who’s to say who’s fat? Apparently they are using BMI or Body Mass Index. It is a simple ratio of height and weight. Based on the BMI scale, anyone with a BMI score over 30 is obese, and if they work for the state in Alabama out $24 per month.

I’m not a big fan of BMI. It is very simple to calculate, so that’s good - but it just isn’t that accurate. For example with me, based simply on my height and weight, I am borderline obese.

Is this fair or unfair?

For the state, which otherwise has to cover the insurance costs, the matter comes down to simple math: overweight people have more health issues and simply cost more to insure.

The Associated Press quoted William Ashmore, executive director of the State Employees’ Insurance Board, who said research shows someone with a body mass index of 35 to 39 generates $1,748 more in annual medical expenses than someone with a BMI less than 25.

Damn math.

I’m sure many of those with a BMI of 30 or above don’t see it quite the same way as Mr. Ashmore. As opposed to the “informational” nature of the New York law (here is the information, do with it what you want), this Alabama law is more like negative reinforcement.

It could be argued that excessive weight might not be fully under the control of a given worker (unlike smoking). It could be due to hormonal imbalances or other legitimate medical conditions and not a simple overactive addiction to fast food. (FYI- If they know you by name at the local McDonalds you most likely have a problem.)

Anyway, I would hope there would be some appeal process.

Again, Fair or Unfair?

I know this, I do not want to be waiting in line of a heavy worker at the DMV in Alabama in January 2010.

So if I were a hypothetical employer, and I had to insure my workers and certain workers cost more to insure than others due to actions not relating to work I would be inclined to pass any extra incurred fees onto said worker. It sucks, but that is just business.

Right or wrong, fair or unfair, Big Brother or just a big bother it all comes down to one thing: Accountability. Take responsibility for your health and what you put in your mouth and you’ll be better off no matter what.

Then you can tell “The Man” kiss your flat abs.

If you do not want to know the content of what you put in your pie hole, do not eat at the place that has that info on the menu. If you are costing your employer more to insure because you eat like crap and do not take care of yourself (assuming no medical exemption) then guess what, you are going to pay (one way or the other I’m afraid).

Do I eat perfect all the time? Hell no. Do I take responsibility? Hell yes. Do I even want to eat healthy all the time? Hell no, how boring is that?

If you have read my stuff in the past you know my basic thoughts- take responsibility for your actions and hold yourself accountable- it’s really that simple. It applies to fitness and to life in general. You can do it and you are worth it.

Joshua Carter

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