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September 2nd, 2009
09:00 AM ET

Dear President Obama #226: The amazing 'health care reform diet'

Reporter's Note: President Obama appears remarkably physically fit. Not a bad quality in an American president. Of course, that’s not a bad quality in an American, either. My daily letter to the president...

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I went for an eight mile run this morning in my continuing preps for the upcoming half-marathon, and as I trotted along I was thinking. (After all, what else is there to do?) I was thinking about 20 pounds. That is about how much excess weight the average American is carrying, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In very broad terms, it’s like we’re all toting a one-year old in a backpack everywhere we go. And mind you, I said the “average” American. Considering that I know a fair number of pretty skinny people that means some folks are packing a considerably larger load than they are due even in Sansabelt land.

The CDC released some startling figures a while back: Medical care for an obese person costs about $1300 a year; eighty percent more than for a regular person. (We’ll presume regular refers to someone who is fit…not a jacket size.) And one in three adults is technically obese. You don’t need a calculator to instantly know we are spending a fortune on treating people who are simply too heavy for their own good.

I don’t want to be unfairly harsh. Many people struggle mightily to keep their weight down. Sometimes circumstances of their lives, their upbringing, and their genetics can make it so hard that they fail. I know too that I am fortunate to have been born with genes reasonably well-suited for not loading up the lbs. My parents gave me a general sense that while beans did not always taste great, I had to eat them before I could have pie. And I’ve exercised with some regularity for most of my life.

On the other hand, the CDC says we are each consuming about 250 more calories daily than we did in the 1970’s, and I don’t think our genetics have changed that much that fast. Our culture has. We’re choking down sweetened drinks like fiends, gorging on snacks, and super-sizing everything…especially our backsides.

I noticed that you and your team are putting a lot of effort into encouraging preparations against the Swine Flu. But as we keep bracing for that, and talking up health care reform, it probably wouldn’t hurt to remind folks on a regular basis: Personal health care reform is a worthwhile goal no matter how the big debate plays out. It involves no taxes, no premiums, no paperwork, and it’s as close as your kitchen.

Don’t mean to be preachy, but on a bit of a health kick. So call if you feel like snacking. I’ll talk you down.

Regards.

Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. jh

    RLWellman – socialist ideas only worry people who think the world is the same place it was 200 years ago. People are not like that anymore – we've gotten greedy and selfish.

    We wouldn't even need such socialist-like programs if American economics were not geared in a manner that dramatically separates the rich and the poor.

    If people with wealth reached out and helped those in poverty, there would be no need for government mandated policies to do it for them. But that's not how it works. The wealthy continue to absorb all the wealth until there is very little if anything left for the other 99% of the country.

    Worried about socialsm? Then do more to make capitalism work.

    September 3, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  2. jh

    I for one appreciate the point Tom is making; kick the problem where it starts – human beings making bad choices. The threat to health care is not insurance, it is the rising costs of treatment. If treatment is curbed by people living healthier lifestyles, so too are the costs and ultimately the problem itself.

    It's a free country – you can't punish people for what they eat, how much they eat, or the weight they gain from it. You also can't tell them what they can and cannot eat.

    But you can enforce a food policy that requires very obvious warnings about the impact a certain meal has on health and future health expenses. Put labels on fast food containers similar to those put on cigarette cartons.

    Call this silly if you will... but the fact is, humans beings are cognitively impacted by such warnings. You may consciously order that burger anyway – but your cognitive brain is gradually influencing you to stop every time you see that warning label.

    I don't subscribe to idiot rants about Obama and global doom. I do subscribe to intelligent ideas – even better with a little bit of proven science behind it.

    ANYONE can make an intelligent comment – Republican, Democrat, black, white, Hispanic, citizen, immigrant, Muslim, redneck, etc, etc... intelligence is not something only a choice few have. The only difference is whether or not you opt to use your intelligence rather than be caught up in the mainstream ideology that everyone is out to get you.

    September 3, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  3. nea

    I just want to say that i truly PRAY for the safety of this President there is so much hatred in this country right now and its mostly because we have a Black President Yes! people will deny it but there are people out there that cant stand this President because of the color of his skin, And some are using his agenda as a excuse to speak out against him. I watch those town hall meetings and the tea party rallies and im not stupid enough to believe thats its just about his agenda. GOD BLESS YOU PRESIDENT OBAMA! And GOD PROTECT AND KEEP YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!

    September 3, 2009 at 2:33 am |
  4. RLWellman

    Since my last letter #225 didn't get moderated, here it it again.

    You are like those who you surround your self with. Is it any wonder why President Obama is surrounding himself with 30+ unappointed Czars? You need to look at their pasts and what they believe. Two of them are communists, most have socialist ideas. These are the people who are advising the President.

    The President does not write laws or bills. That’s not part of his job. He only approves or vetos. Some of you are mixed up because you thought the 8-years Bush was president, you thought he was the one writing all the garbage bills. He only approved or vetoed them.

    September 2, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  5. RLWellman

    Tom,
    So what's your point? Do we tax over weight people more? Do we abort them if they don't lose weight?
    You think the President looks healthy. What do you think his lungs looks like? You can be thin and still be unhealthy, high cholesterol, Htn, DM, smoker, etc. How many fat people die from lung cancer? The majority are thin!
    How many millions is the Government spending on TV commercials trying to pass this Health Care Reform? Our tax dollars at work! Couldn't this money be spent on commercials for Americans to live a healthier life style? How about even being used to pay for free clinics for those who don't have health care? No, our Government has to throw it away trying to persuade Americans, who don't want it, to accept this garbage Health Care Reform Bill the way it is written!

    September 2, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  6. Patricia in Calabasas

    I was inspired to start jogging by Eddie Izzard, the comedian/actor, right now he's running 1100 mile run around the UK for Comedy Relief.

    If he's got the determination to do THAT I figure I can step away from the computer for an hour a day to run, jog, walk and get fit.

    September 2, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  7. Boomer in Mo

    Great letter. I walk 4 miles a day and still have a big caboose. But, my blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels are all OK. Still, I wish I could get rid of the padding but at age 60, that probably is not going to happen no matter how much I walk. I would really get angry at some anti-health reform screamer got after me at one of their tea parties. I might smack the person and probably could outrun them. I can out walk the 30 somethings in my office. My numbers are better than many skinny persons' numbers. You can't always judge a person's health by the way they are built.

    September 2, 2009 at 11:15 am |
  8. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Thanks Tom. Yeah, 20 pounds each extra sounds about right. In my little town, though, Tom, getting out and walking or running can be likened to going through an obstacle course if you are a woman. Or at least I have found. I'm not a super model or any where near that, well in my opinion any how. But, like yesterday, all I did was go for a walk and all these guys just stop and stare and they've just got to get my attention and wave at me. I find this very annoying. I want to just stand there and shout hasn't any one ever seen a woman before? I wear shorts, top, sneakers. Pretty standard stuff. You are a guy, can you tell what is up with this? I've got my eating habits down to where it should be , but it's the exercise part of it that has me flustered for this reason. It makes me not want to step out of my apartment half the time. I feel like I'm in grave danger of becoming agoraphobic. What can I do Tom?

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    September 2, 2009 at 11:15 am |
  9. Lori

    Thanks for the inspiration Tom! You made me feel so guilty about the Cheetos I ate yesterday.

    September 2, 2009 at 10:27 am |