Anne's Diary

Why Fat is a Political Hot Potato

You're not the only one who wishes you could shed a few pounds; the government wants you to lose weight as well, because the diseases caused by obesity, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, cost them plenty of money. Now researchers have discovered that a protein in human breast milk called adiponectin may lead to a reduced risk of obesity later in life by "programming" our metabolism when we're infants. In other words, one reason baby boomers are struggling with their weight right now is because they weren't breast fed as babies.

Right after World War II, when the boomers were born, breast feeding became "old fashioned" and babies started being fed with soy-based or cow's milk formulas. When the baby boomers grew up and became hippies, they started a "back to nature" movement that included breast feeding. However, now that they've morphed into yuppies, with both parents working long hours, most mothers move on quickly from breast milk to formula because they aren't there to feed their babies and expressing milk when you have a board meeting is too much trouble. This means the current generation will eventually have an obesity problem too. Add in fast food and sedentary life styles, and many of them are becoming fat while they're still kids, costing the government even more money.

All this could led to some major changes. The easiest way to encourage breast feeding would be for the government pressure conservative talk show hosts and religious institutions to encourage women to stay at home with their kids and be full-time mothers. This will rub feminists the wrong way, since it could erode the job equality they've fought so hard for. But the truth is, there are plenty of mothers who would like to do this--at least for awhile--but they can't afford to live on one paycheck.

If encouraging social reform doesn't do the job (and it won't), the government will have to consider some radical ideas. One of these would be to mandate a 6-week leave for all new mothers, so they could at least breast feed for that amount of time. This is already the law in most of Europe. Another would be to raise the minimum wage so fathers could earn enough money to support their families.

The trouble is, these changes would probably drive even more jobs out of the country. One of the major reasons for outsourcing right now is that countries like India have a national health program, so employers don't have to pay for their health insurance.

So what's the answer? I don't know, but I predict that major changes are on the horizon. Be watching for the stay-at- home-mother speeches first, which will try to make working moms feel guilty. And if it makes you feel any better when you're turning down that piece of chocolate cake, remember: Your extra pounds aren't just your problem anymore.

NOTE: This Diary entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.


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