• 17th March 2010 - By greg

    P2170008Paul made an interesting comment on the PedalTheOcean facebook fan page today about footing the bill for the cost of a rescue if that were required. Martin quickly came to my defense by suggesting that if only a few people take cues and inspiration from me, and get themselves into shape, the money it will save our health care system will be far greater than the cost of a rescue. Although I am insuring my own rescue by paying for a safety yacht to follow me across the Pacific, I thought that I would do a little research into exactly what the health care costs are due to the obesity epidemic, how much cash we can save our respective governments by becoming more active, and how this health care cost compares to the cost of a mid-ocean rescue.

    But first of all, why is it that we have become so inactive in the first place?

    I think it all started with my grand parents who were settlers from Europe and took advantage of cheap farm land here in western Canada. Life on the farm was tough, filled with plenty of physical work and hardship. New technologies such as electricity and tractors and motors were quickly embraced in order to save work and be more efficient. This attitude – or should I call it a ‘culture’ – of “why walk when you can drive?, why do it manually when you can push a button?” was passed down to their children who eventually moved away from the farms and into the cities in the 50’s and 60’s. The promise of a push-button lifestyle with a jet-pack and hover craft in every driveway came at a cost, and I’m not talking about the price of research, development and production of the new technology, I’m talking about the unforeseen toll this new technology extracted from our health.

    A recent study from the CDC and the Research Triangle Institute, estimates that costs attributable to obesity – which is partially the result of leading a sedentary, inactive lifestyle, could be as high as $147 billion for 2008 (US). According to the study, people who are obese cost the US federal program $1,429 a year more than normal-weight beneficiaries. The average life expectancy in Canada is 80.7 years and US is 78.2 years. Average life expectancy of an obese person is 3 years less than a non obese person.

    So – If the average obese person lives to the age of 75.2 years (in the US), then at $1429 per year additional health care cost would equal a grand lifetime total of $107,460 per person. And this does not include the indirect cost of being unfit like sick days, loss of income, lower productivity, etc, etc. Most estimates suggest that the indirect costs are equal to the direct health care costs – so we might be looking at a lifetime figure closer to $200,000 per overweight person.

    How much does a search and rescue cost?

    It costs the Coast Guard approximately $400 per hour to operate a rescue boat to search, and from $1,500 to $3,000 per hour for aircraft and cutters to search. According to numbers calculated by Mad Mariner using data provided by the Coast Guard, the average search and rescue cost was $27,712.50 for 2009. That number is only an average, and does not convey the widely divergent nature of these operations. Some take only an hour or two and require one small rescue boat, while others may require days of searching using planes and helicopters. Coast Guard officials say they do not calculate or consider costs when rescue decisions are being made, noting that it’s their mission to carry out the work.

    I am currently reading the book “Not Without Hope” about Nick Schuyler, Will Bleakley and their NFL player friends Corey Smith and Marquis Cooper. They went fishing 70 miles into the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, Florida and flipped their boat over by gunning the boat to release a stuck anchor tied to the stern. After spending 40 hours on top of the upturned hull and enduring a storm, Nick was the only survivor. They did not have an EPIRB which made the search and rescue operation far more expensive, and probably cost the lives of Nick’s friends. According to the coastguard, the price tag for this search and rescue operation was approximately $1.6 million. On the other hand, a recent river rescue by helicopter cost $3500.

    So here is the way I see it – if the cost of being inactive and unhealthy is about $200,000 per person in direct and indirect health care costs, and if the average cost of a search and rescue operation is $27,712, then if I can motivate just one single overweight person to change his or her life by becoming active – even at an age as late as 50 years old, I would be more than offsetting the cost of a search and rescue operation.

    Life can be so great when you are active – not only you are sick less often, but you are more productive, you have more vitality and energy, you will have an improved self image, you will be better able to counter anxiety, stress and depression, you will enjoy a better sex life, you will be able to relax more and will sleep deeper. In my opinion, ANYONE who is venturing forth and doing something to inspire others to become active is more than offsetting any cost society might have to pay as a result of such activity.

  • 18 Comments to “Rescue costs vs the cost of obesity”

    • Bob on March 17, 2010

      Greg – please don’t go promoting a healthy lifestyle – it will only lead to people living healthier and that means longer, too. Overpopulation is adding to the accelerated destruction of the Earth. We don’t need people living longer, especially the unintelligent ones. Think of Darwin’s survival of the fittest.

      Let the fat people (over 60% of population), who don’t care about themselves, die early and let their fat offspring die even younger.

      We need to thank the animal farmers for providing the cholesterol laden foods to people so they will live miserably and die young. Animal farmers unhealthy way of mass producing meat just might provide the vehicle that a super virus needs to mutate and escape into the world. A fast spreading deadly new plague would help alleviate the overpopulation problem quickly. Until that happens, we have the FDA helping to confuse the public while promoting artery clogging diets that will result in early deaths.

      We need to thank all the convenience stores for stocking the mostly profitable and nutrient free oily chips, sugary sodas and candy to fuel their carbo addiction. We need to thank the American Heart Society for promoting a high fat (30%) diet. We need to thank all the Fast Food restaurants for making it fast and easy for people to get their fix of enzyme free, nutrient low, cholesterol and oil laden carbohaulic meals.

      We need to thank the food lobby groups in conjunction with the drug lobby groups. One helps you get addicted to unhealthy foods and the other helps provide the chemical stew that will mask the symptoms caused by the unhealthy diet which ultimately don’t work very well allowing the people to die early anyway while the food and drug manufacturers profit the entire time. Their ultra high profits help fund those studies proving that bad food is good for you.

      We need to thank the insurance companies hungry for profit for supplying what appears to be a security blanket to people which allow them to put whatever they want into their mouth without worry. Insurance companies help remove the thought that people have to be responsible for their own health. If people had to pay out of their own pocket for their own health care throughout life, they would probably change their lifestyle and we don’t want that. Thankfully, one of the first symptoms of bad diet is usually sudden death from a heart attack leading to one less person in the world. They don’t get a second chance to change.

      The world needs to lower it’s population dramatically and if being inactive and unhealthy does help get rid of people, one at a time, at a much earlier age than they would have normally lived to, then by all means, let them continue being inactive and unhealthy.


    • David Tangye on March 17, 2010

      Bob. If you look at the figures though, I think you will find that your scenario regarding early death of obese and generally “unhealthy” people is not the reality.

      The average person (who is now also obese) is living longer, at least up until recently. This might be due to those pharmaceutical companies peddling chemicals that prolong life in carcasses that would otherwise be dead already, due to such issues as obesity and resultant medical conditions.

      I agree with the rest of your post though.

      I think the industrial revolution was the beginning of the problem. I am a believer in the Global Virtual Church of Murphy. One of his laws states that “Every good intention has an equal and opposite bad consequence.” So for all the apparent “good” that mechanisation and automation brought on, it ultimately led to a species comprising too many fat lazy sedentary people. Perhaps the Luddites understood this, although their focus was more on the evil of mechanisation as it was replacing the value of humans as realised in human toil. Of course they were a problem to the industrial powers of the day, and got stamped out by the forces of “law and order”.

      Industrialisation and automation has allowed expansion in both human and economic terms, in the short term, ie a mere 200 years. It has led to more people being able to do less and consume more, aided by mass media and advertising promoting the basest short term personal gains with no regard to real cost. We are now a species whose economic model drives destruction of our own environment, as well as dependence on a lifestyle that is sustainable in the short term by ever increasingly artificial means, and ultimately is not sustainable at all. This entire system needs rethinking. The western economic model is based on economic expansion, ie increasing profits = more competitive return to investors = “healthy corporate”. This is fundamentally bad for long-term human survival, as planet earth cannot provide the amount of resources we now demand, nor do we as individuals benefit by many key aspects of the system we have devised, of which personal health is just one.

    • David Tangye on March 17, 2010

      … Besides, you will not need rescuing from the authorities anyway: you will have your own rescue yacht in constant attendance.

    • Greg Loftus on March 18, 2010

      There is much info on the cost of Obese people and I was shocked at the average yearly cost to the heath care system. Should your plan gchanege the life of even one of these folks I would consider the money well spent. The swedes just recently completed a little project that I thought was great. They turned the stairs besiden thyeescalatorbin the underground station into a gian keyboard. when you step on a stair it sounded a note. the next day 66% of the people took the stairs as they were much ore fun than the escalator. You can wtach he video onYoutube very good idea.

    • Grateful on March 18, 2010

      Greg K.,

      It’s a noble undertaking – trying to inspire others to reach their “higher potential”: But I can tell you from my own experience, it’s a hopeless endeavor.

      There’s a reason those folks are fat. If they had any gumption at all they would have backed off’a the food and got off’a their a** at the first signs of FAT. If they had any self-respect they would not have allowed themselves to get like that to start with. They’re just plain too lazy to act in their own best interest.

      I know – I used to TRY to inspire others to feel their best, through healthy, common-sense foods, a lot of fun exercise, and “healthy thinking” but NOOOO
      they’d rather be miserable (even sick) rather than put forth a little effort. So they’re not gonna do ANYTHING. I pity the fools. :- )

      You know as well as I, though, (probably a lot better), it’s WELL worth the effort in order to FEEL you BEST.


    • Bob on March 18, 2010

      In reference to the issue between medical costs versus rescue costs, the powers that be should look at someone’s medical record before deciding to do a rescue. The only question should be, “Are they fat?” If the answer is yes, immediately call the rescue off. Obviously the fat person doesn’t care about his or her health, so why risk the life of a rescue person to save the oinker who is trying to commit suicide by slow food poisoning? If the obes-eatarians want to die, let them die.

      That will save the health care system a bundle in the long run and it’ll keep the rescuers free to save someone who actually wants to live.

      Sorry, my tub-a-phobe attitude must sound despicable. Don’t take it all serious as there is much sad but true jest in the subject.

      Loftus – Great story about the musical stairs.

      David – You are probably right about the chemicals keeping huge carcasses alive longer. The longer they can keep’em alive and using their chemical stews, the more they profit. This was well planned which is why you can find new pharmacies everywhere. The last hurdle they need to overcome is getting forced health care coverage for the nation passed. The taxpayers will flip the bill for the insurance costs of all those who can’t afford to pay for it now. Perfect – once every last person has health care insurance coverage, no one at all will need to worry about what they put in their month ever again. They will be covered.

      Greg K – if you are really serious in your endeavors, consider playing a role in organizing pedal boat racing. Hobie keeps thumbing their nose at the racing potential of their Mirage kayaks and refuse to design a high performance version of their mirage pedal boats. People like Rick Willoughby design some awesome pedal kayaks, but none are on the market. Cadence is a nice pedal boat but there is no distributorship, plus the propeller can’t be raised for shallow beach launching – the company is now for sale. The market for pedal boats is huge in the coastal areas, especially if there was an official racing organization and events to attend.
      RAGBRAI gets about 10-15 thousand people participating in a bicycle ride across Iowa. Marathons are attracting thousands of people at racing events across the country. Bicycle racing and running clubs abound. What does kayaking for fitness have? Not much. I’d really like to see a nation wide pedal boat racing club with regional events.

    • Alex on March 18, 2010

      Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m Alex and I’m a fatty.

      There I said it I’m now a member of FA. I’m not obese by anyone’s standards, but a change of job from teaching in different companies where I was on my feet all day, running between lessons, to translating at home meant the pounds piled on.

      I’d been following Greg’s exploits since the earliest days building trikes to cycle across country (whatever happened to that?) but the whole pedal powered boat thing got me inspired to build my own. I thought I’d pedal the length of the Nantes-Brest canal here in Brittany, it’s only 250 miles, so nothing compared to going to Hawaii, but it got me thinking and it got my out on my ‘bent again to get some training in.

      I’m hugely pleased to see I’m back to a 31 inch waist from 36 inches and I don’t get out of breath walking back up the hill to my home.

      And I’ve got a new hobby, I gave up on pedal powered boats in the end as being unsuitable for something with 230 locks to navigate and instead built myself a canoe, something I’m loving using at every available opportunity.

      So, blame Greg for the fact I’ll live longer and contribute to over-population. In my defence, I do grow my own veg, organically, eat little meat, and generate about 70% of my electricity with my own wind turbine. Then again, I am quite fond of electronic gadgets.

      And one day, I will build a pedal powered craft, I’ve got this grand-dream of pedalling the Amazon.

    • Doug D on March 18, 2010

      And since not every adventure requires a rescue, the figures that you quote are fairly conservative. From what I have seen, only about one in 5 ocean rowers needs a rescue – which skews the ratio even further in favour of the active.

    • Ken on March 18, 2010

      So many perspectives smashing together here. Bob you have to agree that people don’t understand, and to some degree, can’t even comprehend what are the current inner workings of corporate planet earth, you and I included. There is far too much going on although the general direction may seem sure. The same lifestyle blunders that kill people also cloud their minds from being able to see the very interknit workings that caused them to get into their degenerate conditions in the first place.

      I wonder about your comment about the overpopulation of the earth, let me explain. While it may be true that under the current system of things it would appear that population growth and expansion may be pushing things to go bust, but is that really the problem? Your mode of reasoning would imply that you are one who believes themselves to chase problems down to their very root sources, but I ask is this really the case? Does apparent overpopulation really need direct correcting by death? Do you know how many insane campaigns in history have proceeded with mindsets such as this governing the process Bob? I know you’re probably not crazy and firm on this mindset, but I am just showing another potential angle on things.

      While recently flying over many miles of the US and Central America and seeing that the vast majority of the earths surface is currently untouched or unused by humans, a question comes to mind. Is the earth really over populated? Or is it possible that the real problem is massive populations looking down on the land and farming and moving to into concentrated cities to blame? It seems most of the posts here would agree somewhat, and also I would also promote the latter. For those who are willing…there is still vast health and happiness available for the taking that has been left behind by the masses as they congregated into cities and took upon themselves something called the division of labor.

      It has always been possible for humans to live within their means, and secure remarkable health (IF DONE CORRECTLY) outside of the current system of things and within a very closed, tight, small economy. Within walking distance in many places on the earth can be secured everything that is needed for human beings to live well. Of course our “perceived” needs (of which are many) cannot be met in the country, you can only imagine what these may be, and if you’re having trouble thinking of stuff, just watch some commercials on TV and they will help direct you J. While it may appear as though overpopulation is to blame, is it possible that it is only a result of other problems that are far too complicated for any human being to sort out while still working within the current system of things?

      When thinking of life outside the current economy, what may come to mind is many population groups that are remote, primitive or what would be thought of as poverty stricken I must state that this is not what I promote as living off the land, there is better more suitable versions of the overall idea that can be practiced.

      Perhaps rather than trying to figure out the system and fix it up with our desperate series of metaphorical band-aids, we may just be better off getting back to, and just sticking with what works. Some of those things are stated above. We have left behind our better diet. Also in the process as Greg stated, our bodies appear to have greatly suffered due to a lack of physical exercise. Additionally we have also left behind pure air, being in the sunlight for much of the day, proper rest, pure water, and we have taken on a vast load of toxins that we expect our already deficient bodies to deal with.

      With this survival of the fittest concept that you promote, why is it that we have such a poor supply of human specimens that are currently the result of this seemingly astounding process that apparently came up with the human organism in the first place? You promote Darwin’s Survival of the fittest, but just an interesting thing to point out is that this concept is also promoted and thought up by the same scientific minds that you claim are misleading people into believing all sorts of dietary and lifestyle falsehoods in an attempt to actually kill them off! How can this be? To science, or not to science? I have to say though, I sure agree that science is misleading, but where do we go? Science today leads to the right and to the left. Wherever you want to go, you can find some science to back you up most often! Have we become so run down and unable to think for ourselves that we constantly look for outside markers such as science to tell us what we should think and do? Where does reason and sound judgment end and science begins?

      Consider this! Being “FAT” is only ONE manifestation of ill health practices that are going on. We have Cancer, Heart disease, Dental Degeneration, Vision Degeneration, Mental Degeneration, physical strength and energy reduction, joints aching, bones breaking, and on and on and on and on….One could write a list pages long of problems that human beings are currently undergoing. It can also be proven for those who are supposedly open minded about things, that these RESULTS are not only preventable, but reversible in many cases, naturally, with no drugs. By saying this I would NOT promote Naturopathic medicine, as that is just another angle at the “quick fix” fallacy that only has the face of being natural.

      Alright more to think about…. so we have 2 people that exercise the same amount, one is FAT and one is LEAN, you could come up easily with thousands of examples of this very case. Is the skinny person the careful, prudent and conscious one who cares about their health? With your logic Bob it would appear to be the case. Also consider if we had 2 people who eat the same, AND exercise the same. One happens to be fat, the other happens to be lean. What is wrong? Why the vast difference? Is the Lean one taking care of themselves better? Might I also state that extreme leanness is also unhealthy!

      Just some ideas as to different reasons why people are fat. The answer unfortunately isn’t as simple as eating less and exercising more. Although usually doing those things can usually help a lot. The real answers aren’t as simple as you might think, exercise is great FOR SURE, but it is not the only input into the human life formula out of which comes ultimate health and the perfect body and mind. For example, there can be water retention that gives the appearance of fat, and that can be caused by someone in taking too much toxicity from whatever sources whether knowingly or unknowingly (Conscious or not), the body can hold on to water in an attempt to dilute the poisons that may be of a seemingly perpetual supply.

      The weight issue can be all sorts of things, but know this, being fat is one issue! If you have a belly, have glasses, have a bad heart, brittle bones, acne, or have ever visited the dentist for anything other than a physical blow that has damaged your teeth, YOU ARE AS MUCH TO BLAME FOR YOUR ILL HEALTH ISSUES AS ANY FAT PERSON!

      So I ask you this Bob, if you are stranded in the ocean, shall we consider your history and see if you have any health issues before we decide to rescue your butt? We reserve the right and are at liberty to explore and consider any health issues you may have had and then we will decide whether or not you cared to fix them on your own. Do we exclude smokers from being rescued too? Lets see, who else can we exclude…Hmmmm

      Do you see where I am going with this? Anyone? I don’t mean to be overly forward, but your stand on FAT people seems to be just a little harsh! I think the whole world would do well to start taking their health into their own hands, as it has always been, and quit with our blind faith approach of trusting the medical establishment to fix us when we break us J

      An angle that some people maintain is the idea that human beings were engineered and created by a being greater and more intelligent than themselves. As with any object that is designed, there is a specified range of conditions in which it is made to operate correctly, or THRIVE if you will. The theory could also stand that human beings have way out stepped their design criteria and the things we see currently in the race on planet earth are a direct result of this mal compliance to the design conditions. Would we overlook the design specifications when working on an aircraft in which we are going to fly? Probably not, but we do it with our bodies in which we live all the time!

      It appears that the physical functions of the universe adhere strictly to established laws that are immutable and unchangeable. Although human beings may not be able to predict what is going on all the time, it is not random, there is order and we can see it enough to believe it, even in a galactic collision! Chance seems to be non-existent, even the roll of a dice is a mathematically precise maneuver that can be predicted if the mind was powerful enough to compute all the variables. You might have to consider temperature, friction, mass, placement of the dimples, sweat or oil that rubbed off your hand onto the dice, dust in the air, air density, and many other inputs too detailed and vast for any current human to grasp or even compute in a computer designed by a human. However, it is what is, things happen for a reason.

      I say this because it appears that the human body is governed by laws that ultimately could be shown and appears to be governed also by mathematical precision. Although the changes that are going on in the humans we see today are too seemingly random for any human being to perfectly explain, it appears there is still some consistency left for our peanut minds to look at and consider. Again I ask you to consider the major inputs to this formula (pure air, adequate sunlight, abstaining from all toxins, proper rest, proper diet, pure water, adequate exercise, trust in divine power) These are the true remedies, all of which are obliterated in the medical institutions of today that claim to be health care providers…What?

      I don’t want to push what could be a big study, but in the context of this discussion, an interesting read, even for those who don’t believe the Bible is Revelation 18:23 “And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee, and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants (Pharmaceutical companies or anything potentially) were the great men (executives) of the earth, for by they sorceries (Sorceries is translated from the Greek word “Pharmakeia” meaning medication (“pharmacy”), that is, (by extension) magic (literal or figurative): – sorcery, witchcraft.) were all nations deceived (mislead intentionally) and in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.

      Just an interesting quote, hope you got something out of my rant, would like to hear your thoughts on any of it…email me if you like…. kenfortney02 at Geee mail dot com

    • Bob on March 19, 2010

      Wow Ken – you must have missed the line where I said, “Don’t take it all serious…” You ask way too many questions. I vote yes to exclude smokers from being rescued. (Did you know the Prez smokes?)

    • Ken on March 19, 2010

      Hey bud, I don’t ask questions because I think you have answers. I only ask questions to make people think…..

    • Jeff on March 19, 2010

      Some observations:

      I have a problem with Greg’s calculations on the direct costs of obesity based on the erroneous assumption that a person has been obese for all of their 75.2 years of life expectancy. Some people have been obese all their lives, some started being obese in childhood, others in their teens and twenties, but certainly not all have been obese all of their lives. Given that most people start gaining weight in their thirties because of slowing BMR’s (basal metabolic rates) due to natural hormonal changes, you would have to subtract at least 30 years from the 75.2 years of assumed obesehood to get a more realistic true cost of obesity. I am not trying to discredit Greg’s point of obesity’s high costs, just trying to interject some reality on the cost calculations.

      No matter how much you implore people to think long term about losing weight with the latest scientific studies showing the increased cost of their healthcare, most people just won’t be swayed to change their habits. So you have to approach the desired goal of behavior modification with short term incentives that have immediate effect when people do become “obese” as defined by a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 or higher. You have to hit them where it hurts, not physically in the oompa loompas, but in the wallet by implementing an Obese Tax (OT) on all obese people with a 30+ BMI. How you do this could be of considerable debate, but I would start by directly charging them for the extra $1,429.00 per year they cost our nation’s healthcare system according to the CDC’s own figures. This tax would be added to their insurance plan, whether public or private, and/or deducted from their paycheck, as Social Security already does for their future retirement. So this OT could cost an obese person an extra $59.54 per paycheck assuming 24 paychecks per year. With every year that the CDC or whatever designated authority comes out with more recent obese related healthcare costs, then the tax could increase or decrease dependent on the nation’s number of obese people. There would be a “no excuses” clause that wouldn’t allow scammers to cheat the system with claims of thyroid problems, family history, water retention, having big bones, fast food availability, alien abduction, blah blah blah… Everyone would have to get weighed every quarter of every year by the CDC or other designated authority, just like when corporations report to stockholders via the SEC, so that purgers and yo-yo dieters would be kept honest in their eating habits. When your BMI falls below the magical 30, then your OT is prorated for the year as to how long your BMI was 30 or greater. This OT would only concern itself with results and not “trying to lose fat” so that people who fail to get thinner keep paying the OT no matter what. If that doesn’t get an obese person’s attention, I don’t know what else will. Now they have an economic incentive to get healthy soon, rather than when they are too sick to do much about it. If they get fatter, increase their tax on a sliding scale to punish their gluttony!

      There has been a creeping increase in society’s acceptance of obesity that has only served to make being obese more socially acceptable. This is due to the increasing numbers of obese people who have now become the norm rather than the exception. I don’t advocate publicly ridiculing obesity by picking on fat kids or adults by making wisecracks about their weight, but I do advocate charging them for a choice only they can make by deciding what and how much they put in their mouths. Like smoking, their health habits DO have a secondhand effect on the cost of EVERYONE’s healthcare by taxing the system with their obesity that costs more to treat. It will ultimately be their choice if they want to remain obese or finally do something about it that will improve their finances both short and long term. TAX THE FAT!

    • Ken on March 19, 2010

      A perfect example of nothing more than a band aid fix, and complicated one to boot! This would need a new panel of scientists and a huge budget to figure out just how this new system will be implemented and written out. Then hiring many people to do paperwork, and weigh people regularly, and on and on.

      Do we think we can really fix everything with new laws? If you really want to do that, how about making the laws simple. Restrict the obvious things out of the food supply, aspartame, refined sugar, hydrogenated oils, animal fats, baking powder, MSG, etc etc. How about all refined foods? Oh wait, there is too much money in that, so we won’t go there….

      Now what is the cost of Alcohol? Both monetary and in the lives of families? Have I crossed the line? I mean seriously, who here is willing to give up alcohol in the name of the betterment of society and monetary gains of the health care system? Not many people speaking up now…Sad. So what is this debate about? Pointing fingers? Doesn’t it make us feel good when we can point out problems in someone else? It makes us feel better, gives us a little ego boost, ramps up our personal pride.

      It’s easy to look at a sliver in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log that exists in our own.

      The real cost of obesity is not something that can be measured or accurately calculated by anyone. It is not a Dollar $ value, it is something else. Some of the real costs of obesity are maneuverability, self-esteem, energy, happiness and so much more! These costs cannot be corrected adequately by written laws, the underlying issues are very personal issues that require deep personal searching to be sorted out.

      When you run a red light late at night and nobody is around, have you broken a law? Sure, if a policeman saw you do that he would probably pull you over and give you a ticket for being so careless. But did you die or hurt anybody or break anything? No… Simply because you have not broken a LAW OF NATURE. Laws of nature are unchanging, unforgiving, they just exist and require no enforcement in order to be followed. We would do well to begin understanding the true LAWS by which our lives and the world around us is governed rather than coming up with silly laws that need enforcing by a bunch of humans on a payroll. Do I say running a red light is a bad law and should be done away with..NOPE… I didn’t really say that. What I’m saying is this, if you run a red light and nobody is around to get hurt, and you don’t hurt yourself or break anything, you are free. Nothing will happen to you, the red light isn’t going to chase you down and hit you for going through it.

      Now, we come up with a law against running red lights because people are so foolish they try and push everything to the limits, and many times they misjudge greatly! They run the red light and someone else pays the price, maybe even themselves. Does the fact that there is a written law that says you should not run a red light prevent people from running red lights? Nope, people do it anyways, accidentally, and on purpose. If police officers quit enforcing the red light law, would people all of a sudden start running red lights non-stop? Potentially they would initially, but then after a few deaths, and realizing that running a red light isn’t a good idea cause you could die, and a law of nature will spell your fate, many people would also begin to stop running red lights for that reason. It wouldn’t be looking around for a police officer to see if they are watching and then running the light. Most people don’t look for a police officer when deciding to run a red light anyways, they just look for traffic perhaps, and then boot it…. maybe they look for a cop but not always. Lets say that you are lawfully in an intersection and you have the right of way, does the red light law prevent you from getting killed when someone runs the red light and hits you at 100 km’s per hour? Nope, it didn’t save you. It might make the person who killed you feel sorry if they survive and have to pay a huge fine, but does it change their mindset? Is there guilt, or a conscious that exists in people that will make them sorry for killing someone, or do we have to give them a ticket to make them sorry? Why are we so out of touch with the essence of our being that we don’t even think rationally anymore? Are the cops and the law always going to save us? It would be nice to think so, but that’s not the case. I hope your mind is capable of seeing the similarities in these seemingly vastly different issues.

      Do people change by having their arm-twisted? If you hold a gun to your kid’s head and tell them to love you, can they really love you? Does fining someone for drinking and driving make them sorry, or are they only sorry they got caught? Do they suddenly understand the implications of their drinking and driving upon being issued a ticket? What is so different about the obesity epidemic? Oh yes, I’m going to charge you money, now you will learn to not be fat!!! Would someone’s mind be suddenly capable of sorting out all of the misinformation, and personal issues that made them fat in the first place?

      Who puts their hand up and is willing to give their time to an obese person that is openly ready and willing to lose their weight but knows not where to turn to make the process most effective? What if they have tried all of the money hungry weight loss programs? Is that the point at which you are suddenly not willing to come up with seemingly brilliant ideas to fix the problem? Is that the point at which you take your hands off the wheel and say this isn’t my problem?

      Sorry for all the questions for those who are question sensitive, but I ask you this one last thing… Is it my abundance of questions that really agitates you or is it that your lack of answers bugs your ego the most cause you thought you were full of answers?

    • greg on March 19, 2010

      Hi Jeff: I did consider that. The statistic of health care costs being $1400 more per year for an obese person was based on a lifetime average. I estimated $200,000 over a typical life, and then roughly estimated that even if the obesity started at the age of 50, there would still be 25 or so years of paying the premium which would still be greater than the average cost of a rescue.

      Does that make sense? I do know what you are saying. What i should have done is just left it at a yearly cost, then estimated total additional health care costs saved for various ages where fitness started.

    • Jeff on March 21, 2010


      Actually, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as you would believe. We don’t need a new panel of scientists other than the CDC, which is our currently designated authority on diseases and health matters. But if you don’t trust their judgement, how about the AMA and all of the scientifically reviewed peer panels and journals which have shown over decades of research the undeniable link between obesity (30+ BMI) and its related increases in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.? Yes, you would have to hire more people in government to oversee such an Obese Tax Board (OTB), but the people doing the weighing and collecting of data for disemmination to the OTB would be obese people’s own already freely chosen doctors, who would have to be subject to severe penalties if found to be falsifying BMI records, much like when they falsify prescription records. Given that obese people should probably be seeing their doctor every quarter anyway, so that their health and weight reduction efforts can be more closely monitored, I don’t see this kind of oversight as being terribly onerous except to those who aren’t really serious about dealing with their obesity. Imagine how quarterly doctor visits could show obese people that their weight reduction is reducing their cholesterol levels, blood pressure, insulin resistance, etc.! Wouldn’t that get obese people to see that obesity is not just about their weight? Might they see that obesity is not so much about appearance, but killing oneself slowly from within, with the resultant costs of their mostly avoidable diseases borne by the rest of us, JUST LIKE SMOKING?

      If obesity were treated with the same seriousness that took decades to do the same with smoking, we as a society would see dramatic, documented improvements throughout our healthcare system along with their consequent decreases in healthcare cost. Ever since cigarette pack taxes have gone up, smokers’ ranks have gone down, so there is considerable merit to taxing people’s costly and OBVIOUS bad health behavior. Taxes will never eliminate smoking, but they do discourage it by increasing its acquisition cost (price). The same applies to alcohol, which is taxed everywhere, but this has never eliminated alcoholism. No tax will eliminate obesity, but it will dramatically reduce its numbers and cost to society. So why would you insist that any possible solution eliminate every case of obesity?

      I don’t pretend that my idea of the Obese Tax (OT) would solve every person’s obesity, since every case is individual and unique in what may have triggered psychologically based overeating like divorce, loss of a job or loved one, rape, incest, sexual abuse, low self esteem, personal loss, etc.. How one chooses to respond to such trauma can range from overeating (or none), while doing little to no exercise, to training for marathons just as many cancer survivors have done. But we can all agree on the immutable law of nature that when you eat more than you burn, you will gain weight! That is a choice, since no one is holding a gun to a person’s head to overeat. But when that choice results in obesity, which drives up EVERYONE’s healthcare costs, just like smoking did, then that person’s choice is no longer affecting just them but everyone else, almost like secondhand smoke affects non-smokers. Taxing obesity would end the FREE RIDE that it currently enjoys and would increase its cost to those who choose to overeat. No one is prohibited from overeating, just taxed when they become obese as a result of long term overeating. Why is recouping obesity’s increased healthcare costs from the obese through the OT not a fair solution? Why should the non-obese have to pay more than their fair share of these increased costs? Why should non-smokers have to subsidize smokers’ increased healthcare costs? They don’t, to some degree, because smokers pay every time through the cigarette taxes imposed on them when they buy their “coffin nails”. Why should obesity be treated any differently than smoking? Keep in mind that smokers have nicotine, one of the most powerfully addictive chemicals, as their excuse for smoking. Cigarette companies even admitted in congressional hearings that they purposefully manipulated nicotine levels in their cigarettes to addict their customers. Have obese people come up with any “smoking guns” about the food companies trying to addict them to overeat? I don’t think so, since the non-obese generally eat the same foods, just not in the same quantity, and they would be similarly affected.

      Laws/taxes enacted by society will never solve every problem encountered by people, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. They can serve as a roadmap of rules which guide people’s CHOICES and CONSEQUENCES, both on themselves and others affected by those choices. You raise a good point about drunken drivers being more sorry about being caught than what damages they have wrought on others. But they are usually cognitively impaired from excessive alcohol consumption. The obese can make no such claim. Do fines (or taxes) change drunken driving behavior? Yes, eventually they do in most cases, given enough infractions over time, plus elimination of driving privileges. Imagine if the OT eventually eliminated driving rights after 3 years of 30+ BMI, so that obese people HAD to use walking or human powered vehicles to get anywhere. That condition alone would guarantee they got plenty of exercise and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. 😉

      While laudable, laws restricting particular food chemicals humans choose to ingest (aspartame, MSG, hydrogenated oils, etc.) cause considerable consternation about Big Brotherism and too much government involvement in the food choices people make in their lives. Then there is the never-ending debate from the well-funded lobbyists of the food chemical manufacturers that will correctly debate how anyone can prove their particular food chemical DEFINITIVELY increases mortality or affects health. It would take decades for the thousands of studies on the thousands of food chemical combinations, funded by whom(?), to prove that food chemical restrictions improve health! Why not tax the end result, which is obesity, that is an OBSERVABLE, PROVABLE condition? Don’t get sidelined by the latest food scare/paranoia that claims adverse effects of a certain food chemical given to lab rats in quantitities HUNDREDS of times greater than any human/animal will ever consume in a lifetime. Until you conduct such tests over years with humans in concentration camps, you can’t prove anything!

      Who can help the obese person that is ready to lose weight but needs guidance? I would like to and have tried, but I have never been obese. So how is my advice going to convince the obese that I know what they are going through? What credibility do I have that I know how to lose weight, other than 5 pounds? There are thousands of successful dieters out there who have been obese and lost tens to hundreds of pounds. These are the people who can show the obese how to diet, exercise and deal with hunger in a constructive way. There are no quick and physically easy solutions since losing weight usually takes longer than gaining it. Since stored energy (fat) cannot be destroyed, only converted, you must EXERCISE to burn it off and EAT LESS. That is the truly simple calculus of it. But don’t believe me, ask those who have had to apply this principle to their weight loss programs if I am being untruthful. Then JUST DO IT like the Nike ads say.

    • greg on March 21, 2010

      As much as we like to think ‘we’ are immune to the effects of advertising – it works. Advertising was very successful in persuading people to quite smoking in the 70’s and 80’s. I think a Ad campaign aimed toward the BENEFITS of exercise and good nutrition would work wonders. My bet is that the TV show “Biggest Loser” has had a positive effect on obesity.

    • Ken on March 21, 2010

      Jeff n’ Bob

      We have different ideas on solutions no doubt. I would say that more people would agree with something along the lines of what you say Jeff and not my stuff. I tend to have a different perspective on things and many times I do stand alone, which is cool, and the masses aren’t going to start seeing things my way, I get that….. I just have to go with what I am personally whole heartedly convinced is true at any given time… I think it’s the same for us all.

      I think we all need to understand this. The massive troubles currently being undergone by society in this day and age will not likely be solved by something that the masses will be willing to accept. It will seem to be counterintuitive to our current methods of correction that we hold onto so dear. In a general sense, people don’t like to think about things too much and I guess that’s the way it’s going to be overall. We’re opposed to change. Each of us has an internal paradigm of what we deem reality to be, and new information that comes along that doesn’t fit well into our current paradigm, we have a tendency to resist heavily, sometimes forcefully and carelessly. I just think that is something we all need to be very careful of. Making sure we think things through and remain open to change if needed. Having everyone agree with us isn’t always the right thing; maybe it’s just going to get us where everyone else is going. Personally I don’t want to settle for that, I want to work past it if I can.

      I’m not always this Down and Serious, I can laugh, have a good time…No really! It happens Trust me! 🙂

      Cheers Guys…..!

    • Jeff on March 21, 2010

      I believe that the Biggest Loser is one of the best “reality” shows out there. It shows people in very difficult situations (extremely obese) transforming their bodies and lives in ways no amount of drugs could ever do. Through careful nutrition, serious exercise and nurturing teamwork, the contestants manage to help each other push through their “battle with the bulk”. I agree with Greg that this show is a great showcase for advertising the benefits of losing weight. I would add a doctor’s scorecard before and after the weight losses showing the various INTERNAL changes that have occurred so that the EXTERNAL changes don’t continue to be the greatest focus of the show. Imagine how impressive graphs or bar charts on screen would be that showed blood and cardiovascular metrics such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, insulin response, body fat percentage, EKG’s and stress tests. Maybe then losing weight would be more about health and less about appearance.

      I also agree with Ken that most of us resist change since we can get damn comfortable doing the same old routine. But Einstein sagely observed that repeating the same actions while expecting different results was the definition of insanity. I have certainly been guilty of the same routine(s) that got me stuck in various ruts throughout my life. I don’t claim to have most or even the best answers, just thoughts about what is possible. I try to debate about ideas with pros and cons that work toward possible and fair solutions even if they may not make everyone happy. Life’s inertia can be hard to change, but when faced with imminent danger, many of us respond by making the necessary changes before it is too late, as long as we keep our minds open to new information and ideas. :0

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