‘Simple’ plan for weight loss not as easy as it may seem

Bill Ferguson

Those of us who are concerned about our weight got some great news from the federal government this week. Apparently, the folks at the Department of Health and Human Services have looked into the problem of obesity and have (much to our collective relief) discovered a simple solution.

Department Secretary Tommy Thompson broke the good news to a grateful nation this week:

“You lower your calorie intake, you lower your fats, your carbs. You eat more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and you exercise. That’s as simple as it can be. It is not too hard.”

Wow, thanks, Tommy! That does sound easy. If only we’d known it was this simple, we’d all have been enjoying our ideal body weight years ago. It’s nice to know that Don Rumsfeld isn’t the only smart-as-a-whip, gifted orator that the president has in his Cabinet.

Let’s look at some of the details of this laughably simple-to-follow plan a little more closely.

The new federal dietary guidelines recommend that you eat lots of fruits and vegetables (four cups a day) and at least three cups a day of low-fat or fat-free milk products. You should also get three one-ounce servings of whole grain products every day. Food that is high in sugar and saturated fat (also known as food that tastes good) should be limited to a very small portion of your daily diet.

Simple, right? Oh yeah, one more thing. You should exercise every day for 30 to 90 minutes. Not three times a week, mind you, but every single day. I’m sure that comes as welcome news for many of us, as we’ve been wondering what we should do with all that spare time we have to kill every day.

Who lives like this? No one that I know could pull this off. Mr. Thompson, you might as well tell us to sprout wings and fly. We aren’t that disciplined, and we never will be.

The only way to get Americans to follow a strict health regimen like this would be to force it on them. You’d have to strictly regulate what food is sold in stores and what food restaurants are allowed to serve. You’d also have to send an armed representative from Health and Human Services into the home of every American family, every day, and order them off the couch and onto the treadmill.

People tend to be disciplined only when circumstances force them to be, and the circumstances of an unhealthy lifestyle are just too slow-developing to impact our everyday actions.

When your average American is driving home after a long day at the office, do you think he’s more likely to choose going through the drive-thru at McDonald’s for a delicious Big Mac, or stopping at the grocery store and carefully picking out an array of healthy produce that he will have to then go home and prepare? And after dinner, do you think he’s going to choose to hit the StairMaster for an hour and a half or sit down on his couch and watch the latest episode of “CSI’’?

Let’s get real here. Most of us aren’t going to eat like Buddhist monks and work out like Olympic athletes in training. We need more manageable, reality-based goals if we’re going to take anything Mr. Thompson and his friends at HHS say seriously.

Bill Ferguson is a columnist for the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph. His column was made available through KRTcampus.