Just recently the CDC release a report saying that childhood obesity rates were dropping in 18 states across the nation. This is the first time that this has happened after decades of increases. Many experts are saying that the numbers are encouraging but much more still needs to be done.
They have attributed three big reasons for the decreases; higher rates of breast feeding, initiatives like the Let's Move! campaign launched by Michelle Obama in 2010, and the WIC program aligning their food guidelines to more current thinking than the past.
I could get somewhat political here, but these things are relatively small compared to other changes that could and should be made like changing the way farm subsidies are handed out and changing the way advertisers are allowed to hawk their products to children.
This article, however, is not about children or the bullshit that goes on in Washington. This is about the everyday American that wakes up in the morning and makes a conscious choice to live healthier or to be one with the waddling, mouth-breathing masses. This about having pride in the only body you will ever inhabit. This is about getting rid of the excuses like "The advertising companies have brainwashed me!" or "I don't have time to exercise" or "Losing weight is impossible, I was meant to be fat".
This is about taking full responsibility for your current physical state, but in a good way. And with a little help from your local, friendly government.
What I'm proposing is a physical test that is administered to every single person in the United States. If you pass you get nothing (until later). If you fail you will then have $1,000 dollars added to your tax bill. Simple as that. The test is designed so that an average American who does little more than walking and maybe a few push ups here and there and doesn't eat fast food 6 times per week could walk in off the street, pass the test, and go about their lives until next year's test. With that said, let's get to the events.
The Mile Test
To pass The Mile you must be able to move yourself 1 mile within 20 minutes. This is an average of 3 mph. This is little more than a stroll down the street.
The Drag Test
To pass The Drag you must push, pull, or drag a sled that weighs as much as you do 100 yards. There is a five minute time limit. This is much easier than it may sound. Trust me.
The Upper Body Power Test
Men: 10 consecutive push ups OR 1 dead hang chin up
Women: 5 consecutive modified push ups OR 1 regular push up.
On all push ups your torso must drop below your elbows.
Why These Tests?
I picked these tests because they are simple, easily administered, and easy to pass...for most people. The one's that don't are the ones that are the most in need of help with their health. Failing the test is not meant to ostracize people and shame them. It is meant to be a wake up call that they are putting their health in danger. It's meant to be the "light bulb moment" that they need to take action. No more empty proclamations that they are going to get back into shape. With the programs like the ones held up by researchers that may be stemming the tide on childhood obesity people have plenty of carrots in front of them. Literally and figuratively. They have tons of access to education on healthful eating and exercise and the benefits thereof. But with this test they have that $1,000 whip-crack to answer to if they don't take advantage of it.
I'm going back and forth on the lowest age. Part of me thinks 18 so that everyone is an adult and responsible for their own pass or fail. But the other part of me thinks it should be 16. This gives parents an extra incentive to not let their kids become obese in the first place. But I could see a lot of shitty 16 year-old kids failing the test on purpose just to spite their parents. I'm open to debate on this.
The maximum age for compulsory completion will be 50. After that you are off the hook. But if you want to keep taking the test for every year after 50 that you pass you will get $500 deducted from your tax bill. This is your incentive to stay healthy as you age. And if you don't fail any of the tests that you have to take you're going to come out ahead on the whole thing. Pretty sweet deal to me.
There would be very few. And these are more towards diseases like cancer that leave you physically incapacitated. This test is going to be administered to every man, woman, and child that are physically able to operate in society. If you have a physical handicap modifications will be made but you will still be required to take some, all, or some variation of the test. If you want to complain about physical handicaps I would invite you to watch the Paralympics and /or the Special Olympics and then come back to me. I empathize with people that have physical handicaps and have trained people with them. But like I said, this is about taking responsibility for yourself. Things happen but life goes on. Saying, "Poor me poor me poor me" is not a good way to go about it. No one has a perfect body, but it does no one any good constantly lamenting that fact.
The Libertarian Exemption
There is one possible exemption, and that is for hard line libertarians. If you're unfamiliar with them they are all about personal liberties and freedoms. If they want to ruin themselves with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and shitty food it should be their inalienable right to do so. Fine. If you are libertarian feel free to opt out and never have to take the test or pay the $1,000 tax. That is your choice.
But while you're at it I'm going to make you go all in.
I feel it is my inalienable right to not have to bear the consequences of your poor decisions with increases in medical costs and insurance premiums. That is why if you opt out of the test you also opt out of ever being covered under any kind of medical insurance. Paying full price for medical treatment is capitalism in its purest form. Simple as that. You make the choice, you live with the consequences.
I think it would be unfair to institute this test with no forewarning of whether or not you could pass. That's why the first year will be everyone's one "Get Out of Jail Free Card." No taxes will be levied for a failed test. If you fail you now know what you need to work on.
Implementing a test to 330 million people would take immense man power. If you own a business it's a rule that your biggest expense is payroll. That's why I've built in free labor. All fitness professionals would be required to administer the tests to the residents of their areas. So I would be required to administer a certain number of tests for free at no extra cost to the tax payer. But why wouldn't I want to? It would be my civic duty to convince the people who didn't pass the test that they should hire me to help them pass the test! Sounds like a win-win to me. The biggest expense would then be for a program to collect data but that is way beyond my skill set.
Bringing It Home
Do I actually think anything like this would happen? Probably not. In my mind there are way too many people who are getting rich off of people getting and staying fat. This solution is too simple, would probably work too well and doesn't make any money. Big Agra and Big Pharma are too entrenched in the decision maker's pockets to see any real change. Big ships don't steer quickly. Better to keep hawking diet pills and foods that are made with bullshit and lies, drugs to combat the side effects of being obese, surgeries, and idiotic devices and advice that don't do any good.
Is this solution perfect? Hell no. Testing that many people would be a logistical nightmare. Testing a randomly selected 10% of the population, however would be much more doable.
And a lot more needs to be done to change WHAT we eat instead of just how much. I'll say it to the day that I die that quality of food is 10x more important than how much. Changing that is much more complex than a having to pass an hour of gym class once per year.
The point is that what we are doing now isn't working. Something needs to change. Actually, a lot needs to change.
Or we could have mandatory military service like other countries.