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Monday, April 21, 2014
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Published: 1/13/2005

Words alone won't make us cut down on calories

Maybe the federal government is (finances notwithstanding) shrewder than we think.

Here it is the middle of January - that time of year when everyone's new-year resolve to eat better and move their bods more is likely to begin crumbling like streusel - and the feds have taken it upon themselves to kindly remind us that we need to eat better and move our bods more.

Whodathunk?

This pep talk comes to us by way of new recommendations released yesterday by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

At a news conference, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson cheered on the nation.

"The guidelines offer Americans achievable goals for controlling weight," he said. "Let's start today."

Well, OK, sir.

Consider it done.

(Cripes, if I'd known it was that easy, I would have started long ago.)

Yesterday's news conference got widespread media attention, which I think is rather remarkable, considering that all the revised guidelines essentially tell us is:

Hey, you! Yeah, you on the couch! Eat less and move more!

Actually, the government tweaks these guidelines every five years.

And, as when we compare anything current with the way it was back in the day, it's only grown more complicated over time.

Take the recommendation about sugar consumption.

MSNBC's Web site pointed out that yesterday's newly released recommendation about sugar intake required 27 words. And what does it say?

Essentially, it refers people to highly detailed food charts printed elsewhere in the guidelines.

In 1980, meanwhile, these words alone sufficed:

"Avoid too much sugar."

In fact, the number of recommendations has grown too. When first published by the feds in 1980, there was a grand total of seven recommendations.

This year?

Forty-one.

But for all the tweaking done to put out this year's latest guidelines, the main points can be distilled to two: reduce calories and increase exercise.

Hey, you! Yeah, you on the couch! Eat less and move more!

Since two-thirds of us are at least overweight (and sometimes outright obese) and since more than half of us don't exercise enough, I think we ought to thank our government.

Considering how busy it is these days, it's a thoughtful gesture.

But the truth is - and you realize it in your little pre-cardiac-disease heart - most of us already know full well what to do. It's not so much education we need.

Who doesn't know a salad with grilled chicken beats a bacon double cheeseburger for lunch? And that an hour's walk is a better use of 60 minutes than anything on TV?

No, it is motivation that we need.

How can we squeeze "personal-training caseworkers" into the health and human services budget?

Hey, you! Yeah, you on the couch! Eat less and move more!



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