Home Economics and Gym Class

home economicsOver one in three people in the United States is considered obese. The price of that obesity is beyond measurement in dollars and human suffering. These are undeniable facts, but what solutions are available in a free nation where we cannot, and should not, control what people choose to eat and drink? One answer lies in education. Home Economics. Gym Class.

These are places we can teach young people to prepare healthy foods at a reasonable cost and learn to love exercise. These are things a free nation can do. The popularity of cooking shows is undeniable and the joy in preparing a meal for the people you love is palpable. Athletic achievement is a feeling of delight that I find difficult to express with the written word.

There are so many wonderful things about exercising and cooking that it’s astonishing we’ve managed to drift away from such pleasures. I understand people are busy today. I get that we have easy access to food prepared for us. I do not deny the reason we are so obese is related to the abundance of food and our sedentary society.

One thing I’m sure about is we can’t force people to stop eating and drinking fatty foods. We cannot regulate exercise. When I say can’t, what I really mean is we must not. In a totalitarian state, we can restrict the size of drink. This works. You might laugh when the state attempts to restrict a drink size, you scoff and say people will just purchase two drinks. They sometimes do but they sometimes don’t. Restricting the size of a drink works. Raising taxes on cigarettes works. All the studies indicate the state can effectively, but not completely, modify the behavior of the people. Yet, this is a path we must not follow.

Food is abundant. Cheap food with a high fat content is everywhere. People drive everywhere instead of walking. Most jobs require people stay seated for the entirety of their work day. Kids can find endless entertainment in front of their computer. They can socialize with all their friends without leaving the comfort of their favorite chair. All these things are true, all these things contribute to the problem of obesity. All of these things are not going to change.

Obesity effects all our lives. People are suffering health problems in increasing numbers and that has essentially put our entire healthcare industry on the brink of failure. People are unable to do their jobs which puts an unnecessary burden on the able-bodied. We can’t find enough people to serve in the military. We must sit next to obese people on planes, buses, in cars, on benches. We share our lives with them in many undeniable ways even if we are not obese ourselves. It is in my interest for this nation to overcome the problem, but in a way that does not destroy our freedom.

The answers are not easy. Good solutions are rarely simple. But, it seems a good idea to spend some time teaching kids the wonder of cooking, eating healthy foods, and exercising. There is so much value in these things. We prepare children for adult life in school and we used to consider cooking and exercising part of that education.

I know many children don’t want to take gym class. I watched with pity as friends of mine stood against the gym wall not only feeling the humiliation of being picked last but also dreading the moment when they were asked to perform in the field. I was certainly not interested in cooking when I was forced to take said course while in school.

I know our school districts are strapped for funds and I know there is no easy way to make all this happen. Still, it seems to me there is a clear course of action we can take. We can enforce recess starting at an early age. Go out, play. No phone. We can teach cooking starting in kindergarten and make it a mandatory course through high school.

Certainly, we cannot force people to eat less or exercise more. Perhaps by giving them a little shove when they are young, we can change our nation. It’s worth a try.

Tom Liberman

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