OFF THE GRID

How Do You Say 'Fat' in French?

Jul 29, 09 | 11:12 AM   byKate Seamons
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I'm boning up on my French, because a slew of just-released polls and studies make one thing clear: If I want to live longer I'll have to move to Paris.

Call it quits on your marriage, and you're 20% more likely to be saddled with chronic health problems. And since nearly 30% of Americans (poll No. 1) say the recession has stressed/strained/killed their marriage—the highest of any country polled—emigration (complete with a ready supply of Bordeaux) looks more and more synonymous with longevity.

But even if the demise of our marriages doesn't kill us—news flash—our fat just might. The price tag for obesity-related costs has ballooned to 10% of health care spending in the US (study No. 2), which shouldn't come as a major shock, since 1 in 3 of us are now obese. Of course only about 12% of France citizens are unchic enough to be supersized. Obviously I should have what the French are having.

Study No. 3 tells us that children who eat plenty of dairy products have lower mortality rates. But since Americans will interpret this as a call to eat more cheese fries, ice cream, and buttered popcorn, slim chance that that advantage won't be offset by the rise in diabetes. Meanwhile the French are nibbling brie with their daily dose of resveratrol. Call them surrender monkeys all you want, but in the longevity wars, they've got us beat—9th to our 50th.

Even if we don't die—stressed and single or fat and buttered up—we're going to have to work forever, forking over the big bucks for health care that gets ever more expensive as our waistlines expand: Each obese person costs the government or insurers $1,429 a year more than a person of normal weight. Which is why PC politicians applauding a size 18 nominee for surgeon general as a "confident, big-bodied and big-spirited" woman are starting to sound bothersome. That's not to say Regina Benjamin shouldn't get the job. But protecting peoples' feelings needs to be secondary to protecting their lives.

In the LA Times yesterday, Melissa Healy floated the idea that yep, it may be time for tough love—in the form of the much-debated tax on "sinful-food" items. She cites a recent poll that has 53% of Americans favoring a tax on sugary beverages to help pay for health care reform—and of those who opposed, 63% changed their mind if doing so "would help tackle the problems that stem from being overweight."

We're going to end up paying more either way, so bring on the $4 liters of Coca-Cola. Let's hope they push half the people to drink tap water and pay for the dogged sugar addiction of the other half. Otherwise, point me in the direction of the nearest currency exchange. I need some euros.
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