Flickr » Claude Estèbe » different walk of lifeShould the government have a say in how much you weigh, or what your maximum BMI is, or how large your waistline is allowed to be? How many personal freedoms would you be willing to give up in order to have a chance to lead a healthier life, reduce the risk of diabetes and other degenerative diseases related to weight loss and to reduce the strain on the nation’s health care system?

For the Japanese, this is not a rhetorical question. At their annual checkups, Japanese men must have a waistline less than 33.5 inches around, and women must have a waistline of no more than 35.4 inches around. If the fail to meet those guidelines, then they need to have a second physical 3 months later at which time they are forced into taking a class on dieting and after six months may need to take further education on how to lose weight. Companies with overweight employees may face additional taxes if they can not maintain a healthier balance.

As a general rule, the Japanese are much better about portion control than Americans are and there are far fewer overweight people in their culture than there are in the USA. I think that the only reason that this may affect a significant portion of their society might be because the guidelines are so strict. The guidelines were determined by the recommendations of the International Diabetes Association. For Americans, they recommend that men have no larger than 40 inch waistlines. The National Center for Health Statistics claims that the Average American man has a 39 inch waistline.

So how would you react if the United States instituted a similar law? I have no doubt that there would be an outcry, but would the effort be worth it? Or would it cause more problems than it would solve due to over-prescribing medications and hurting people’s feelings?

I don’t personally believe that a similar law could be very successful in the United States. People would rebel against it, and corporations would not want to take part in something that might subtract from their bottom line.

If something similar were to be implemented, I think that it would be better done at the grade school level. If a child were overweight or obese, it would make more sense to educate the child and their parents at an early stage so that they could have the opportunity to lead life at a healthy weight.

Targeting children has its own problems, though. In our age of political correctness, school systems aren’t allowed to make children feel bad about themselves. Any child that did have to go through dieting education would be subject to ridicule. And because children don’t work, their employers are not conveniently taxable to pay for the program.

What are your thoughts?

(More Info: New York Times – Photo Credit: Claude Estèbe)