How can America end its obesity epidemic?

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It's frequently cited in the media: America is a fatter country than ever. Levels of diabetes and other weight-related conditions are on the rise across all groups, and a larger percentage of Americans are classified as obese. Diet and exercise would seem to be obvious solutions, yet the national weight problem isn't getting any better. How can the country slim down on a nationwide level? What is the best way for society to alleviate one of its leading health problems?

Please limit your responses to 80 words or less. The best entries reflecting the balance of opinions expressed will be published on throughout the week.

Some of your responses so far:

Another large contributor is our dependence on the automobile. Because there are few sidewalks and little or no public transportation in most cities, people walk only from their house to their car, their car to the office elevator, etc. More exercise needs to be a part of our entire lifestyle, not just an hour at the gym three times a week.
Susan Marshall
North Carolina

Americans need to stop blaming the government or capitalism for what is essentially the individual's problem of laziness and/or a lack of self-control. Contrary to some views expressed here, the poor and uneducated do know what it takes to lose weight. America will end its so-called obesity epidemic if and only if obese people make a personal decision to eat smaller portions, eat healthy foods and exercise. Our government should not be in the business of attempting to control my behavior by imposing a tax on fast food or mandating the portion size I can be served in a restaurant.
Heather Peoples
Atlanta, Georgia

Society shouldn't do a thing. Its not the government's job to help people eat correctly. We don't need programs or taxes or education. If the government steps in and regulates my Big Mac, I'm going to move to China where they don't try to fool you into thinking you're free.
Jonathan Beerhalter
Chicago, Illinois

In my view the American obesity epidemic is not universal. The poor and the uneducated are the predisposed targets and ultimate victims of greedy corporations who exploit their weak predicament in the name of capitalism. Government should regulate the activities of these corporate predators in order to harmonize nutritional choice irrespective of economic status. Only then will the responsibility rest with the individual.
Yervant Aredjian
Montreal, Canada

I think that society and individuals need to both support each other in this quest. Taxing high-fat foods is a good idea. More education on the benefits of a healthy diet. Also I think there is a spiritual and psychological component to overeating. We need to learn to deal with anxiety, stress and boredom in ways more constructive than turning to food.
Raisy Wiesel
Montreal, Canada

Let's not overlook the ecomonic issue. Good quality, highly nutritious food is available to those who can afford it. The less expensive, more convenient (and high-fat) fast-food options are the default choice for those who can't. Example: A 99-cent Whopper special can feed five children for $5. And it's quick. A carefully prepared low-fat meal, complete with fresh vegetables and quality protein, for the same five children could cost $25.
Ann Yates

The way to reduce obesity is this: Mandatory running period for the last hour of every school day. Kindergarten all the way through to the senior year of college. You don't run? You stay stuck in ninth grade. Simple. The government wants tough soldiers, and the media craves superstar athletes and hot bodies, correct? Reform physical education class. Start training them early.
Suzanne Stafford
Greensboro, N.C.

Taxes will only hurt the poor who have to eat this stuff. Government action will only inpede our ideals of capitalism. Victimization can only help us transfer the blame elsewhere, and that is excessively wrong. We must realize that it's our own fault. [Genetically engineered] foods and chemicals along with the messes of sugars are harmful. Because we refuse to pay the right amount of taxes and cut what the government was getting, we only hurt education institutions. That's where the solution starts.
Allen Landon
New Zealand

I generally agree with most of the views in this post: Sound health advice and greater control of what kids eat at schools is needed. But above all, I couldn't agree more with Andre Brassard: DO reduce portions in restaurants. Obscenely large is probably an understatement. This is one of the things that struck me the most as a European tourist in the States. And those bucketfuls of popcorn at cinemas, of ice cream at supermakets, and so on...
Fernando Corts

It's quite simple: Place a tax on all foods with high fat concentrations. Advertise on TV and through other forms of media the dangers of unhealthy foods. Promote fitness as well. Since good eating habits start at a young age, require that the curriculum in schools cover nutrition and have kids be tested on it. Market healthy foods to kids instead of junk foods. Finally, give tax benefits to companies that have gyms or that give gym memberships to employees.
Ben Hoult
Hyattsville, Md.

The government should step in and impose some restrictions on portions served at restaurants. Currently, portions are obscenely large. Who wouldn't get fat from eating [them]?
Andre Brassard
Framingham, Mass.

Simple: [Society] can't. Individuals can certainly change their lives. There are an abundance of drastically different ways to eat and live healthier. But so long as individuals refuse to change, or even recognize a problem, this thing will continue. Think of the smoking epidemic. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that smoking negatively affects your health. And what has been done, on a national scale? Nothing. Because both problems are ONLY solved by individuals, not organizations.
Gregory P. Freeman
Phoenix, Ariz.

This is only one aspect, but important: As a nation, we're fattening the children by starving the schools. People buy into the pro-tax-cut mentality, and then schools — and children — pay the price. Many schools have cut physical education classes and after-school sports, and some have even eliminated recess. Cash-strapped school districts make deals to let soda and candy machines and fast food into the schools in return for money that we weren't willing to pay in taxes.
Peggy Datz

The way to reduce obesity is to stop blaming our genes and seeing ourselves as the victims. The way to health is through eating good food, getting off your ass and doing some exercise. Simple. We all end up with what we deserve regarding our weight. In this new world of choice without responsibility it is our own fault if we are overweight.
Pat McCarthy

Last week's question: Should gay marriage be legalized?