Everyone talks about a “right” to healthcare. No one I know discusses from whence this right derives, but if we assume there is something close to a “right” to anything (fish have no right to fly, nor birds to live underwater) there must also be, naturally, responsibilities.

I’ll be blunt: Americans are, by and large, large. Nearly 70% have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25. Normal is less than 25. Twenty-five to 35 is considered overweight and over 35 obese. In the 1960s, the average weight of an adult male was 150 pounds. Today it is 200. The rate of obesity has skyrocketed among children and teens…and the Western diet, replete with refined carbohydrates, sugar, saturated fat, antibiotics and hormones, has spread its poisonous tentacles around the world.

Medical science is chock-full of studies linking overweight and obesity to a myriad of health problems: high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, auto-immune disease, cancer…the list goes on. The number of prescription medicines that the average American takes is growing as well, reflecting the trend in increasing weight. There is small wonder for this correlation. Human physiology was not designed to withstand the highly caloric, sedentary lifestyle that is common today.

And yet, people cry out for relief of their self-induced maladies. Why is this? For starters, it is easy to lose sight of what constitutes good health and nutrition habits if one is constantly bombarded by a “foodie” tilted media. At no time in history have so many calories been so cheap. One can go to any number of fast food “restaurants” and get 3,000 calories for less than three dollars. As well, it takes effort to eat intelligently and exercise.

Let’s be honest…most people left to their own preferences would rather sit on the couch and each potato chips than eat and act as they know they should. The proof? Just look around you. Look at the covers of the magazines in the checkout aisle of the supermarket. They’re all about dieting and losing weight. You can’t watch TV for more than 10 minutes without seeing an ad for prescription medicines, diet plans, appetite suppressants and junk food. Our society is saturated with both the cause and the supposed cures for the problem. And still, the problem, like the American Waistline, continues to grow.

Some people might think that what I’m saying here is politically incorrect. As a physician who daily sees people wreck their health I say, “Get over it. Too bad.” It’s time to take off the gloves.

With the federal budget allocated to healthcare now topping a trillion dollars per year, it’s time to be blunt. If you, the American patient, want to rid yourself and the nation of the health and financial suffering inherent in the present state of affairs, take some simple advice: calories consumed must be less than calories expended. Ditch the refined sugar. Work out. Take responsibility.

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