August 16, 2007

Food for Thought: Will Diet For Money

I found this article from BBC News to be rather interesting.

The mayor of Varallo Sesia -- a small town in Northern Italy -- is offering his overweight citizens (they need a doctor's note identifying them as such) $70 if they lose six and a half pounds in one month.

Those who can keep the weight off for an additional five months will receive $140.

The purpose behind this? Motivation, the mayor says.

He even has the Italian Health Minister's support, commending him for starting an initiative other towns should follow.

I'm not so sure.

Motivation is key, no doubt, but it needs to be self-produced.

An overweight person can read every magazine article under the sun about weight control, watch endless reruns of The Biggest Loser and be told by countless doctors that their weight puts them at risk for a myriad of health complications, but until they are ready to manage their weight, they'll very likely go on two or three-week-long diets that are quickly abandoned.

I'm glad the mayor wants to do something about his overweight residents (he himself is one, and is dieting, although not expecting to pick up any cash prizes for doing so), but why not attempt to offer some nutrition education in schools, or subsidize fruits and vegetables? Even better -- how about subsidizing visits to nutritionists?

Whenever I hear of bets or contests concerning weight loss, I fear people will do anything to "win", whether it's consuming very few calories, eliminating necessary food groups, or even developing binging-purging behaviors.

I also don't like having a specific number attached to this goal. What if someone loses five and a half pounds? Should this effort not be recognized?

Making any sort of concerted effort towards a healthier lifestyle should be commended, and it should be taken into account that some people might take it off slowly. After all, shedding three and a half pounds a month for six months adds up to twenty-one pounds -- no small feat!

I see this as a case of good intentions with less than favorable execution.

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