Fat Tax

It’s finally summer in Portland!! It’s currently 76 degrees and sunny. It’s so warm out today that when I walked across the Hawthorne Bridge to work this morning I didn’t need my jacket at all. Yay for summer!

During my lunch break I went for a walk up to PGE Park.

I walked fairly slowly to make sure my hip didn’t start to hurt. And actually, moving felt really great. I no longer felt stiff or tight. When I got back from my 40 or so minute walk, I ate my leftovers for lunch: quinoa and half the salmon from last night’s dinner. Delicious!


Fat Tax

I just read a fantastic article on Heavy Incentives to Lose Weight. Check out this staggering fact: “Now the famous 7-Eleven Double Big Gulp equals 64 ounces of soda and 600 calories. A regular fast-food burger that used to be 2.8 ounces and 202 calories by 2004 was 4.3 ounces and had 310 calories.” 600 calories for a soda?! That’s almost half of my daily caloric intake!

The article is about Tufts having financial incentives to lose weight. “The 12-week competition, through June 17, offers $500 to the employee who loses the most weight, $1,000 to the biggest team loser; $300 to the second-place winner, $600 for the second-place team; $200 for third-place employee and $400 for the team.”

Would you participate in something like this? Would it motivate you to lose weight? And most importantly, why would money be your incentive to lose weight and get healthy?

And on the flip side– should people be TAXED or penalized for gaining weight? There are new rumors about “fat taxes” on things like candy and soda, fast food, etc. It’s also called the “Twinkie Tax” or the “Sin Tax.”

Someone I used to know, who was a Canadian, used to complain all the time about how the “fat people” of Canada were sucking up all the resources and that they should be taxed for being fat. I kept my mouth shut because I could see both sides of the argument and I also didn’t want to engage in a debate with him. I’m not Canadian and don’t participate in Socialized Medicine so I don’t feel like I could weigh-in (so to speak) on the subject. But how would you feel if your medical costs and co-pays were more expensive because  you were obese? Or more expensive because you had to pay for OTHER people’s obesity?

Another article claims the cost of Obesity is growing:  “A recent article in Health Affairs estimated its annual cost to be $147 billion and growing. That translates into $1,250 per household, mostly in taxes and insurance premiums.” Ouch! That’s expensive. Is it fair for healthy households to be charged more in insurance premiums to make up for obese households that are over-using the resources?

How do we solve this health epidemic WITHOUT discriminating against fat people? As a former fatty, I remember the harsh reality of discrimination. People judged me by my weight and not my abilities or personality.  Finally, where do we draw the line with allowing the government to tell us what we can and can’t eat?

Question: How many of my readers have a gym membership they pay but don’t use on a frequent basis? If paying money to “become thin” (ie gym memberships) doesn’t motivate us, how would being paid to lose weight be any different?

QUESTION: Where do you weigh-in on this subject?


22 responses to “Fat Tax

  1. Hmm interesting debate! I do find it amazing that in Australia they have placed hefty taxes on alcohol and cigarettes – but junk food remains so cheap…..I would have thought cutting taxes on fresh produce, and increasing them on junk foods would be a start?!

  2. The Boyfriend

    As you know, I love this topic.

    The answer is simple. You cannot just blindly tax things like soda as soda isn’t the problem here. People that make poor decisions are the problem and those decisions cannot be summed up under the umbrella of “soda drinker”.

    Personally, I support a tax for those that stress the health care system more. This may include smokers and those that are obese but I don’t think that hereditary conditions should be included. In addition to those that are likely to be at a higher risk for what I’ll refer to as “lifestyle choices”, I think there should be a basic health assessment test that includes a questionnaire as well as physical assessments.

    • Why isn’t soda the problem? I used to drink like 3 or 4 regular sodas a day. That contributed to my weight gain. I now drink NO soda or sparkling water because it’s a healthier option and I don’t have the fake sugar.

      And how do you distinguish between “hereditary conditions” in this assessment? My genetics tell me that gaining weight is VERY EASY for me. I will always struggle with it. I must exercise and eat healthy and limit sweets and alcohol because of those genetics. But I’m now healthy and fairly “thin”–do I get taxed if I gain 20 pounds?

      • The Boyfriend

        Because people make the decision to drink, or abuse, soda.

        Look at it like this. Why don’t we tax chocolate? Ice cream? All fast foods? Heck, why don’t we tax everything in any restaurant?

        It’s not the food that’s to blame. It’s the choices that people make. I should be able to eat/drink whatever I want as long as I’m deemed healthy (or not a heavy user/burden) by the health care system.

      • I agree with you 100% that it’s the choices people make.

    • The Boyfriend

      Ok, good. And while taxing soda might be a solution, it doesn’t address the real problem.

      If you make health care more expensive for those that abuse it the most due to poor lifestyle choices, you’ll see that people will make better decisions and the problem will correct itself.

      • But there are people that abuse the system who may or may not be “healthy.” They may be healthy but have mental issues or be hypochondriacs, or have some weird disease or they abuse drugs but are “skinny”. Do we tax people with genetic disorders like Parkinson’s because they suck the system resources? I guess I don’t see how Bureaucrats will be able to differentiate OR make good decisions on case by case basis. Left in the hands of the government they won’t be able to “Define” health. Example: “Define ‘is’.” –Bill Clinton. 😉

    • The Boyfriend

      Parkinson’s and true hypochondriacs are not lifestyle choices and therefore would be exempt from my proposed plan.

      It’s simple. Hire the boyfriend and appointment him in charge of the health care system. Are you listening Obama?

  3. To me, the idea of having a contest to see who could lose the most weight is a HORRIBLE idea in the work place. It would get ugly with people resorting to unhealthy means just to win some money.

    • I agree. I’m all for support systems and workplaces having an option “Weight Watchers” meeting but pressure and competition doesn’t sound right to me. Not only that, when I was losing my 100 pounds, it came off pretty quickly. I would have had that contest won HANDS DOWN! Now? Not so much. It’s taking for-freaking-ever to lose the last 10 pounds.

    • The Boyfriend

      You cannot truly measure health by reading the number that a scale reports. It’s just not something that encompasses every situation like an assessment test could.

  4. Here’s my issue with the idea of giving any kind of incentive – financial or otherwise – for weight loss. It implies that weight = health. But in reality, there are many thin people who are not healthy at all, and many people who aren’t super skinny and yet are in great shape, eat wonderful diets, etc. Weight may be our usual indicator for health, but it isn’t always the best one.

  5. I have had a membership to 24hr fitness for 13 years and haven’t used it near enough BUT I am glad that I have it as a resource when I want to use it.

    I just don’t think the workplace is the proper venue for that kind of competition.

  6. I only have 10lbs to lose, so I doubt I could win any sort of competition, but I would be motivated to lose if I got paid! I use every cent of my $60 per month gym membership! Interesting post, definitely things to think about.

  7. It’s finally almost summer here in Seattle too – the sun finally came out at 4:30 today!

    As you may or may not know, WA has a snack tax and I believe it also covers beer (but not microbrews?). There are plenty of thin people who eat unhealthy so I don’t really consider it a fat tax, per se. Would it stop me from buying a bag of chips? Probably not, and I doubt most folks who don’t pay attention to what they put in their body actually scrutinize their supermarket receipt.

    I have recently lost weight while working because I could see low-sugar/low-carb was really working for someone else, but I probably would have failed miserably if it had been a contest. They’re just not really fair because everyone loses weight differently. I’m also not a very competitive person, though I understand that a lot of people are.

    (PS Is The Boyfriend YOUR boyfriend? You’re as bad as we are when we IM each other from within the house! LOL)

    • I did not know that WA had a snack tax. I will pay attention next time! And yes, the Boyfriend is MY boyfriend and we’re total dorks. We will talk through Twitter about what we want to do for dinner. 🙂 Especially when we aren’t in the same room. LOL

  8. I have a membership and I use it almost every day. I feel like I am paying for it so I better use it.

  9. I don’t know I feel about a tax on “unhealthy foods” but I do think that discrimation goes against skinny people too. I think that is often overlooked in today’s society and it really annoys me. (Side rant..sorry) I guess one could make the arguement that in today’s society soda is just as detrimental to health as cigarettes and we tax the hell out of those.

    • The Boyfriend

      You cannot compare sodas to cigarettes.

      If I drink a soda near you, you are not affected by it in a second hand manner like you would be if I smoked a cigarette.

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