Weightier matters no longer have to wait, to paraphrase the great Stephen Sondheim. Or weight is about to be regulated, caught in a pincer movement. A report from Richard Dobbs, a director of the McKinsey Global Institute, and Boyd Swinburn -- get this -- the Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University in Melbourne, notes that -- get this -- The Global Burden of Disease Study by the World Health Organization and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says humanity passed an important milestone a few years ago. It seems that in 2010 obesity became a bigger public health problem than hunger: two-and-one-half times as many adults and children are “obese or overweight” than are malnourished, knocking $2 trillion per year, or 2.8 percent off world GDP. Here’s the really bad news, except for creationists: “Relying on knowledge about obesity and will power is not enough to offset” -- get this -- “the evolutionary instinct to overeat.”
Conclusion: more research is needed. The sort that experience with another discovered global threat, warming, teaches inevitably precedes regulation. There is “a strong case for experimenting with interventions,” write Dobbs and Swinburn. So look for, first, more research; second, Michelle Obama-like “suggestions” on proper diets; third, a table of weight limits for people of various heights; fourth, taxes and other means of coercion to make it painful to exceed those limits. Appropriate appeals processes will be put in place, of course.
That’s one part of the pincers. The other comes from France. The National Assembly has passed a bill setting minimum body mass requirements for models, the rule working out in practice to a minimum weight of about 120 pounds for a woman 5-feet, 7-inches tall. Fall below the skinniness limit, and unless an appeal based on bone structure and other factors offered in defense of skinniness succeeds, the model and her agent can be fined €75,000 ($83,000) or jailed for six months. “Malnutrition is a major health issue,” says Dr. Oliver Véran, a Socialist deputy described by the New York Times as “the legislator and neurologist who championed the bills.” Non-models will also be affected. The law, if approved by the senate, is expected to remove skinny fashion models from the runways, ending their reign as role models for young French women. When that doesn’t work, broadly applied rules aimed at preventing skinniness will be set by government health authorities, aka regulators. French legislators point out that they are merely following in the footsteps of Israel and Spain.
There you have it. International organizations will tell you when too much is too much, and France, Spain and Israel are leading the way to rules telling you when too little is too little. If the obesity regulators don’t get you, the skinniness regulators will. Both obesity and skinniness will be eliminated as health hazards, and one size will fit all, or almost all. George Orwell was one of the first to spot the trend now unfolding. In 1948, shortly before his death, he warned that “totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere.”