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Rory Beil, Fargo, Published December 19 2013

Letter: Environment the key to health

I disagree with the myth Steve Siebold’s Dec. 10 commentary perpetuates regarding the solution to our country’s overweight epidemic: willpower. He has written two books, “Fat Loser: Mental Toughness Training for Dieters” and “Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People,” each title obviously indicating that he attributes our nation’s growing waistline to lack of mental toughness. Fortunately, there is no evidence to support this.

For our current epidemic to be the result of personal lack of responsibility, it would have required a global decline of that character trait over the past 30 years – unlike any time in history. There is no evidence of such a decline. There has been no global mutation of the “willpower” gene. Americans didn’t choose gluttony and sloth over moderation and hard work in the space of just a few decades. Rather, their surroundings changed dramatically, and with them their behavior.

Our food environment, in particular, has changed dramatically. It would be as odd to find a 6-ounce soda in 2013 as it would have been to find a 32-ounce soda in the 1950s.

According to the Institute of Medicine, “It is unreasonable to think people will change their behavior easily when so many forces in the social, cultural and physical environment conspire against such change.”

Personal responsibility has one prominent role in this epidemic. It is for each of us to take responsibility to get fully informed about causes and solutions, then be a voice for change in making healthy choices easier in all environments we are in – schools, faith communities, day cares, workplaces and community settings.

Future generations are counting on us.