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Hefty Fines and Thinking Thin

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Some interesting developments from around the world regarding diet, health and weight:

According to a story on Bloomberg.com, employers in Japan have until 2012 to reduce the number of overweight workers and their dependents by 10%. Those who cannot slim down their employees face fines that will be used to offset eldercare programs. Body mass, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and smoking will be taken into account.

The government estimates that half of Japan’s male population over age 40 (and more than 20% of women) will be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a weight-related complex of illnesses that can include diabetes. Until recently, it was an almost unheard of condition in the island nation.

In the case of men, fines will kick in if his waist measures more than 33.5 inches. And no "sucking it in" is allowed.

Meanwhile, in France, lawmakers are considering legislation that would make it a crime to promote extreme thinness. The bill is part of a continuing response to the 2006 death of a Brazilian model attributed to anorexia. In a country where fashion reigns supreme, it's a big change that has met with some opposition from designers (probably men with waists of more than 33.5 inches).

The legislation would give judges the power to imprison and fine offenders up to $47,000 if found guilty of "inciting others to deprive themselves of food" to an "excessive" degree, Valery Boyer, the lawmaker who authored the bill, told the Associated Press.

France isn't even the first country to pursue this issue. Spain currently has a law than bans severely thin models from the catwalk.

It's upsetting that some governments feel compelled to legislate wellness. It makes me glad that, with all its difficulties and policy mistakes, I live in the United States. Here, living healthfully is still an option.

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