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Last year was difficult for me. While we were all struggling with the pandemic, I lost one of my closest friends to obesity. He suffered a heart attack due to his increased weight that had heightened his blood pressure at the time of his death. He was a lover of fatty foods, like many other obese patients in America. His death made me angry at high-calorie foods, and I supported the ‘fat tax.’ I supported the move to involve the government in imposing policies that would restrict the consumption of fat and junk foods so that people do not have to die of obesity like my friend. Even though government involvement may work, I now rationally believe it is not best to fight obesity. I wouldn’t want anyone to control my choice of food. I should be wise enough to choose healthy foods. Therefore, I agree with Radley Balko that the struggle against obesity should be a personal business. The best way to end obesity is to let people assume the responsibility of ensuring that they lead a healthy life instead of relying on enforcement measures that make people not feel motivated in the fight against obesity. 

In his 2004 essay, “What You Eat is Your Business,” Balko is against the enforcement by the government on people to avoid junk foods. Balko (2004) argues that the government and its stakeholders should foster a sense of responsibility for its citizens’ health and wellbeing. He explains that the American health care system has been focusing on public health instead of personal responsibility. He mentions how political forces have been at the forefront, insisting that the federal government control health care instead of engaging the public to make wise decisions concerning their health. Balko (2004) is afraid that the control exerted by the government and its stakeholders is misleading instead of helping people live healthily. According to him, force and control only make people lose their true motivation regarding health care choices.  People will only follow the laws enforced by the government to avoid being on the wrong side of the law. Balko worries that lack of personal responsibility will cause people to easily astray from the measures instructed by the government, and the problem of obesity will never end. 

Another critical point that Balko discusses in his article is about incentives of obesity-related disease. He insists that the best way of imposing personal responsibility is by not socializing medicine and healthcare. According to him, people will be careful of their health choices when they pay for their healthcare services out of their pocket. They will be more careful to avoid getting sick and spending their money on treatment and recovery. Socializing medicine and healthcare only force people to pay premiums for other people’s healthcare. He laments, “your heart attack drives up the cost of my premiums and office visits. And if the government is paying for my anti-cholesterol medication, what incentive is there for me to put down the cheeseburger?” This statement shows how Balko feels that personal responsibility in the fight against obesity will work because people will fear the high costs of treating obesity-related diseases. 

Finally, Balko argues that the food restrictions by the government will affect consumerism freedom. People will be controlled on what to eat, going against our democratic society where people are free to make their own choices. More so, Balko fears that such laws will affect the fast-food-selling companies, and the national economy will be affected. He concludes his essay by arguing that socializing healthcare for obesity increases the stigmatization of obese patients. He insists that the governmental control in handling obesity portrays the condition shamefully. Thus, obese patients will be more reluctant to access healthcare services. 

Based on my experience with my late friend, I find Balko’s argument to be correct. People are not careful of their health choices because they know that the government will be responsible for their medical expenses. Most of my friend’s expenses were covered by insurance; thus, he never put effort into losing weight. Instead, he ate whatever he could find without caring how it would affect him.  His life wouldn’t have ended if he understood it was his responsibility to eat healthily.

I agree with Balko that lack of personal responsibility in fighting obesity portrays the condition shamefully. I believe that personal responsibility in health care makes people easily accept their health conditions and focus on accessing quality medical care. Abdukadirov and Marlow (2012) argued that governmental interventions in fighting obesity only increase the victimization of obese people. Obese patients mostly think that they are worthless for choosing foods that the government treats as fatty foods. Perhaps, my friend did not try to lose weight because he felt useless.  He would still be fighting if he had been made comfortable in his fight. 

While the fatty foods law will restrict patients like my late friend from consuming unhealthy foods, I agree with Balko that consumerism will be affected. As a free citizen, I do not think it is right for someone to control what they eat because someone suffers from obesity. As Votruba (2010) argued, the economic model assumes that the consumer is rational. In this case, rationality means that the consumer is well informed about a product or service, and they will buy it depending on how it solves their needs (Votruba). This point intertwines with Balko’s argument of personal responsibility. As a consumer, I should know what I want to eat and how it will benefit me health-wise. It is not the company’s role to control what I eat, provided my needs, as a customer, are met. I wish my friend understood that it was his duty to avoid eating fatty foods because he knew he was obese.

Indeed, personal responsibility is the only way to attain a healthy society. We should avoid blaming other factors when it comes to dealing with obesity. As Balko puts it, our choices cost our health; thus, we should be dutiful in ensuring that we lead a healthy life. 


Abdukadirov, S. & Marlow, M. (2012, June 5). Government intervention will not solve our obesity problem. U.S. News. 

Balko, R. (2004, May 23). What you eat is your business. Cato Institute

Votruba, E. M. (2010). Trans fats, the rational consumer, and the role of the government. AMA Journal of Ethics, 12(10), 804-811.

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By Sandra Arlington

Sandra Arlington is a contributing writer to the Motley Fool. Having written for various online magazines, such as Ehow and LiveStrong, she decided to embark on a travel blog for the past 10 years. She is also a regular contributor to My Essay Writer.

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