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To Battle Obesity, Stick To The Basic Fitness Formula

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As the volume of recent coverage in the St. Petersburg Times illustrates, the obesity epidemic in Florida is worthy of serious attention. Gov. Jeb Bush's obesity task force is a positive step toward addressing the troubling trends in the state. According to the Department of Health, the prevalence of obesity among adult men and women in Florida has almost doubled in the past 10 years, and continues to increase among men, women and children of all races.

As the obesity task force grapples with how to best address these alarming trends, it's critical to stay focused on the one formula that works - reducing calories and increasing physical activity.

In this respect, Howard Troxler's Oct. 20 column (All this mind exercise and too little PE produce flab) about the importance of physical education is right on. Research conducted by the California Department of Education found that participation in physical education can positively impact academic performance. So the obesity task force is well advised to carefully consider the critical role that physical education plays in perpetuating a healthy academic environment for Florida schoolchildren.

As a mother and past president of the American Dietetic Association, I strongly believe that the obesity problem in the United States requires a comprehensive strategy that utilizes education and practical guidance. Research consistently demonstrates that people recognize that they are ultimately responsible for maintaining a healthy weight - they just want clear information and a little direction.

Policies that are designed to prevent, diagnose and treat obesity are the ones that will have long-term positive effects. Additionally, proactive efforts by the food and beverage industry, including the innovation and promotion of healthier-for-you foods, will help consumers meet their own health goals. We can make a difference if we work together to foster good eating habits and a healthy, balanced lifestyle that includes regular physical activity. -- Susan Finn, Ph.D., R.D., chair, American Council for Fitness and Nutrition, Washington, D.C. Fat and the fear factor

Re: Obesity in children.

Part of this problem rests with the fear factor. Since the 1980s, the media and our government have terrorized the parents of America. We do not like our kids to be out of our sight. The bogey man will snatch them in a heartbeat. The sensational news of one missing child has done more to undermine the activity level of kids than all the video games combined.

Poll the parents of this "free" country and ask them how many hours a week their kids spend running free. We keep them home in the yard, if we have one. No biking around the neighborhood or playing at the park alone. More kids will develop diabetes from inactivity because of this.

Ask the adults around you what they did as kids. I spent 90 percent of my free time outdoors, and I am a Florida native. Heat was not a factor. Fun was about using your imagination. These days, time permitting, I take my 11-year-old daughter and her friends to the park to play. The down side is that it is a bit of a drive and there are no restrooms. Well, it is not an easy problem to solve. We are all a little afraid. Perhaps the enemy is not out there. -- Rita Sewell, St. Petersburg Health care needs a new approach

Re: A fair split for U.S. health care bill, Oct. 21.

The recent column by Ronald Brownstein focuses on the current state of U.S. health care and its disastrous future if it continues on its current course.

It would seem a complete change is needed if we are to really care about the millions of Americans now struggling to survive and seeing no future. Without health care, they are faced with prolonged illness, poverty and homelessness. Perhaps Congress will have a heart and will address this problem.

Universal health care has been successful in both Canada and Great Britain, and it would, if correctly initiated and managed, be the answer.

America, being a vast country, could have each state responsible for the health care of its citizens, and this would be a positive solution to the endless and continuous pitfalls of what currently constitutes our national health coverage. -- Margaret Fuhro, Sun City Center Why look to outsiders?

I've spent a good bit of my working life in developing countries. The prevailing sentiment in those places is that someone from the outside must come in and help before anything changes. For all its advantages, Florida is casting itself in this same helpless role.

What is the Legislature considering this week? Giving money to an outside group to come in and create business and jobs here in Florida. But why? This is a state of tremendous population, resources and intelligent creativity. There are several fine universities here and tons of technical and intellectual and business talent. There's a low-cost environment and an attractive living environment. Why doesn't the Legislature take the money it would give to Scripps and instead found the state's own research institute? All the ingredients are here. Just add a few dollars, mix well and voila.

Sure, Scripps has history, a reputation and existing contracts but Florida has more than ample resources to compete. We don't need to pay outsiders to make our state a great place to live and work - unless our state's leaders are business puppets running a banana republic. The more we look for outsiders to solve our problems, the less able we'll be to do so ourselves. Just like the developing world. Let's grow our own. -- Paul Swider, St. Petersburg A cheap shot at a wounded church

Re: Bringing down the Anglican House, by George Will, Oct. 17.

George Will teams up with the Vatican to pile on in the agonizing struggle of American Episcopalians over the General Convention's vote to confirm New Hampshire's choice of a gay man as bishop. Will, who likes sports analogies, takes a cheap shot at a wounded church.

He compounds his gloating by using rank speculation and innuendo to pour salt on the wound. He speculates that the queen of England, in response to pressure from Global South bishops, "may have made known to Williams (Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury) that he and the Church of England could become irrelevant." Surely Will doesn't need to imagine voices from the queen to validate his own opinions.

Nor does he need innuendo, but he uses it to accuse Western Anglicans of trying to "bribe" the Global South bishops by "trying to wield cash coercively against" weak churches in the Global South. (The only coercion that's documented is that of conservatives to withhold their support of the Episcopal Church.) Even an op-ed piece deserves some supporting evidence for such a serious charge.

My college chaplain, Williams Sloane Coffin, described the struggle over gay ordination as the most divisive issue since slavery in American mainline churches. Now, as then, the Bible and tradition are used to defend prejudice as deep and desperate as our racism.

I applaud American and Canadian Episcopalians for their faith and courage under fire. They serve well one who was also wounded for our transgressions. As for Will, he might better turn his concerns about cash coercions to American foreign policy and politics. No speculation or innuendo is required. -- The Rev. Dr. Harold M. Brockus, St. Petersburg Crossing a biblical boundary

Re: Bringing down the Anglican house, Oct. 17.

As a person of generally liberal political opinions, I do not find myself often in agreement with conservative columnist George Will. Yet with regard to his remarks about what is happening in the Episcopal Church, I find that I must make an exception.

I am a relative newcomer to the Episcopal denomination, having been attracted to this faith tradition (from an affiliation with an evangelical body) because of the Anglican respect for liturgy and its progressive witness on matters of peace and social justice. But I am deeply distressed by this controversy that threatens to tear my newfound spiritual home apart.

It seems that it has fallen to our Third World brethren to bear a prophetic judgment against an increasingly materialistic and spiritually bankrupt Western church. Ours would appear to be an affluent church that indulges the luxury of theological compromise while these "front-line" Christians of the developing world often suffer severe persecution for their orthodox faith.

The article is correct when it points out that the issue is ultimately not about gay bishops or gay marriages but rather about the place of Scripture as a primary source of authority for a Christian body. We Anglicans are not fundamentalists. We have historically understood that there is indeed a culturally conditioned component to the content of the Bible, but there is a boundary to this component beyond which the authority of Scripture ceases to be meaningful. In my opinion, to go beyond this boundary undermines the very foundations of Christianity. For Episcopalians like me, it is not a fight between "liberals" and "conservatives" over gay rights, as portrayed in the secular media; rather it is a struggle to retain the meaning and identity of biblical Christian faith against an aggressive process of moral relativism and theological deconstruction. -- John Feeney, co-chair, Episcopal Peace Fellowship of Southwest Florida, St. Petersburg No reason to exclude God

Due to recent letters to the editor and the Times' seemingly endless desire to get God out of our country, I felt compelled to clarify what the Constitution says about that. The First Amendment does not say "separation of church and state." In fact, no official government document from our Founding Fathers does. What it says is that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." So, if we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, open up meetings with prayer, pray at a football game, have "In God we Trust" on our money, or even have a candidate or council member who's proud enough of his faith to not separate it from his public duty, none of that is a violation of the Constitution. That politically minded judges on the Supreme Court may say differently does not sway the truth.

Why doesn't the Times spend some time educating its readership as to what the Constitution reallly says rather than trying to sway people by its slanted coverage of the news? I pray you will start to do this soon. God Bless you! -- Matt Cole, St. Petersburg A miraculous event

Re: Photo by Dirk Shadd of Reliable Carriers' crash at the Super Cat power boat race, Oct. 20.

It is a spectacular photo. But even more sensational to readers is the explanatory comment below the photo with the striking fact that the drivers "walked away from the accident near the Pier in St. Petersburg."

Tom Abrams and Jerry Gilbreath must be blessed. I am glad they did not get injured or killed. They walked on water. Now that is something we just do not see every day. -- Hal Bronfin, Largo Share your opinions

Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. They can be sent by fax to 727 893-8675 or by e-mail to (no attachments, please).

They should be brief and must include the writer's name, address and phone number.

Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. Opinion Editorial: A danger to Broward democracy Editorial: Axis of diplomacy Editorial: The general and the devil Letters: To battle obesity, stick to the basic fitness formula

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