Although most North Americans like to blame the government for a lot of things that go wrong, they're so well programmed on dietary matters that they never think to blame the government for their overeating.
On both sides of the border, most people are so brainwashed, they believe they eat what they eat because they just can't resist a delicious treat of fat and sugar.
The beginning of wisdom in health policy is to know that this is a big fat lie. North Americans are overweight because they're overeating just what their governments tell them to overeat.
A July report from Stats Canada, which asked 35,000 people what they had eaten the day before, confirms that dutiful Canadians, just like dutiful Americans, munch obediently on the four prescribed food groups of caffeine, sugar, grease and Ex-Lax.
Quebecers and some low-income earners are exceptions when it comes to eating enough vegetables and the right kinds of fats - a clue that eating well is linked to minority languages and cultures that protect people from dominant messages.
Given that the survey shows we consume much of our fat and sweet nothings in between mealtimes, the fact that we blame ourselves rather than governments just proves we can swallow pretty well anything.
Blaming the government for our eating too much junk might seem like a stretch - not that we shouldn't be prepared for overstretch, given the way we're eating. After all, we all hear lots of government officials bemoan the way we eat and encourage us to eat more fruits, vegetables, low-fat meat and dairy products, and enjoy more of them as the social animals we are - during meals with family and friends.
But even these officials always advise people to "eat more" of something, never less of anything.
That would be a big no-no for any government employee, as Marion Nestle has exposed in several books on the politics of food, because the food industry doesn't like civil servants badmouthing anyone or putting out any message that anybody should consume less of anything.
It's not like they're talking about something that could ever be harmful to you, after all, so we mustn't be negative.
But health sermons are only a minor part of government messaging. Like the protection-from-liability notices on cigarette packs, they're doled out in just a strong enough dose to convince people that they've been given fair warning.
Governments' real dietary instructions don't come from proclamations by health officials, all of whose health promotion budgets put together across the continent don't add up to the advertising budget of any single major player in the beverage, fast food or processed food industry.
No. The government's real instructions are provided sotto voce, between the lines, in price and convenience signals. Those instructions are widely followed - and more widely every day - our very own body figures show. The proof is in the pudding, and, as the StatsCan survey confirms, people are eating just as governments are signalling them to.
The message on diet is set out, grave new world style, in four ways.
First, governments load the dice by keeping the noses of health officials out of the business of officials charged with agriculture or industry. Health is always hived off as a separate entity, as if health can exist on its own, outside of the rest of life.
I've yet to find one government ag or industry department that has a mandate to improve personal, public or environmental health. Their job is to grow the agri-food money tree.
Nor have I ever found a government department in charge of medical bills (usually called health ministries or departments) that spends more than 1 per cent of its budget to promote foods that could prevent disease and thereby upset the financial applecart.
Second, governments tip the scale by giving most ag subsidies and supports to farmers who can bring export dollars into the country's accounts. And that's where the government money goes into expensive heavy equipment that can be put to work on big spreads of flatlands on prairie and plains.
That's why the great majority of North American farms produce grains and oil seeds (genetically engineered canola, soy, corn and most disgustingly, cotton, which receives industrial levels of pesticide sprays). Less than 2 per cent of Canadian farmland is dedicated to fruits and vegetables, the foundation of healthy eating.
Third, subsidies and other programs keep the price point for dominant grain and oil crops well below the cost of production (anywhere from 20 to 40 per cent below costs, depending on the particular crop).
That low price supports three all-powerful feeder industries meat (in particular, from factory farms where grains, after the oils and ethanol have been squeezed out of them, are brought to animals confined to barns), baked goods and pop, an industry that has proven itself capable of cola-nizing every level of government.
Fourth comes the government-approved protection racket ensuring that government-funded institutions like schools, hospitals and rec centres, all of which are expected to model healthy behaviours, typically sell exclusive rights to vendors and vending machines selling high-cal, high-fat, nutrient-free donuts, chocolate bars, pastries, french fries, greaseburgers, pop and coffees.
Healthy snacks are never available from sidewalk vendors, who are only entitled to sell prefab hot dogs, sausage and ice cream, since food-borne diseases (cancer and diabetes don't qualify, despite all the evidence) may be spread there.
Junk food exclusives are also provided courtesy of city planners who deem streets, streetlights and parking spaces essential in all neighbourhoods, but not quality food stores, with the inevitable result that many low-income neighbourhoods face a monopoly of junk and processed food purveyors.
The equivalent of a child access exclusive is also granted junk food advertisers, who dominate almost all commercial TV targeting children.
Hey kids, tell your parents you want Sugarfatty for your school snack. The government thinks it's just great, and so should you.