Everyone knows what to do if they are gaining too much weight. Eat less and exercise more, and most bodies will respond.

What if it’s not just a few pounds we are gaining, but millions? What if it’s not just individuals getting fat, but the whole country?

A new study indicates that we had better come up with an answer for that one and we better do it soon.

According to a report released Tuesday by the Trust for America’s Health, obesity rates are expected to climb, with every state having rates above 44 percent by 2030. More than two-thirds of the residents of Mississippi, the heaviest state, are projected to be obese.

More than half of the population of Maine, which currently has an obesity rate of 28 percent, is projected to have a body mass index higher than 30, the line doctors draw to indicate where merely overweight turns into a serious medical condition.

If a virus infected half of the people in Maine, we would expect the government to play a role in protecting our health.

We are facing an epidemic of bad choices for which we all will end up paying. We should be willing to invest now to head off those costs.

Programs that teach people about nutrition, including those that provide consumers with calorie counts in restaurants, and limits on portion size will help. Health plans that reward people who take good care of themselves will, too.

More research into possible environmental causes, such as the recent study that links childhood obesity and bisphenol-A, a chemical found in food packaging, also may make a difference.

Dealing with obesity is a problem for the entire society, and treating it as if it’s all individual choice will not solve it.

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