IN THE time it takes you to read to the end of this paragraph, New Zealand has got bigger.

No, that is not a reference to the booming immigration numbers we are enjoying but to the obesity epidemic that prompted last week's report that six out of every 10 Kiwis are overweight.

And on television this week we were told that, based on population, New Zealand ranks third in the world for fatties.

For a sports-mad country built on all-action pioneering endeavour, you have to wonder where we went wrong.

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Once the overly large kid was picked on at school; now it is the skinny child likely to be bullied as the odd one out.

A succession of governments have cooked up endless policies to stem the tide - and the waistline - but, let's face it, they have failed.

Some years back, an increasingly affluent society was looking for things to deify, and food came out pretty near the top of the list.

If greed was good, so was gluttony.

Now we have endless cooking/kitchen shows on TV designed to glorify the stuffing of one's face, with "celebrity" chefs cooing over every morsel, scoffing a bit here and there and then, presumably, chucking the rest away.

Those shows must waste enough food to sustain an under-nourished African nation.

It seems to be a peculiarly human trait.

Apart from a few domestic cats and dogs, you don't see too many overweight beasts in the animal kingdom.

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Those creatures eat what they need to survive; they don't go in for indulgence.

This week Britain sought to punch the paunch by launching a sugar tax on those sickly-sweet soft drinks so beloved by youngsters.

Chancellor George Osborne is pinging 25p (53c) on a litre of "tooth-rot" to try to dissuade people from buying such rubbish.

There are calls from some - including Jamie Oliver - for New Zealand to follow suit.

The NZ Government is resisting, and with good reason.

There is little evidence that such a tax will significantly reduce the nation's sugary drink intake and it is likely most people will pay the extra to enjoy their "hit".

The effective answer is to ban excessively sugary drinks and, likewise, other excessively fat-inducing foods. Set a limit on what is allowed.

The problem there is that it would mean the government taking on the corporate powers that spend billions of dollars selling these products to us.

The market mantra is: "If people want it, we'll sell it to them - no matter what the health costs."

But if Government is serious about the obesity problem, it needs to tackle the root cause and challenge the food giants.

And better do it soon before the TPP becomes law.