Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

Remember the uproar over the Ďbeing heavier is healthier than being thinnerí reports of a few weeks ago? Itís been hyped, overhyped, oversold, exaggerated all over the media. But one group, The Center for Consumer Freedom (I hesitate to give them a place on this forum, but itís important to name sources), has devoted quite an effort into what they perceive as an effort to deny us the right to eat what we want. Personal responsibility and freedom is their mantra.

No surprise that they are funded by restaurants, food companies, and consumers, and that they target lawyers and The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which supports taxes on certain foods, such as soda, snack foods, etc., as part of an effort to increase funding for nutrition and exercise education and programs.

Personally, I resent being manipulated in this way, by both sides of the debate. As hard as it is, and as much as I recognize that we are on the receiving end of endless marketing strategies, my eating and exercise habits are mine alone. I canít buy into the stand that there is no such thing as personal responsibility, as stated by some of the lawyers who are bringing lawsuits against the food industry. But at the same time, there ARE ways in which society can help us improve our eating habits, and to increase our exercise.

But taxing soda? Banning junk food ads? Hiding candy behind a counter? And what will the government actually do with the tax money? Will we be barraged with posters and commercials? Or will there be an effort to change certain fundamental aspects of our society such as a lack of safe places to walk or play, and a business environment that encourages working extra hours?

Comments, please. This is an emotionally charged discussion, I think. But we-the-people need to have a voice in this debate.

20 thoughts on “

  1. Syd says:

    I’ve thought about this before and it makes me irritated that even from a young age we are baraged with colorful packaging for crap food. It’s natural instinct for us to choose based on the allure of the packaging. However, I don’t advocate government control. Another thing that bugs me is that junk food is often cheap and sold in bulk. Again, I don’t think the government needs to step in. I’d like to see corporate responsiblity but we know that won’t happen. Then all you are left with is again personal responsibility and education. It starts with teaching your kids the old rule of not judging a book by its cover whether that be food or people. And boosting excitement about nutrition for substance instead of entertainment.

  2. Melinda says:

    Taxing junk food, etc would have the same outcome as taxing cigarettes has had, in my opinion…people wouldn’t stop using the products, and we’d end up being barraged by PSAs and billboards until we are numb to it. Cigarette companies are still highly profitable, and junk food manufacturers would be too. Until junk food costs more than healthier foods like soy crumbles, fresh fruits and veggies, and lean meats, people will buy it and they will eat it.

  3. tszuj says:

    Yes, we adults do have to take responsibility for our eating and exercise habits, but what about the kids? Just last night, I went to see Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) speak about childhood obesity and the marketing of fast/junk food to kids. The statistics are frightening. He talked about the McDonalds Playland strategy to draw kids in, the soda vending machines insidiously working their way into schools (some percentage of the profits being used to fund band and athletics), junk food advertising to pre-verbal toddlers. It’s basically the same strategy that the tobacco companies used to hook kids younger and younger – to “grow” your future market.

    And he offered some ideas, such as Alice Waters’ slow food, slow schools” program, taking soda vending out of schools (maybe replacing with healthy snacks), funding our schools with money other than vending machine profits, responsible advertising.

    Personal – and societal – responsibility? Yes.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Jane:

    You make a lot of sense. What I need from regulators is not for them to restrict my ACCESS to unhealthy foods, but rather to help me be educated so I can make the right choices for myself. The “nutrition facts” label has really been a godsend to me.

    I suppose I could entertain the idea of warning labels like cigarettes have — maybe along the lines of “warning: this item contains 347% of your daily caloric needs.” Or something like that!

  5. Stretchy says:

    Lately, it seems we are seeing this “hide the candy” approach to a lot of things. We are now debating things we would have found it absurd to debate ten years ago.
    My neighbor has definite ideas about how cheerleaders should cheer more demurely, how rap music should be banned, how everyone should be a Christian, but I wonder how she’d feel about junk food bans? I think I’d hear her scream “My civil rights are being violated!” Her breakfast is coffee, cigarettes and donuts. And I have no problem with her breakfast.
    None of my business.
    It is her life, and she seems happy, and she contributes a lot as a teacher, so why should she suddenly be forced to change?
    You can’t push everyone to “be correct”. we are individuals.
    Hiding the candy is never going to work. Candy is NOT an evildoer.

    Nutrition education, making fitness fun, and giving kids healthy CHOICES– if our gov. worked at this sort of program, kids could then decide for themselves how they want to eat. Let kids THINK about it and figure it out. (too much candy = problems)
    Eating is always going to have some social element, and I have fond memories of my dad taking me for an ice cream cone on a summer Saturday. We’d sit and always have a nice talk.
    OK, We are surrounded by junk food, and it will take awhile to get a balance. As a parent I never took my kids to McDonalds, ever, but if they went later, with friends, I had no problem with it. But I never let them sucker me into buying them crap so they could get THE TOY. They ate candy and chips, and nachos, but they didn’t dine out at fast food joints with mom or dad. I felt they deserved a better restaurant as long as we were going out. That’s just me, some people love McDonalds, etc…and thats fine.
    I don’t believe you can demand that people eat under strict guidelines.
    personally
    I would teach, (IF ASKED) but not preach.

  6. Laura says:

    It’s no wonder we’re all confused! We get such mixed messages.

    I agree we all need to take responsibility for what we eat, not have it hidden behind a counter or taxed. However, what I would really appreciate would be if food that what was really good for you was more affordable and plentiful.

    I don’t have whole food markets around my area and although I eat fresh and try to eat as much organic as I can, all the good stuff is SO expensive. When I was first divorced and was counting change to put gas in my car, you’d better believe I was forced to eat marginally good bread because it was 1/2 to 1/4 the price of the good stuff. Mac n cheese in a box was a fraction of good piece of salmon, etc.

    I did my best to eat well, but I definitely had to compromise for a long time (and my weight definitely rose in part as a result). So I would hope there would be more of a demand for better food in all areas. We complain about obesity but make it so easy and affordable to be that way.

    Just my 2 cents!

    Laura

  7. alison says:

    Stretchy, I enjoyed your post, but I have to comment on your statement that your neighbor’s bad diet and smoking aren’t your business.

    It’s disturbing that we who are fit and vigilant about our diet have to pay the price of disease that is caused by overeating, smoking and inactivity. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many other maladies cost all of us a fortune each year.

    Not only do I feel junk food and anything containing hydrogenated fat be taxed, I propose a tax refund for those who DO take care of themselves.

    After losing over 50 lbs. several years ago I continue to maintain my weight loss. How do I do it? By saying “no thank you” to the foods I know got me fat in the first place and working out daily. I can’t remember when I last called in sick to work because I don’t get sick anymore. (when I was fat I was ALWAYS ill with something)

    Co-workers who eat crap and never exercise call in sick, leave early or take time off during the day to go to the doctor for tests, appointments, etc. Who do you think does their work when they are out? They are on all kinds of medication for conditions that probably could be eliminated from their lives if they’d just buckle down and get off their butts and eat right and go for a walk. (as I finally did when I decided to lose weight)

    We all wonder why our insurance co-pays and premiums are going up! A lot of it is due to the lifestyle being promoted by the fast food/restaurant/snack food industry and the poor choices being made by those who chose to take the propoganda hook that is being dangled by these companies and buy that crap.

  8. jenny says:

    Personal responsibility – something I stand behind. I’ll scream bloody murder if some well-intentioned yet highly arrogant (how can a person not be arrogant if he/she insists that they know what’s best for me) beurocrat attempts to restrict what I can and cannot consume – through regulations, through taxes – through whatever.

    Education – yes – vital. The documentary “Supersize Me” gave me an education – perhaps a slightyly prejudiced one – but an education nonetheless. Health classes, meetings with nutritionists, following the governments food pyramid, trying out umpteen diets, reading as many fitness magazines as I can get my hands on . . . all educational. But education only goes so far – I’ve known the right things to eat and do to be healthy since I was 14 – acting on that education was a different matter. Fast forward 13 years and the education is finally sinking in.

    What has made me embrace and act upon my education and take responsibility? The desire to be healthy and the realization that I’m worthy of a healthy body and a great life. That MY health must be a priority in MY life. That taking care of myself is okay and important. That I’m no good to anyone else if I don’t spend time on myself.

    We can support one side of the debare or another but the truth is, no matter what you take away from people or what you give to people, people won’t change unless it is too painful (mentally, physically, emotionally) to remain as they are.

    Maybe the government should try a different approach – instead of freaking out about the supposed obesity epidemic, praise those who are healthy, who are taking strides to be healthy . . . support programs that validate and encourage people who want to be healthy.

    One thing that doesn’t help is fingering people as an epidemic. I’m obese, I know it and having it thrown in my face on an almost daily basis by the new studies, the gov’ts panic, the problem solving tactics -it doesn’t help. It shames me and can send me into a tailspin – luckily, my realizations are giving me power over my tailspins and I’m on my way to being a healthier, fitter person – not because the gov’t thinks I should be, but because I am worthy of it.

  9. Helen says:

    For so many of us, food is reward. And there’s the Loreal tagline, “You’re worth it.” Yup, it’s good to treat ourselves once in a while to some small goodie, a little chocolate, a scoop of premium ice cream, etc. When that becomes the norm and not the once-in-a-while, though, we’ve lost the original spirit of the reward. For people like me, who had been (and still is sometimes) a convenience food junkie, the reward comes from something fresh: whole foods, raw fruit and veggies, lemon juice instead of alfredo sauce.

    Do we need government to regulate that? Do we need re-education camps for those with junk-ingrained habits? Do we need a revolution?

    I guess personal responsibility is the way to go. As in most religions, it’s the way we live our lives day to day that can effect others, like the kids in our care and the neighbors that may come to our parties.

    Then again, I was scared off french fries when I lived somewhere that served them with EVERYthing — the most jarring was getting them with lasagna.

  10. Laura Smith says:

    I lived in Germany about 25 years ago and they had an interesting seat belt policy. There was no law stating that you had to wear your seat belt. But there was a policy stating that if you were injured in an accident, and you were not wearing your seatbelt, then you were considered contributorially negligent and got to pay your own medical expenses….no insurance covered you if you were not wearing your seatbelt.

    Perhaps a similar policy here would work? You could feel free to eat anything that you want to eat…..but if you were overweight, obese, had clogged arteries, etc., etc., etc., then insurance coverage for those related illnesses and maladies would be pro-rated based on the degree to which you allowed yourself to be unhealthy. We’re learning that it is all based on choices. This would just be another choice.
    Smiles!
    Laura

  11. jane says:

    Laura S – that’s an interesting theory you have. the seatbelt safety issue is an immediate cause and effect. but people who are thin also develop diabetes, high cholesterol, and die of heart attacks. in fact, the big three risk factors – smoking, cholesterol, and hypertension – explain less than 50% of heart disease, and the other 50% is NOT obesity. My always-thin sister has had a couple of knee surgeries to repair damage. I haven’t had any knee surgeries. yet.

    and with diseases that take years – decades – to develop, there’s not that immediate cause and effect that there is with seatbelt use. it’s not that clear-cut.. unfortunately.

    we know for sure that if a POPULATION loses weight, the group’s risk of dying of heart disease by a certain age is decreased, but we don’t know just which people will be ‘saved.’

  12. Holly says:

    Speaking from my memories as a child – the government may only need to step in in one area and that is giving parents more time to be with their kids, maybe funding more programs on exercise and nutrition. I can tell you exactly why I am overweight and have poor eating habits – lack of time and no education for proper nutrition. And that is what my mother and father suffered from. That is how I was guided. No proper meals, sometimes cooking for myself, no play time (read:exercise)with my parents all because they had to work 2 and 3 jobs. Blaming fast food restaurants is not the answer in my opinion. How can I go to McDonalds if my mom doesn’t take me? And, yes she took me a lot so I now actually hate McDonalds! How can I buy a candy bar if my mom doens’t let me? Ok, so as a teenager I finally start to have choices – but it would be unlikely that say 15 years of good guidance from my parents would evaporate completely. I see this as largly and issue of parental responsibiliy and then our own responsibility.

  13. Sandra says:

    This is an interesting debate…. the fact is: For every $1 spent by the World Health Organization on preventing diseases caused by western diets, more than $500 is spent by the food industry promoting these diets. (World Health Organization)

    During one hour of watching cartoons, children may see ads for more than enough calories, fat and sodium than is appropriate for an average adult make to consume in 24 hours. (Styne, Dennis Michael. Childhood Obestiy: Time for action, not complaycency. Americn Family Physician, 1999)

    Only 4% of food commercials advertise healthy foods. (Media Awareness, 2003)

    Children are three times more likely to remember advertisements than adults. (CSPI)

    Brand Loyalty means big money for food companies. Food marketers capitalize on the fact that children are vulnerable and do not have the cognitive and maturity to deal with advertisements. Six month olds can develop images of logos. Brand loyalties can be established by age two. Hence, one of the most lucrative target groups is the “tinies” (age 2-4) “If you own this child at an early age, you can own this child for years to come”, Mike Searles, President of Kids ‘R Us (marketing company)

    So, really, do we have a chance? Anything that can be done to counter the powerful marketing machines of the food industry is a bonus for all of us!!!

  14. Stretchy says:

    Has anyone seen the Television advertisements for some ice cream, “Healthy” something or other, where a woman is standing in front of an open fridge, eating, and the musical lyric is going:
    COME AND GET YOUR LOVE….COME AND GET YOUR LOVE…
    Things like that just amaze me! Crazy!

  15. Quinn says:

    Okay. Jumping in without reading any of the other comments here.

    Well. If my state wants to tax junk food and candy and soda, then fine. But only as long as the revenue goes to feeding children nutritious meals at school AND forbidding the sale of junk food, candy, fast food, soda and such at the school by anyone or for any reason AT ALL. Oh, and providing regular phys ed. classes. Doesn’t have to be sports or gymanastics. Could be dance. ūüôā

    As for us adults? I don’t know. Treat the fast food and chain restaurant industry the way the tabacco industry is treated? Make them pay into state funds for Medicaid and Medicare? (Hah! Fat chance. My very governor just vetoed a bill to get MallWart — er, Wallmart to do just that. huh.)

    I honestly do not know what to do to get my fellow adults to eat healthier food and do a minimum of exercise. Everyone says the problems are they don’t have enough time or money or both for either one or both. But how much money does a heart attack cost? And how much pain? How much time does it rob from you life? And that’s just considering a heart attack.

    Personally it wouldn’t bother me one bit if the federal and state and local governments taxed junk food and soda and fast food and chain restaurants out the wazzo. I do not consume any of the stuff but very rarely. Junk food is not really life-sustaining, and there ARE other foods out there to eat.

  16. Greta says:

    What I would like to see required by law is the availability EVERYWHERE of healthy, whole foods. Why not require all fast food retaurants and all in-and-out markets to offer healthy alterntives such as fruit, veggies without added salt or fat, whole grains without added salt or fat. I find it frustrating and maddening that when I am out I just can not even buy anything healthy to eat. Have you ever tryed finding something to eat in a gas station min-mart? There are lawas that require bars to sell food, so why not require every place that sells for to off a few options without added sugar, fat, salt, chemicals?

  17. Quinn says:

    Okay. Now I’ve read alll the other comments.

    My very first job was at a local McDonalds, waaaay back in the early 70’s. What i learned from working there back *then,* when the food wasn’t quite so bad, put me off fast food of any kind forever. And chain restaurants aren’t any different, just more expensive.

    It’s all about money, folks. The junk food/fast food/chain restaurants sell what they do because it brings in profit. The crap in the minimarket at the gas station is where the owner of that business makes his/her profit — not on the gas! (Surprise. Surprise.) The only way to change this is for us consumers to STOP BUYING THE CRAP. Really.

    It isn’t actually all that hard or time consuming to learn how to cook from scratch. Start with very simple recipes using whole foods. They’re often the best tasting anyway. And it takes less time to fix a simple, nutritious meal at home than it does to go out. And it’s cheaper, *much* cheaper! And after about a week of that your body will feel *much* better.

    And for those of you complaining about not knowing how to chose nutritious foods or how to prepare them! Excuse me, but there is plenty of info out there about this, always has been. Get up off your fat fanny and go out there and find it! Start at your local public library, while you still have one. Local hospitals also sometimes have classes and other info on healthy eating and exercise. As do community colleges, churches, rec centers, your health insurance company, your doc, etc.

    You don’t have time for all that? But you have time for your favorite tv shows, video games, etc.? How much time does all that take up? Do the math.

    And don’t give me that nonsense about everyone working two or three jobs. We aren’t all doing that, far from it. And if you are, then maybe it’s time to get real about how you spend your money and what *exactly* it is buying you. Sorry, but I’ve spent too much time at the very bottom of the economic ladder. I know what it’s like down there.

    If you sit on your rear and wait for someone to come fix your life for you, then you will wait forever, and, no, it doesn’t make any difference who, exactly, is responsible for your situation. That’s the reality.

  18. Nikki says:

    Doesn’t the government have anything better to do? If they want something constructive why don’t they come up with a better food pyramid for today’s inactive lifestyles. OR stop telling people that they can maintain a healthy lifestyle with just 30 minutes of exercise 3 days a week while they sit at a desk for 8+ hours a day. How about fostering communities so that instead of turning to drugs, alcohol, food, or any other vice that you fancy you could actually turn to people for help.

    Try putting some money into a cure for cancer, AIDS, diabetes, sickle cell. Are they out of ideas for ways to spend money to make people healthier.

    I weigh 266 and I’m not about to blame Mickey D’s for making me want to drive by and get a big mac. For Christsakes, supply and demand, if we don’t buy it they won’t have a market. AND if we insist on healthier alternatives they will be provided. AND negative incentives are far less effective than positive reinforcements.

    For all the MBA’s, MD’s, PhD’s, and psychologists that there are out there no one could figure this out.

  19. Steph says:

    Here in Canada, the government taxes cigarettes like hell. I guess the theory is that the money goes back into healthcare, to pay for all those lung cancer etc treatments, but I don’t actually know where the money goes. It is somewhat of a deterrent though., and I guess the same theory could work for junk food.

    But if they’re gonna tax soda and chips, and other unhealthy food, they should make healthy food cheaper! Lots of people I know that struggle with low incomes can only afford to buy mostly boxed and packaged foods, full of preservatives and fat, because fruit and vegetables and whole grain bread, etc are too expensive.

  20. Sara says:

    Yes healthy people pay a price for working with unhealthy coworkers, but you can’t make people be healthy. I believe someone mentioned banning unhealthy foods. If I want to eat cookies I will make them if I can’t buy them. Could you imagine a black market for brownies?

    How can we “battle” this problem?

    Take care of yourself. Lobby for healthier snacks in schools. Start a healthy vending machine company. Do something. Don’t wait for things to change, change them.
    I have read many posts from people that have lost weight and have kept it off and the one thing that they all have in common is that they are doers. They realize “hey, I need to do this” and then they do it.

    Anyway, that is my two cents. (No I am not one of the doers, yet. But I am starting to be)

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