My View From The Country

The War On Obesity Begins In Earnest

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to limit the size and kind of soft drinks people can consume shows how far government will go to exert control.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s war on soft drinks, or any sugary drink larger than 16 oz., isn’t an isolated situation of Big Brother run amuck. Obesity, like poverty, climate change and other societal issues is something that everyone agrees is a bad thing. And unlike climate change, it does appear to be a scientifically valid trend.

But as is the case with these other movements, the war on obesity is about much more than just overweight people. It’s about the growth of government and government’s role in our lives. It’s about government deciding we are unable to protect ourselves from ourselves, so government has to do it. Ultimately, it’s about eliminating or diminishing free markets, and having a command-and-control economy.  

Evil foods like sugar, and the big sugar and soda companies, are the main targets right now, but we’ll be next on the list when the easier-to-accept purveyors of “junk” food have been conquered. Not only do they want to control, limit and tax sugary foods based on sugar content, but they are even regulating portion size.

And they have some data on their side to justify taking over some of our basic freedoms. According to the Obama administration, 42% of the U.S. population will be obese by the year 2030. By simply keeping obesity rates at today’s level would save us $550 billion in health care costs, they estimate. The real threat from nationalizing our health care isn’t the diminished quality of care, or the crippling effect it will have on our budget, but that it gives government yet another excuse to regulate more of our lives, especially as it relates to nutrition and food production. 

I guess the government has a point, but I love my Coke, enjoy an occasional potato chip, and, while I know I should exercise more, I just haven’t brought myself to doing it. I’m just not sure I’m prepared to pay a fine if I can’t prove that I have walked 30 miles in the last three weeks, but already there are proposals along those lines as well.

What is especially disturbing isn’t the increased taxes on “bad” food or the subsidizing of “good” food, but the idea that our schools should become the primary battleground for this war on obesity. I think physical education is important, but the politicization of these issues hasn’t proven to be effective.

In the end, as has always been the case, government won’t change the obesity rates – the attitudes of the citizenry will. Nor will government save us money, as new bureaucracies and taxes will cost far more than any realized savings. What we will end up with is a bigger, more powerful government that will influence our choice of foods and how we live.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

Peter J Ballerstedt (not verified)
on Jun 11, 2012

I agree that I do not want the government deciding what I can and cannot eat, but they’ve been in the business of telling us what we should eat for more than 40 years. The beef industry has been a target since the government first began telling us that a healthy diet is one with restricted amounts of red meat, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. This began in the late 1970s. We were told that this was what we needed to do to lesson our risk of heart disease - the "heart-healthy" diet.

There was no compelling data to support this radical shift in nutritional paradigms. The widely accepted, well-established fact that it was carbohydrate in the diet that was the uniquely fattening macronutrient was abandoned for the untested and unproven hypothesis that fat in the diet causes heart disease. Warnings about potential harm from low-fat diets were ignored.

PERHAPS it's a coincidence that the "obesity epidemic" began when these first-ever government dietary guidelines were released. Perhaps. But it is more likely the unintended result of them. The evidence strongly suggests that the official recommendation to eat a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet has produced our current epidemic of obesity and other chronic metabolic diseases.

There are an abundance of research and clinical results indicating that, in order to be as lean as we’re each genetically capable of being, we should be eating diets that are much higher in animal products and lower in carbohydrate than the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend. Good news for the beef producers!

Everyone in the beef industry owes it to themselves and their families to learn the truth about diet, health and human nutrition. Once you do, you’re free (at least for now!) to make your own decisions.

Remember, “Meat is Medicine!”

on Jun 11, 2012

I couldn't agree more. This current administration is 100 times worse than the last. Goverment's job is to protect it's citizens from crimes commited by others and to protect property rights.

The continual increases in tax on Cigarettes for example is not used to offset addition heath costs or to get people to quit. It is simply an easy tax to increase so the government can grow bigger and stronger.

Now they are going to start applying it to high carb foods. The only difference is that it affects a larger percentage of the population. It's about time our lawmakers were called out on stupid tax increases. Once they add the tax, there is no going back.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 11, 2012

I blame the government for obesity due to all the time people now must spend at a desk filling out paperwork for the government instead of being out actually getting something done, like building fence.

Our government increasingly can't lead, won't follow, but sure can get in the way.

Miller (not verified)
on Jun 11, 2012

Marshall is clueless. There is lots of scientific evidence for global warming. There is also scientific evidence that people tend to eat and drink all of the portion they are served. That is why portion size is important in reducing overconsumption. People in NYC are still free to buy multiple drinks. If Marshall wants to be a consistant libertarian, he's got a lot bigger issues he should be working on.

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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