Sunday, 3 June 2012

Big Gulps, Bloomberg, China, and Kansas

It occurred to me after hearing of New York Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to restrict the size of sugary soda sales to 16 ounces and the response that it elicited from the Soda Industry and those who view this as impinging on their personal freedoms that, if China had a similar obesity problem, their solution would be far simpler than anything offered up in the U.S.

Faced with a similar problem, the Chinese government would likely just ban all sugary sodas completely – the desires of the people be damned – and the nation would be far better off for having done so.

This point became all the more clear to me after watching HBO’s excellent Weight of the Nation documentary and then reflecting back on our recent cross country trip.

Among the many other things that we observed about the nation’s growing girth was one particular incident in a town in Kansas (I forget which one) where, for lack of any other alternative at the time, we happened to stop in to an Arby’s to get a bite to eat, in what was, I think, our second or third visit to a fast food joint on our two-and-a-half week trip.

I can’t imagine what it’s like in the deep south where the obesity problem is even worse (someday we’ll visit that area and learn first hand), but one particular image from the Arby’s in Kansas has stuck with me and is, in many ways, symbolic of the nation’s weight problems.

After placing his food order, a young man who I’d guess was about 25 years old, stood about 5 feet 6 inches, and probably weighed about 350 pounds mindlessly walked up to the soda fountain and promptly filled up what looked like a 64 ounce cup with Coca Cola.

I wondered what thoughts went through his head at the time, but I’m sure that the amount of sugar in his drink and what the cumulative effects of prior servings of sugary soda had on his body wasn’t one of them. It’s as if this young man is slowly killing himself every day, yet he hasn’t a clue that he’s doing so.
In some ways, our form of  government works against our own best interests.

Some would argue that Coke Zero tastes just as good as the real thing and that, as China might do, the U.S. should just ban all sugary drinks. Time and again you hear that reducing or eliminating consumption of sugary drinks is the single, biggest change that would affect our soaring obesity rates, yet, this is anathema in a nation where corporations rule and personal liberties are considered sacrosanct, even if they are killing us.

No comments:

Post a Comment