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Regulating What We Eat Will Not End Obesity

Mayor Bloomberg has created quite a stir in his efforts to regulate soda drinking in New York City. If you haven’t kept up, this past Tuesday was to be the start of banning sugary sodas over 16 ounces in size. But on Monday, the ban was overturned and ruled as arbitrary and capricious.

While I applaud the awareness that Mayor Bloomberg brings to the serious problem of obesity and its impact on our health and healthcare economy, regulating private citizens in terms of what they can or cannot eat will not work as a solution to the obesity problem. Here is why:

  1. Soda is one item out of many that when over consumed, leads to weight gain. Are we then going to require a limited number of fries at the fast food take out, no more dozen donuts orders, pizza for one…you get the idea. Limiting the size of sodas is an over step of government. We can’t have the Twinkie Police entering our homes.
  2. Portion control is an issue, but people have to regulate how much they eat. Most times, the portions we are given at restaurants could serve 2-3 people. Just like sodas that have gone from an average of 6 ounces a drink to 16 ounces, so have food portions. We need to learn to eat until we are full, stop, take home the rest for another time. Or order an appetizer as the main meal, split a meal or ask for a smaller portion. 
  3. One of the most overlooked areas in the obesity fight is emotional and compulsive overeating. Instead of focusing exclusively on what we eat, we need to think about WHY we eat. In my book, Press Pause Before You Eat, I help people become more intentional with their eating, recognize the emotional triggers and come up with other things to do than eat, especially when dealing with stress.
  4. Telling people not to eat or drink something just makes them want to do it more. Deprivation doesn’t work when it comes to weight loss. The more we know we can’t have, the more we want it.
  5. What we eat is important. We eat too much processed food and nutritionally empty food so books like Eat This, Not That are helpful in the education of food as medicine. Education doesn’t always translate to better choices. People have to want to do better with food.
  6. Information is confusing. At one point, for example, coffee was bad for us, then good. The amount of information we have regarding how to lose weight is overwhelming and needs to be individualized. One size does not fit all when it comes to losing weight.
  7. It’s complicated. Losing weight doesn’t work for most people like it does on The Biggest Loser. We don’t have trainers screaming at us to make us move or people controlling our diet. And in the long run, most of the people on those shows gain the weight back after a year or so. Lifestyle change is needed. Losing weight involves movement, food, genetics, biological issues, emotional and even spiritual issues.

So while I want people to be aware of the health problems associated with obesity and overweight, we need to look at people as individuals and figure out what their issues are and deal with roadblocks to their progress. Regulating how much soda we drink doesn’t begin to address the issue.

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