The Weight of the Nation

“The Weight of the Nation” is a four-part documentary on the national obesity epidemic that starts May 14, 2012 on HBO. In a May 10, 2012 video editorial, “The Tax Code Diet: The Institute for Medicine gets political on obesity,” Dan Henninger and Joe Rago, of the The Wall Street Journal, mock the documentary and the Institute of Medicine report on which it is based. WSJ Article. Their neo-Con “all government is evil” attitude should be seen as an unqualified endorsement of companies that push unhealthy eating habits to maximize profits with no regard for the health of their consumers.

Henninger and Rago, neither of whom are obese, do not deny that the nation has a problem. However, they ridicule the idea that the government might have a role in encouraging healthy eating. They claim that what one eats is a matter of individual choice and that the government should not attempt to regulate food packaging and advertising. They further argue that unhealthy products like carbonated soft drinks loaded with high-fructose corn syrup and caffeine should not be taxed to subsidize anti-obesity and healthy diet programs and other health costs attributable to those products.

Do the neo-Cons oppose food-safety inspections and regulation to protect us from pathogens like salmonella or mad-cow disease? Some social Darwinists would place all responsibility for food safety on processors and vendors. They would say, “Let the market sort out which manufacturers poison us and should go out of business, but even most neo-Cons would agree that we rely on the government to enforce food safety rules. When we buy beef or carrots at Piggly Wiggly we have confidence that the products are not drenched in E. coli because of government oversight.

Our food supply may be free of disease-causing pathogens, but what about high-fructose corn syrup, salt, and aspartame? What about the absurd mounds of fat, sugar, cheap meat, carbohydrates, and salt that Applebees, Burger King, Cheesecake Factory and other restaurants call “meals.” People tend to be gullible and when the restaurant calls something a “meal,” many customers will assume that what they will be served is a reasonable portion for one person to eat at one sitting. The restaurant is playing on customer’s credulity when it serves an “appetizer” with 1,500 calories or delivers a mass of food that exceeds 2,300 calories and calls it a meal. At the very least, calorie counts should be displayed on the menu or bill of fare.

In the supermarket, trusting consumers are fooled by advertising and packaging into thinking that candy is a healthy breakfast and cookies are nutritious snacks. The frozen-food aisle is crammed with pre-prepared entrees labeled “heart-healthy” or “lean” that barely qualify as “food.” Judging by the ingredient lists, which are often barely legible, a product might be lasagna or animal shampoo. Few shoppers have the time or the ability to really decipher what they are buying. They do not realize that “organic” and “natural” and “fresh” and “heart-healthy” are just advertising gimmicks that have no meaning. Shoppers assume that the government keeps food processors, distributors and retailers honest. That is far from the case, with some reasonable reforms shoppers could have the protection they deserve.

Watch “The Weight of the Nation” with an open mind. There is a crisis of obesity in the United States and we must curb our eating – particularly with regard to children. By allowing our children to overeat we are condemning them to a lifetime of obesity and all of the health problems caused by excess weight. We as a nation must address the problem and the government has an important role to play.


John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
©2012 John B. Payne, Attorney

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