As we start the new year thinking about our health and ways to improve it, outgoing NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg is likely thinking about his beach vacation. His biggest gift to the city, and to the whole country, was pushed back in his face and refused when a court struck down his proposed soda ban.
Now, an excerpt from a new book making the rounds argues that Bloomberg was dead-on right, and not just about giant sodas. America's obesity epidemic can in large part be attributed to the super-sizing of portions — which in turn affected Americans' eating behavior — according to Deborah A. Cohen, M.D., author of A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Forces Behind The Obesity Epidemic — And How We Can End It.
In an excerpt on Salon running under the shocker headline, "Restaurant portions destroy your diet: Eating out is killing us!" Cohen details her findings and explains how extensive research shows that basically, when it comes to food and drink, if it's put in front of us, we eat and drink it. She equates the current obesity epidemic and the problems with portion sizes to the initial realization that alcoholism could be addictive, and the subsequent response from health officials to educate the public. Which reminds us of something a certain outgoing mayor was trying to tell us. As Cohen writes:
"When New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg floated the idea of capping the servings of sugar-sweetened beverages to sixteen ounces, a common refrain from his critics was that this type of policy would interfere with a person’s free choice. At the other extreme, some thought the sixteen-ounce cap on soda was ridiculous. People would just order more than one soda, so it would likely have no impact on the obesity epidemic. In fact, the 'standardized' portion size of soda is eight ounces, so the regulation, had it been approved, would still have New Yorkers consuming double what people drank thirty years ago."
And yet, Bloomberg's ban was struck down, as opponents exploited loopholes to challenge the law on legal grounds. Bloomberg, whether intentionally or not, was really making more of a philosophical argument. Decades of eating and drinking larger and larger portions of food and drink have tested the resolve of individuals' to only consume a reasonable amount, and the reckoning time has come. Bloomberg's ban may return soon — his successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, was sworn in yesterday, and has vowed to take up the soda ban issue and get it passed despite the legal challenges. "We are losing the war on obesity," de Blasio said back in October, just before winning the mayoral race. "It’s unacceptable. This is a case where we have to get aggressive."
Which is exactly what Bloomberg was saying. Ok, Mayor Make, have a nice vacation.