Obesity

Can't Wait to See That New Food Pyramid!

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Yesterday the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity released a report aimed at "Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation." Many of the recommendations (PDF) are unobjectionable, although the effectiveness of measures such as "a next generation Food Pyramid" and "swapping out deep fryers for salad bars" in school cafeterias is open to question. And there are several coercive elements (not counting the taxes that will be needed to fund anti-obesity boondoggles):

Restaurants and vending machine operators subject to the new requirement in the Affordable Care Act [which mandates conspicuous calorie counts on menu boards] should be encouraged to begin displaying calorie counts as soon as possible….

The food and beverage industry should extend its self-regulatory program to cover all forms of marketing to children, and food retailers should avoid in-store marketing that promotes unhealthy products to children….

All media and entertainment companies should limit the licensing of their popular characters to food and beverage products that are healthy and consistent with science-based nutrition standards….

The food and beverage industry and the media and entertainment industry should jointly adopt meaningful, uniform nutrition standards for marketing food and beverages to children, as well as a uniform standard for what constitutes marketing to children….

Industry should provide technology to help consumers distinguish between advertisements for healthy and unhealthy foods and to limit their children's exposure to unhealthy food advertisements.

Lest you think those last few recommendations are purely voluntary, the report adds that "if voluntary efforts to limit the marketing of less healthy foods and beverages to children do not yield substantial results, the FCC could consider revisiting and modernizing rules on commercial time during children's programming." It also notes that "the prospect of regulation or legislation has often served as a catalyst for driving meaningful reform in other industries" and suggests that such threats "may do so in the context of food marketing as well." Which makes you wonder how the Obama administration will respond if restaurants fail to "consider their portion sizes, improve children's menus, and make healthy options the default choice whenever possible."

What unites both the coercive and the noncoercive elements of this plan is the failure to consider that the values, tastes, and preferences of children and their parents—which are not entirely a product of breakfast cereal commercials—will shape how they respond to the new options and new information that the task force wants to foist upon them. Kids who do not like salad will not suddenly start eating it just because French fries are no longer available in the cafeteria. People who are not inclined to worry much about the nutritional content of their food are not likely to make use of calorie counts on menu boards, new-and-improved labels on packaged food, or radically redesigned (but still pyramidy) dietary charts.

Likewise, the task force's prescription of subsidies as a response to "food deserts" (areas without decent grocery stores) puts the cart before the horse. If supermarket chains stay out of certain neighborhoods because of security concerns or regulatory barriers, local government can do things to make the environment more hospitable for Walmart, Super Target, and Shop Rite. But if they stay out because there is not enough demand for the fresh produce and the other "affordable, healthy foods" that the task force wants everyone to eat, luring them in with subsidies will not do much to change people's diets and will require ongoing corporate welfare.

Not that I want the government to take on the task of changing people's values, tastes, and preferences so that they will make the correct choices in the new food and activity environment it is striving to create. Given what that would entail, we are much better off with lame recommendations about school gardens, farmers' markets, and "the AAP guidelines on screen time."

More on the Obama administration's campaign against fat kids here.

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  1. I guess less obesity would be a good thing, but I want to make sure that government respects the autonomy of folks. I understand making certain information available to folks so they can use it to make better choices, but if a person just wants to engage in things that make them obese then that is really none of the goverment’s business. The person has already made the choice that their welfare is increased by being allowed to engage in such activity, second-guessing it would be wrong.

    1. Individual autonomy should be primary – right up until it starts affecting others’ lives. I’m pretty sure every third person in ‘Murka being obese is having a substantial impact on the lives of other non-obese Americans, particularly in the taxes necessary to provide the healthcare necessary for these people. When your problem becomes my problem I think that’s a valid time for the government to take an interest in resolving the problem.

      1. Obese people (30+ BMI) die significantly sooner than thinner, healthier people. You do pay more in the short term, but you don’t have to pay decades of Social Security and Medicare. If anything, the massive enfattening of America is good for her entitlement balance sheet.

      2. What, by telling them to pay for their own healthcare since they’re fat?

        Once you force people to take welfare and use that welfare to demand concessions from them, you might have as well have simply forced those concessions on them directly — the “welfare” is just a rationalization for those who still have a nagging feeling that personal autonomy matters.

  2. Kids who do not like salad will not suddenly start eating it just because French fries are no longer available in the cafeteria.

    I’m sure a few words from me will change their minds.

    1. It still tastes like crap lady.

      1. Stop gnawing on the First Lady. It’s gross.

        1. gnawing on the First Lady

          Is that a sexual euphemism? That is gross. Is a “first lady” like the “little man in the boat”?

    2. I must be an old fogey, but schools have deep fryers now? In 12 years of public school lunches I never had anything deep fried. Also, schools had no vending machines, and nobody was allowed to eat or drink anything in class. Perhaps if schools returned to the policies they had pre-obesity epidemic, there’d be less obesity?

      And get off of my lawn!

      1. We had one vending machine in my high school. It sold apples for a nickle apiece. The scramble for a spare nickle was fierce while racing to the after-athletic-practice bus.

      2. Actually eating several mini-meals per day, rather than three big ones, promotes a higher metabolism. So forbidding students from eating outside of lunch time isn’t going to help.

        1. You assume that kids eating in school outside of lunch constitutes “mini-meals.” I doubt it does. It’s just extra food. The mini-meals thing doesn’t work if it just adds to your regular meals.

  3. Anytime you see something growing and expanding, and there are no rules, you need to regulate it. – Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

    That is the mindset we are dealing with.

    1. She was probably going to deep fry those chickens. And honey is nothing but sugar. Pittsburgh’s joining the messiah-in-chief in fighting obesity.

    2. Some perspective as a local. Right now, Pittsburgh is a college town. It has has my university of Carnegie Mellon as well as University of Pittsburgh, and Duquesne, and those are just the universities with over 10,000 students. We don’t pay any local or state taxes on money we receive strictly for academic purposes. Scholarships, living stipends, etc. Debate the merits of this all you want (personally, I disagree with it even though I benefit from it; I should have to pay taxes like everyone else), but they subsidize college students.

      So what does the mayor of Pittsburgh do? He proposes a 1% tax on tuition on all Pittsburgh universities. Gave some phony argument about us “paying our fair share.” This was not removing our tax credit. That I would have supported. This was the city of Pittsburgh singling out and taxing education specifically. What was his justification? Equality. Paying your fair share. The absurd argument that even though college students are poor as dirt now, they’ll be rich eventually (itself a point of contention), so we should tax them now. Naturally. And you can’t even argue the “vice tax” angle that every statist loves to use when justifying his particular brand of tyranny. Even people who are fiercely critical of the current higher eduction system believe it is a net good, just not necessarily worth what people pay for it. CMU and Pitt finally basically bribed the city to get him off their back. This bribe was done completely in the open. Anyone who was following the story knows about it. No one seems to care.

      The man is a statist in its purest form. He’s the perfect choice to be the mayor of Pittsburgh.

      1. the essence of libertarianism:

        “personally, I disagree with it even though I benefit from it”

        wink, wink. sure ya do.

      2. Gave some phony argument about us “paying our fair share.”

        That argument always gives me a pain in the gas pipe. Not one of the people who uses it has ever come up with any coherent explanation of how a “fair share” is determined.

      3. “This was not removing our tax credit.”

        Pittsburgh probably not the government giving students any kind of tax credit. On the other hand, students are like ly not to be voters in Pittsburgh district so there’s no penalty hitting them up for taxes (rather than the schools themselves).

      4. As a fellow anti-Steelerstahl ‘burgher (different uni though), I assure you that a 1% tax on tuition would hurt CMU a lot less than charging it property taxes on its campus. I don’t know if my old calculator has enough digits for what the assessment would be on that place.

        Now Mayor Lego-head has switched over to taxing soda at 3 cents an ounce as his plan for closing the budget gap and getting the state off his back, which will simply kill every convenience store in the city as people go to the suburbs to buy soda.

      5. Also, they do charge students an EMS tax of $50 a year to provide emergency services. So I don’t see how the city is subsidizing students. Not to mention that those students are spending money at local merchants who do pay taxes to the city.

    3. That’s what she said!

  4. “Food pyramid.”

    Is that to compete with Europe’s famous ‘butter mountains’?

    1. If we are to have a food-related Ancient Wonder, then I want a Food Colossus. At least as tall as Europe’s butter mountain.

      1. I want an Eiffel Tower made out of Velveeta!

        1. Somewhere, a Frenchman is weeping at this.

  5. In fairness J sub D I think the reasoning behind this goes like this:
    Major Premise: Government exists to promote the general welfare. Minor Premise: Less obesity would promote the general welfare. Therefore: The government should work towards less obesity.

    What’s missing is respect for autonomy: the general welfare is best determined by the individuals in the society. If they insist that being obese promotes their general welfare then government should respect that.

    1. The government should work towards less obesity

      by “right-sizing” obese federal employees. (Of course, only the ones obese by choice rather than as a result of legally-recognized disability.)

      1. It’s a thyroid problem, it has nothing to do with the bucket of fried chicken I’m eating.

      2. “Right-sizing” is my new object of corporate-speak hatred. Horrible, awful, retarded term.

        1. Let me be clear.

          I prefer “super-sizing” the Government workforce.

            1. Would that be Left sizing?

    2. I would think this would be a Eureka moment for you. But you’re either too stupid or unwilling to apply that reasoning more broadly.

      1. I can see your point. Maybe you can see mine? The interventions I support I see as not assaulting but promoting autonomy. Take for example the minimum wage. Nobody wants to work for less than the minimum wage if they could obtain more than that. It’s a position that someone might take if they were ‘over a barrel’ so to speak. So taking that option off the table only benefits the worker, he can’t be asked to go there even when his plight would make him do so. You might say “well a person doesn’t want to be obese either” and you would be right. But that is the wrong level of analysis. The question is, does a person want to do action x which results in obesity? Certainly many people actually do want to do this. To prevent it would be to limit his autonomy “for his own good” but the person is the better decider of what is in his own good.

        1. In other words, I think “economic pressure or coercion” to be a real and liberty limiting thing. At heart this is what puts me at odds with many here I’ve learned over the years. But there’s nothing like that involved in eating choices imo.

          1. I see your point, and you can get there only by sodomizing the English language. In your world, “promoting autonomy” and “taking choices off the table” are synonymous, even though anyone with a modicum of education or common sense would tell you otherwise. I can also play the Merriam-Webster card here.

            Also in your world: $0/hr is better than $4/hr. This “benefits the worker,” which is an odd choice of words because as a result of your imposition the person is not in fact “working.”

            Your instincts may be sound, but your application needs work.

            1. Did someone recently buy MNG a clue?

              Methinks some of the points made here are beginning to penetrate through the years of liberal indoctrination plugging up his brain.

              1. Perhaps he’ll finally take that wicked Dan T.

            2. Taking a “choice” off the table that one party would never agree to were that party in the position they would like to be in certainly promotes autonomy in my book. Sorry.

              1. War is peace.
                Choice is slavery.
                Ignorance is strength.

              2. Equal opportunity is not a guarantee of equal outcome.

                Equal rights are not a guarantee of equal opportunity.

              3. I’d never agree to work for my current salary if I were in the independently wealthy position I would like to be in. Does that mean my “choice” (ooh, scare quotes) should be taken off the table?

              4. Taking a “choice” off the table that one party would never agree to were that party in the position they would like to be in certainly promotes autonomy in my book. Sorry.

                With all due respect, this might the stupidest thing you have ever said. I mean that. You’ve taken a tautology and tried to finagle a point.

              5. How can you predetermine what someone would never agree to? I’d strongly consider working for less than minimum wage if it was the world’s easiest job and I could spend a great majority of my time randomly surfing the Internet or planning out a side business of my own while “on duty.”

    3. Outside of the fact some obligations the government has voluntarily assumed are higher regarding the obese (maybe), less obesity doesn’t promote the general welfare.

      At best, it promotes the individual welfare of the obese, and given the way the government measures “obesity” (BMI), even that isn’t assured. Balko has posted many times on the study showing that people defined as “moderately obese” by the government had better health outcomes than people with allegedly more healthy weights.

      Nutrition science is constantly in flux. Government is not competent enough, nor independent enough from those with axes to grind or bucks to make, to be allowed to determine something as critical to our well-being as the nutritional content of our diets.

  6. This brings to mind another retard wrangler story.

    I worked with a special ed class in Philadelphia many moons ago. The science teacher had been sent a “Five-a-Day” package from some agency. Department of agriculture, maybe. The idea was to apply the slick marketing tricks of the Big Food industry to fruits and vegetables.

    While most would find the marketing of Cauliflower with Soviet style nuance to be laughable (I did), the special ed kids loved it. They repeatedly wanted to play the 8-bit animations on the classroom’s Apple IIe and sing along. Five A Day, Five a DAAAAaaaayyy!

    So, every week, we took the speds on community travel. They were allowed to get a snack in the mall food court. Where did they all line up? Burger King counter. What did they sing while ordering Whopper Junior’s?

    Five A Day, Five a DAAAAaaaayyy!

    Marketing works. Thanks USDA and Philly public schools!

  7. HAHAHA
    Yeah just like the last food pyramid, which has worked out fantabulously!!
    How demented and/or power hungry are these purveyors of food-industrial-regulatory complex conventional wisdom?

    The food pyramid is almost the inverse of the truth. FATS, especially saturated FATS are GOOD FOR YOU. Carbohydrates are horrible for you (except some fiber, and vegetables).

    Look it up, folks. The food industry responded to the zeal of the public health nazis in the 60s and 70s and started making “low-fat” bullshit. The conventional wisdom is horribly wrong.

    And we can trust the same assholes to recommend whats good to eat now? When they haven’t even recanted their lies and ignorance for the past 40 years.

    1. Agreed, Contemplationist. Keep carbs between 50g and 100g and don’t stuff your face with too many fats and you’re good to go.

    2. +1. I don’t look for things to change though. There are too many powerful interests influencing the food pyramid who have an enormous stake in keeping so many Americans fat, sick, and diabetic.

  8. It’s a win-win for the body-image-challenged First Lady and her little gang of busybodies. If and when–by coercion or accident–the nation’s sniveling porkers lose some of their collectively measured corpulence, Michelle can take credit and statism gets a feather in its cap. But if little Ethan and Emma go the route of Kirstie Alley, it’ll be impetus to crack down even further on the porcine freedoms of all Americans.

    1. And what happens if they go the way of Karen Carpenter?

      1. In fairness, we could use some pop singers who can actually sing.

      2. Less strain on The People’s Medicine?.
        Everybody wins!

  9. Let me be clear. The time for fat kids has past.

    My plan for solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation is simple: I am taking all of their generation’s food money.

    1. and replacing it with not only free lunches and free breakfasts, but now free dinners, provided by the SEIU-member food workers in the schools.
      Reality: the lunches served in my kid’s public school leave a lot to be desired in terms of nutrition, let alone freshness and taste.

  10. Why don’t they just have a stimulus for fatties? Eveyone with a 20+ BMI gets amphetamines.

    1. For those of us with the government approved height/weight balance, perhaps a cocaine subsidy, as a kind of anti-fat insurance? Carrots and sticks, people.

    2. Awesome! I’ll be able to do my Kool-Aid Man impersonation now!

      (Let’s face it, speed + 250 pounds of human cannonball = one hell of a lot of inertia)

      1. Ohhh Yeahhhh!!!!!

  11. Even the “unobjectionable” recommendations are kind of WTF. Why should the federal government be “encouraging” breastfeeding (or any of the other shit on that list), and what does that really mean? I guess leaving any mundane, personal choice up to an individual and her healthcare provider is too much to ask for.

    1. Besides, breastfeeding if you’re taking certain medications is actually bad for the baby compared to formula. Reason number 8,216,191 to tell the government to fuck off.

  12. Realistically, how is the government going to affect food choices if “calorie menu boards” don’t work?

    If telling people, “yo, this has a ton o calories in it” doesn’t work, what you left with:

    A) ban or uber-tax high calorie/low nutrient dense foods

    B) government-provided coupons that can be exchanged in the super market for food or traded – collectible card game style – for other food cards. Of course, five vegetable cards equal a candy bar card, and you only get so many cards a week.

    1. Great ideas- thanks!

  13. What they need to do is make all health care providers government employees, and make it a federal offense to disobey their advice.

    Doctor tells you you must change your diet and get more exercise, and on your followup visit it is obvious that you did not take this advice, armed guards will escort you from the clinic.

    From there you will be put into a camp with the rest of the fatties where you will be forced to labor making wind turbines and solar arrays.

    And the world will be a better place, amen.

    1. jk, stop by for a (lite) beer this weekend.

  14. Whatever happened to electro-shock therapy as a behavior modifier? I’d be down on shocking the fat little fucks into obedience. Good training for adulthood.

    1. Where do I sign up to get to shock you for bad make-up and plastic surgery choices? Clearly you aren’t capable of making good decisions. Relax. It’s for your own good.

    2. ‘Smith!’ screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. ‘6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! That’s better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me.’

      ‘There, comrades! That’s how I want to see you doing it. Watch me again. I’m thirty-nine and I’ve had four children. Now look.’ She bent over again. ‘You see my knees aren’t bent. You can all do it if you want to,’ she added as she straightened herself up. ‘Anyone under forty-five is perfectly capable of touching his toes. We don’t all have the privilege of fighting in the front line, but at least we can all keep fit. Remember our boys on the Malabar front! And the sailors in the Floating Fortresses! Just think what they have to put up with. Now try again. That’s better, comrade, that’s much better,’ she added encouragingly as Winston, with a violent lunge, succeeded in touching his toes with knees unbent, for the first time in several years.

  15. All your mouths and bungholes are belong to us.

  16. Of course the committee that makes the new food pyramid will not at all be influenced by food industry lobbying. It would never in a million years promote unhealthy eating habits because of political pressures and political correctness. How dare you people suggest such a thing – this is our government we’re talking about. The new food pyramid will rock our fucking socks off, morons.

    1. That’s right, Warty!

  17. The food and beverage industry should extend its self-regulatory program to cover all forms of marketing to children

    Anyone who thinks kids would read calorie counts on a candy machine must have had no childhood whatsoever.

    1. I read calorie counts and nutritional information when I was a kid. And the only influence it had only food choices was to point me to the most calorie dense foods when I wanted more bang for the buck.

  18. I think parenting and a culture that doesn’t see being fat as a cause for pity are good places to start:

    http://www.theinductive.com/bl…..ateau.html

  19. The single most beneficial change the government could make would be to yank starches off the bottom of food pyramid and alter the RDA for protein and carbs. They don’t have to go full-on Atkins, but at the very least it should be much closer to a 1/3 split each way rather than almost two-thirds of one’s calories coming from sugar (or things that break down into sugar).

    1. What are you trying to do, drive down the price of corn or something, you unamerican monster?

    2. “They don’t have to go full-on Atkins, but at the very least it should be much closer to a 1/3 split each way rather than almost two-thirds of one’s calories coming from sugar (or things that break down into sugar).”

      I prefer to do is convert my grain into alcohol with some hops added for flavor, and get the majority of my calories from that.

      Beer – it’s not just for breakfast anymore 😉

    3. Where’s the research for this? I’ve heard of limited studies that show good results for certain tests for people on the low-carb diets… and some good weight loss results.

      But if we’re looking for a good diet to recommend to society at large, shouldn’t we look to populations with good general health and long lives (e.g., Japanese)? Don’t all the long-lived societies have some complex carb at the heart of their diet?

      1. The problem is that correlation is not causation, and observational studies are only good for generating hypotheses. What few clinical trials have been done comparing different kinds of diets have many flaws, the chief being that subjects generally do not stick to any diet for a significant period of time.

        Re: the Japanese, they do eat their fair share of rice (generally white rice). Their portions are a lot smaller than ours so they are probably not getting a huge amount of carbs like most Americans. And the Japanese do not eat nearly as much wheat and fructose as we do.

      2. You can find all sorts of summaries on Wikipedia and PubMed, but an excellent example would be the study described in this talk:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eREuZEdMAVo

        It’s a large study with an extremely high retention rate (80%), and the researcher is a vegetarian who went into the study fully expecting to come to the opposite conclusion.

      3. Also, it’s only in the past century that our society has become as sedentary as it is today. Starches don’t really do damage if you’re a yeoman farmer constantly exerting yourself, since you’re burning off all that glucose and aren’t taxing your insulin. But if you work data entry, they’ll kill you.

  20. Ignore the fact that people with a BMI in the “overweight” category live longer, healthier lives than those in the “healthy” BMI category.

    Ignore it!

    1. Never! Those porky fuckers are bankrupting Social Security!

    2. Arnold Schwarzenegger is considered obese on the BMI scale. It’s pretty bogus, especially considering those carrying quite a bit a muscle.

      1. There is that too. BMI is somewhat useful for statistical purposes, but by itself tells you nothing useful about an individual’s health. Since it only considers height and weight, muscular people are “overweight” according to BMI.

      2. He’s actually quite flabby and big-gutted these days. He just has good tailors.

        1. His steroid-induced muscle turned to flab years ago.

        2. He got into pretty good shape a few years ago for Terminator 3 but they still had to be creative, e.g. computer-enhancing his abs, taping back his love handles, etc. He was around 55 or so at the time. Since then he’s really let himself go which of course is OK. He certainly has nothing left to prove to anyone.

  21. Not all ethnic groups are equal in the fat department. Walk through Kennedy airport’s terminal for Latin America and see the almost pathologically obese 5 year old girls for instance. Or the bulging young women. Then walk through a commuter terminal like Grand Central and see how many obese you see.
    Many immigrant groups think food intake is a sign of prosperity – old time Germans for instance – in my own family. When these groups beset by obesity wise up on their own without the “assistance” of government, then obesity will disappear.
    Some exercise taken away from a TV will also help the obese of all classes and ethnic groups.

  22. Hmmph, apparently our crazy friends in the Obama administration haven’t heard of the food chain.

    1. I came here to post this, but you beat me to it.

  23. In other words, I think “economic pressure or coercion” to be a real and liberty limiting thing.

    First, I don’t think there is such a thing as “economic coercion”, since I regard coercion as being the use or threat of force.

    Second, which do you regard as more limiting of liberty – economic pressure, or state pressure? Because you seem to be saying that substituting state pressure for economic pressure increases liberty.

    Which is nuts.

    1. State pressure on some can alleviate economic pressure on others.

      And, of course you don’t think there is such a thing as economic pressure. That’s the crux of our disagreement.

      1. advantage is not equal to coercion

        1. State pressure coercion on some can alleviate nullify the economic pressure on others advantage of wealth

          Truth in advertising MNG, you need to keep to the truth.

  24. Net neutrality isn’t about the FCC regulating content.

    – The “Educated” Bunch

  25. My school lunch diet consisted of cheeseburger, chocolate long john, and a large sprite. That was nothing compared to what I ate at home. I was lucky if I had 10% body fat. Oh, yeah, i exercised a lot

  26. Give the little fat fuckers a carrot will ya?

  27. I suggest we eliminate the history classes, which are mostly leftist propaganda these days anyway, and replecing them with more recess. Then the kids will get a chance to burn off some fat.

  28. They could give all our excess food to starving people in Africa.

    This would drive up food prices in the US, so people would eat less, and then the farmers wouldn’t need any subsidies. Except for the payments given to buy the excess food.

    1. I bet you taste like free-range chicken.

  29. So how long until we start seeing articles whining about how there’s no longer any children’s programming on television, completely oblvious to the fact that it’s because no one wants to buy advertising there?

  30. I think it is good to see that healthier choices are being implemented. I think every country has their own food pyramid and maybe a vegetarian food pyramid could also be good.

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