Every now and then on a long trip, my friends will stop at the nearest 7-Eleven for a drink. I always feel a sense of amusement when one of them comes back with a Double Gulp, a full 50 ounces of Coke. Not so amusingly, in a Jun. 6, 2012 article, The New York Times reported that a Double Gulp of Coke contains 600 calories, or roughly a quarter of the daily recommended calories for an average man.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not a health freak by any stretch. Nonetheless, I do see the good intentions behind New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large beverages. His proposal would prohibit the sale of anything more than 16 ounces of sweetened drinks, most notably, soda.
As Bloomberg asserted according to the previously cited New York Times, “Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible.’”
To Bloomberg, the proposed ban was his way of abandoning the hand-wringing and instead putting them to work. Unfortunately for him, the Manhattan Supreme Court recently struck down the would-be
ban, calling it “capricious and arbitrary.”
I think there are some facts here everyone can agree with: Bloomberg has good intentions, obesity is a problem that needs addressing and that Double Gulp is probably an unreasonably-sized drink for one person.
But Bloomberg’s legislation proposal, which got him national acclaim among those fighting nationwide obesity, failed to address the underlying issue of the problem: Health illiteracy. A 2009 article from the Association of Health Care Journalists argues that at the root of obesity—as well as a range of other issues—is our general fundamental lack in understanding of health.
It seems rather foolhardy to ban soft drinks while at the same time physical education programs are getting cut across the country. Or to ban soft drinks while people clearly do not understand what constitutes a healthy diet.
It seems obvious to me that addressing issues of health literacy will prove far more fruitful in our battle against the bulges. Instead of teaching us how to fish properly, Bloomberg is advocating banning certain fish that are bad for us.
Bloomberg’s legislative attempts are at least raising awareness, but we need to take truly meaningful steps toward solving the problem of widespread obesity through health literacy. Bloomberg is providing the impetus for that shift—something we can all applaud—but banning the Double Gulp won’t address the root of the problem.
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