Solving Obesity: Educate Instead of Taking Away Choice

“During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.”  (Overweight and Obesity – Facts, 2012)  It’s no surprise that obesity has become an epidemic.  Larger portions are being served, children are sitting in front of video games instead of out playing, and people just don’t have the extra time and money to eat healthy home cooked meals anymore.  A solution is needed stop this increase in obesity and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York thinks he’s got the best solution.  What’s his solution?  His solution is banning large sized sugary drinks in certain establishments, more specifically, sizes that are larger than 16 ounces (a McDonald’s small.)  Because obesity is a major factor that causes life threatening conditions, it can affect everyone and should be of concern.

McDonald’s has drink sizes as large as 32 ounces, Burger King has 42 ounce servings, and Regal theaters have a size as large as 54 ounces.  The once 6.5 ounce standard serving size is now just a thing of the past, even a McDonald’s children’s soft drink is 12 ounces.  (Neporent, 2012)  These sizes certainly have grown and along with these growths in soft drink sizes, statistics show that obesity rates have also increased.  58% of adults and nearly 40% of public school students are obese or overweight in New York.  (Allen, 2012)  So does that mean that soda is the reason for the rising rates of obesity? No.  Soda is not the sole cause of obesity, not only have drink sizes gotten bigger, portions of food also have grown and are sold as a better than value than smaller sizes.  What else causes this weight gain?  Well, gaining weight is caused by consuming more calories than are burnt.  Looking at how weight gain works, it is also safe to say that there have also been decreases in the money spent on renovations of parks and playgrounds, which are needed to give residents a nice place to want to exercise.  (Allen, 2012)  This lack of exercise and increase in eating is causing an increase in weight gain.  So what are we to do?  Is banning large sized sugary drinks in certain establishments the solution?  What exactly will banning large sized sugary drinks do?

Well, this ban will affect places that serve more than 50% of food in their establishment.  This includes movie theaters, sport venues, fast food restaurants, and more.  A lot of people believe that banning the large sized sugary drinks will cause small businesses to lose business from paying customers, big companies to lose business because of the decreased demand for the syrup required for soda and the amount of large sized cups, and steal the right of choice away from New Yorker’s.  (James & Mark-Viverito, 2012)  This ban has consequences for both merchandisers and consumers.

If the ban does work though, New York may see people making healthier choices.  According to an article in the Journal of Behavior Nutrition and Physical Activity, children made healthier choices when unhealthy foods and beverages were removed from their campus.  Although the students made healthier choices when the campus was free of junk food, the obesity rates did not decline and there wasn’t a difference when compared to schools without a ban.  (Neporent, 2012)  This shows that even though you make healthier choices regarding junk food, obesity will still be a problem.

The ban on large sugary drinks is not the best idea, it is just the quickest and easiest thing that can be done right now, but why waste the time and money on something that will be able to “fix” only part of the solution?  Although it could possibly help people make healthier choices, it will not solve the obesity that is in New York.  Solving the problem of obesity doesn’t require a ban on large sugary drinks; it requires renovating extracurricular facilities that give people an opportunity to exercise, along with educating the people so they have the knowledge to understand why it is important to make healthy choices.  Simple things such as color coding food labels to show which food choices are the healthiest and which are not so healthy would make a difference.  This exact method was used in an unnamed large hospital.  The color green was used to label things that were the most healthy, and red to designate unhealthy foods.  Although people still purchased “reds,” there was an increase in “greens” that were purchased.  (Color-coded labels improve healthy food choices in employees from all backgrounds, 2012)  Another example of education that restaurants could do would be menu labeling.  A study done in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that when restaurants post the nutritional value of the food items they serve, there were improvements resulting in healthier choices made by consumers.  (Mandel, 2012)  When people are educated, they can make healthy decisions about both exercise and nutrition.  These decisions are much better than just making the decision for them by banning soft drinks because banning soft drinks will only deal with soft drinks, whereas education will let people make decisions on their own and that may be much better than just cutting down soda.  As the Chicago Tribune said, ““We need to get to the root of the problem, which goes much deeper than the size of a cup of soda” and that they need to “expand and renovate parks and playgrounds to give more residents more opportunities to exercise.”, which is exactly what we will be doing if we choose better solutions than to just ban large sized drinks.

“Obesity is a national epidemic and a major contributor to some of the leading causes of death in the U.S., including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. We need to change our communities into places that strongly support healthy eating and active living.” (The Obesity Epidemic, 2011)  As a nationally certified (ASCP) medical laboratory technician, I care about the health of America and am concerned about the growing rate of obesity, and as a former high school wrestler and judoka, I understand that education of nutrition and exercise are key in fixing this epidemic.  Although Mayor Bloomberg is also aware of this problem and trying to make changes in order to fix this epidemic, he is going about it the wrong way.  A ban against anything larger than 16 ounces, McDonald’s size small, is just ridiculous.

The Obesity Epidemic. (2011, July 22). Retrieved July 26, 2012 from Centers for Disease Control and Protection: http://www.cdc.gov/CDCTV/ObesityEpidemic/

Color-coded labels improve healthy food choices in employees from all backgrounds. (2012, August 7). Retrieved August 7, 2012 from Science Codex: http://www.sciencecodex.com/colorcoded_labels_improve_healthy_food_choices_in_employees_from_all_backgrounds-96156

Overweight and Obesity – Facts. (2012, April 27). Retrieved July 26, 2012 from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/facts.html

Allen, J. (2012, July 24). New York City’s proposed ban on big sugary sodas draws heated debate. Retrieved July 26, 2012 from Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-usa-sugarban-new-yorkbre86n1ln-20120724,0,3207856.story

James, L., & Mark-Viverito, M. (2012, July 5). Why the Soda Ban Won’t Work. Retrieved July 26, 2012 from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/letitia-james/nyc-soda-ban_b_1652169.html

Mandel, H. (2012, July 20). Healthier options at chain restaurants have been associated with menu labeling. Retrieved August 7, 2012 from examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/article/healthier-options-at-chain-restaurants-have-been-associated-with-menu-labeling

Neporent, L. (2012, July 24). New York’s Proposed Cap on Soda Size Gets People Fizzing. Retrieved July 26, 2012 from ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/nyc-mayor-michael-bloombergs-proposed-cap-soda-size/story?id=16848469

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5 Comments to “Solving Obesity: Educate Instead of Taking Away Choice”

  1. I agree with educating the people about eating right and exercising will help them eat wisely and maintain a diet. However, it won’t work on children and teenagers, most of the time they eat what their parents give and what they want to eat. Most kids these days all want Mcdonalds because it is good and that is what their parents introduced to them, but if the parents don’t put their foot down and tell their kids what to eat and not eat, then it can help obese kids lose weight. Parents will have to stop spoiling the kids or their kids won’t learn and by then it will be to late, the same goes for making them play games and watching TV.

  2. I do believe education does contribute significantly in raising awareness about obesity. However, there also needs to be some rules in place to reinforce action to fight against obesity. I went to a school with a rigorous physical education program and we were provided with a lot of information about health, how to be healthy, healthy diet and exercise, how to apply that knowledge to your own life, etc. But there were also mandatory physical exercises everyone needed to complete. I think more schools should enforce education and mandatory activity in this way.

    Also, obesity is a tough problem to tackle because unhealthy foods are not the only contributing factor. There’s the media, peers, family, and overall cultural and societal factors that come in to play. There are already tons of parks, playgrounds and opportunities to exercise made available to the public. I guess it really comes down to the societal norms and individual effort.

  3. Education is key for everything here in America where people have the right to make a choice. It just sounds silly to me when they think that banning a 16-ounce sugary drink will be a good start. While it may be a “start” anyway, i think it should just be required to highlight the healthier choices on menus, adding the calories and so forth. Once people see the “math” they will most definitely make healthier choices. Uneducated people won’t really see what their eating until they see it broken down right in front of them. Denny’s is a good example. I like their menu because they pinpoint which are the healthier choices.

    Let’s hope anyway, that the drink ban works.

  4. I believe that educating individuals only can work so much. Especially for children. Even if you warm them that fast food is bad for them, or certain foods are bad for their health, they’ll still want to eat it, because it is what they want, and they will end up throwing a tantrum if they do not get what they want. This is smart though to really educate children about healthy lifestyles, because even if they do not take it into consideration once they are young, when they are older, they will understand what was taught to them at a younger age. It all depends on discipline. If you can discipline your child to not eat the unhealthy foods and you can deal with their attitude problems, then it will most definitely work. People turn to fast foods because it is so easy and on the go for them to eat. There is no waiting to be done. However, some fast food restaurants are trying to make healthier choices such as McDonalds, who now has the options of giving apples in their kids meal. Very smart idea!

  5. I don’t think that Bloomberg’s plan to eliminate sugary drinks is a solution to the obesity issue. While, it may make people choose another drink at Mcdonald’s instead, obesity requires a complete lifestyle change.

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