In America, freedom means the ability to get as fat as possible.
At least that’s how it seems now, in the wake of a New York State Supreme Court judge throwing out New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempted ban on soda sizes larger than 16 ounces.
The law was denounced by many who felt it was an unnecessary intrusion by the government. To many, it’s an issue of personal freedom — the government should have no right to tell them what they should put in their bodies.
Even former losing Vice Presidential candidate and professional dunce Sarah Palin chimed in on the matter at the annual meeting of the mindless known as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC.)
In the middle of her speech she pulled a 7/11 Big Gulp out from underneath her podium and took nice long sip from it.
“Oh, Bloomberg’s not around, our Big Gulp’s safe,” Palin joked in that folksy cadence that makes me want to jump into oncoming traffic. “Shoot, it’s just pop, with low-cal ice cubes in it. I hope that’s OK.”
Perhaps these people have a point. No one should have a right to tell anyone else what substances they can or cannot put in their bodies. It is an issue of freedom.
The point they miss, however, is that the fast food mafia and convenience stores that persist in selling corn syrup sugar water by the bucketful have a stranglehold on the shopping carts of many Americans.
When it comes to food choices, for many, there is no choice at all.
For instance, Whole Foods is an amazing store. They’re the gold standard for what all grocery stores should strive to be — a wonderland of fresh, locally produced fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses.
They also have an incredible array of readily available, nutritious options at their buffet. A quick walkthrough and one will want to try a little bit of everything.
I know I’ve personally gone into a Whole Foods, grabbed a tray and began (conservatively, I thought) adding items to it, only to have the nice teller at the counter tell me I owed them $23.
$23. That’s the price of at least four or five Baconators from Wendy’s plus a few value size fries.
Unfortunately, there are only a few limited options for those on limited budgets. Even fewer for those looking for food that is prepared quickly and easy to get.
There are almost unlimited fast food options and almost all meals at McDonalds, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box etc. are exceedingly unhealthy.
Instead of making wholesale changes to their menus to provide more nutrition to their customers, these chains make token gestures to health-conscious consumers. For example, a Taco Bell taco salad packs close to 900 calories.
It is not in the best interest of fast food companies to offer much in the way of healthy alternatives. So instead they offer food and drinks that are loaded with junk calories — fat, salt and sugar, substances that have effects near to that of hard drugs. They provide a quick blast of a sort of food euphoria followed by a crash, which leaves the diner wanting more food sooner rather than later.
Which leads me to my main point of contention.
People are still allowed to smoke, even though through a combination of taxes and warning labels, fewer and fewer people are making the foolish choice to even start. But in essence, they are provided with a healthier alternative. The chance to not smoke at all.
Limiting exposure to soda, which rots people’s teeth, provide ungodly amounts of sodium and can lead to diabetes, is a good start.
The law in New York City would not have banned soft drinks. It would have placed a roadblock down that says, “Hey, this may not be good for you.”
It gets people thinking.
Thinking about their health, thinking about why soda is bad for them and what they can possibly do to still drink it but in a way that does not adversely affect their health.
For those who think that freedom is a one-way street they can drive while juggling the Baconator in one hand and the 64-ounce Big Gulp in the other, there was nothing in the ban that would have prevented them from doing so. They would just have to buy four separate Big Gulps to do so.
They would see a physical manifestation of a bad choice.
The time will come some day for food companies to make changes that better reflect the well being of the consumers who spend their hard-earned money purchasing their products.
It’s a person’s right to buy as much soda as they want but if a person drinks so much of it they develop complications and die — then they have no freedom at all.
Measures like the soda ban are necessary to effect change. To make food companies realize that the only sustainable, moral choice they can make, would be to offer widespread, fast and affordable options to their customers.
Until then, America, keep on Big Gulping and Baconating away.
Just remember, there is always such a thing as too much of a good thing.