Controversies in Obesity – Ban or Educate

(Please note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are not those of the OAC and its leadership. The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.)

This past week I attended The Obesity Society’s (TOS) annual meeting in San Antonio, TX. For those of you not familiar with this meeting, it’s a professional-focused meeting where leaders and experts in the field of obesity, weight bias, nutrition and more come together to present data, learn about latest obesity trends and more.

While at the meeting, I spent some time walking through the posters section. Posters are where researches present their data on a specific study. The posters presented at this meeting ranged from the impact of sugary beverages on weight to bariatric surgery weight-loss expectations. Working in the field of obesity for more than seven years now, I will say that the poster sessions at meetings such as TOS can often be dwarfed by elaborate exhibit booths with jazzy music playing; however, the posters often provide some of the most valuable information a meeting such as this has to offer.

Walking through the posters, there was no doubt that “Sugary Sweetened Beverages and Obesity” was a popular research topic this year. And, most of the posters showed a strong link between sugary beverages and increased obesity rates. This got me thinking. “Is a soda ban the right way to go?” As many of you know, New York City recently passed a ban prohibiting restaurants, sports venues and movie theaters from selling soda in containers larger than 16 ounces.  Now, I am sure a lot of you reading this are thinking, “Yes, a ban is the right way to go. Look at the data between obesity and soda.”

Okay, point taken, but is banning it the right way to change behavior?

  • What’s stopping someone from buying two sodas?
  • What stops someone from getting a refill?
  • What stops someone from buying a soda of any size from a store prior to entering a theater (minus the theater’s policy that prohibits outside snacks)?

The answer – nothing. Absolutely nothing. So, back to my original question, “Is a soda ban the right way to go?” I asked this question to a personal friend and OAC member and he said, “Yes, it will work because it’s often extremely difficult to change public behavior.” Okay, I see his point clearly. I mean, let’s look at smoking. You have a label on the side of a pack of cigarettes that explicitly states, “Smoking causes cancer.” Period. Yet, I still see dozens of people daily enjoying their cigarettes, while I unavoidably inhale their second-hand smoke (which is another blog post in and of itself). Does this mean we ban cigarettes? Studies show that smoking has been on the decline in recent years, but why? Is it the label? Is it because almost every state outside of Nevada and a few others don’t allow it in restaurants, office buildings, etc.? OR, is it because of education?

We’ve all heard of the Truth campaign and I am going to go out on a limb and say that everyone reading this blog post knows cigarettes cause cancer, but do they know that sugary drinks are linked to obesity? Do they know why excess sugar and empty calories can negatively impact an individual’s health? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. I most certainly see more individuals consuming sugary sweetened beverages than smoking, so if they’re bad enough for NYC to ban sales of them in certain sizes, then why don’t we put equally as much pressure on government nationwide to educate the public (especially children) on the dangers of sugary sweetened beverages? In my opinion, this would make any ban on sodas a lot easier to swallow (no pun intended).

In my opinion, make no mistake about it – knowledge IS power.

What do you think?

Think about it…


3 Comments for this Post
  • Jane
    September 27, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Just stopping sugary drinks won’t prevent obesity. It is so sad to hear of obese children. Families and children eating healthier family meals together will make the difference in the long term. Learning how to prepare nutritious and filling meals and snacks will help too.

  • Michael D. Willis
    October 5, 2012 at 6:03 am

    T.A.D. the American Life-Style—Total Automobile Dependancy.

    T.O.D. the Rest of the World (exept for auto dependent Canada)–Transit Oriented Development.

    Visit your local fast-food-drive-thru–90% of the kitchen staff is quickly rustlin up some grub for the drive-thru only automobile schackled customers. It is remarkable to see such a busy food prep staff at work with only a few customers inside.

    Eat / drink & drive while texting.

  • PhillyNJ gal
    October 10, 2012 at 12:36 am

    I believe there are a number of factors that cause obesity and for me I feel I am addicted to sugar. I dont think the soda did it, its my behavior. I dont want any one, especially the government making those choices for me. I have to strengthen my mind to making the right choice for me. It may not stop at soda, there could be other bans in the works as well. That makes me nervous. I tell ya I really think alot of people out there are not just so lazy that’s why their fat, or that their uneducated. I think lifestyles such as little to no vacations, no good bike paths in many areas of the country and no insurance coverage for preventive care for stress management like massage or acupuncture, etc lend themselves to people not having time or energy to take care of themselves. You will never see me sitting down with a bag of chips. I am on my feet ALL DAY LONG with two jobs, no time for myself at all, because I am the breadwinner for my family.I would love workout time and food prep time etc. But sometimes the american people only have hard choices (like should I go to the gym or should I hang with my kid who hasn’t seen me for more than 2 hours in two days).

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