The whole world is engulfed in a war on fat. On one side are health crusaders. On the other side are food sellers and libertarians. Lately, the health costs of obesity have prodded politicians into the war, shifting the balance of power to the crusaders.I simply do not believe that the so-called health side is really composed of people who are solicitous about everyone else's health. I can't prove it, but my intuition is that all the strength on the "health" side of this war comes not from people who really care whether other people are healthy, but from people who don't like having to see fat people. They are concerned about their own aesthetic pleasures, and they think fat is ugly.
And that argument about how much money fat people are costing us? I say it's bogus... a strategy to win more support for more restrictions. Fat people burden the taxpayers? I simply don't believe it. I'm sure fat people have various ailments they need to put up with, and some of these are going to tap into public funding -- drug benefits for blood pressure medicine, amputations, and so on. But what about the offsets? They are going to die younger. (On average. Not you, of course.) I don't trust the numbers concocted by the people who want to intrude here. Those who want to be left alone don't work hard enough at putting together their own facts.
Purging trans fats in New York would save at least 500 lives a year and possibly 1,400, said the health department. That's more than the number saved by seat belts.Where does that number come from? If people are dying of trans fat, won't we save on Social Security and Medicare? If fat is so fatal, why do fat people walk among us?
The instigator of the New York ban, city health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, says chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes are eclipsing infectious diseases. Most experts and politicians share that view. We already regulate restaurants for infectious disease; why not extend that scrutiny to chronic disease?Regulate restaurants because they cause the "disease" of making people fat. That's the argument. But he's NYC's health commissioner. He must have thought this through. You remember Frieden. He's the guy who offered the explanation “This is something we hadn’t fully thought through, frankly,” when withdrawing that proposal to let people change their sex on their birth certificates, even if they hadn't had sex reassignment surgery.
(Are you fat? Try the Atkins diet! It's about eating fat.)
ADDED: I should add that I do realize that trans fats and the fats that will substitute for them are equally caloric, and presumably equally fattening. Saletan's piece is clear on this point, and I assumed readers would take the linked article as background and assume that I understood it. But I see from the comments that some readers think I didn't. Nevertheless, it's fair to ask why I think people are really alarmed about appearances, not health, when they back a regulation like this, considering that it's rather unlikely to make anyone thinner.
I'm talking about the emotions here, not reason. I think people are buying into the theory that the food industry is nefarious and must be controlled because they see a problem and they want a villain. People support ineffective regulation all the time: they want to see something done. Look at all the people fretting about "high fructose corn syrup," with assertions that it's making everyone fat, even though, if it were banned, other, equally caloric sugars would be substituted. Yet people think there's some special problem with the stuff. They want to blame the food industry.
One thing I didn't think about, however, and wish I'd put in the original post, is that plenty of fat people themselves support regulation like this. It's not just a matter of feeling alarmed about what is happening to other people. Some of this is alarm about one's own body. People cannot control their own weight, so it must be some outside force making them fat. This failure to take personal responsibility is a downward spiral. There will never be enough regulation to make people thin. After every ban, people will wolf down whatever is still legal, and then cry for more help. If you keep an honest tally of how many calories you consume, you'll see it's your own fault if you're fat. It may be a terrible fault to overcome, but it is still your fault. If you think it isn't, it will only become harder to overcome.
Which may be why people are getting so fat. They've been lured into thinking that their bodies are not their own responsibility.