Professionally Fighting Fat

Professionally Fighting Fat

Obesity is on everyone’s lips. It is everywhere. Do-gooders concern about it is all-consuming. Some consider it our nation’s biggest problem.

Enemies of fat show an amatuerish lack of ingenuity. They trouble local school boards over whether the high school halls should have pop vending machines, (though they are unconcerned over the librarian’s insistence that computer users should have access to prurient internet sites). They require cafeteria workers to include low-fat entrees, apparently so kids can slosh them into the discard barrels.

Another uncreative solution is to force restaurants to publish detailed fat and calorie information on posters and menus. I saw such a poster once while waiting for my fries to come up. It languished unheeded. I love to see what new thing businesses are being forced to do, so I shuffled over to take a look. I was cheered. For $3.89 I was about to partake of the same number of calories a North Korean family of four might in a week. I went back to the serving counter thinking I might direct my hungry fellows to the poster, but knowing them to be products of the nearby public school, I doubted that they could read anything but the logos of multi-national corporations. It was certain the clerks couldn’t read; they entered orders by pushing the buttons graphically representing each menu selection. So I saved my breath.

Posters would be more interesting if they announce the percentage of insects, rodents, and arachnids. But posters, as tried and proposed, are a lily-livered solution.

The best solutions remain untried. But in the interest of keeping the United States light, so that it doesn’t sink beneath our collective weight, resulting in the uniting of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, can’t we find better, more professional ways?

The CAFÉ approach is one. (CAFÉ stands for Car And Fuel Efficiency regulations. Look it up if you doubt me.) Congress tells Ford that 20% of total vehicles sold have to get more than 30 mpg. Environmentalists pushed this to reduce pollution, and because light cars kill people, population at the same time. Apply this to food. Congress could require that every fifth sandwich is non-fattening. What if you are that fifth customer and you despise the non-fat sandwich? A veterinarian’s cow chute, modified for humans, drops out of the ceiling and locks you in place. An employee frisks your wallet for the money. One with rubber gloves pries your clenched teeth apart. Another inserts the FDA-approved sandwich.

Ford found a gentler way. More people want their Excursions and Expeditions than their Escorts. They lower the price so they are losing money on Escorts. They raise the price on Expeditions to offset the loss. Congress thinks this is fair. If they force Ford and GM, surely they can force Safeway, Wendy’s and 7-11 to sell 20% low-fat items. Hey, it hasn’t been tried. Don’t criticize it until you’ve tried it. “Buy four Whoppers, and get the TofuBurger for a penny!”

Another bona fide solution: enlist city planning and zoning departments. Treat Dairy Queen like a sexually explicit business. “Adult businesses” are zoned 1,000 feet away from schools and churches. Since there is a school or a church approximately every 1,000 feet in the typical American city, this is an effective way to keep porn shops out of a city. Do the same thing to KFC. If it were three miles from the city limits, average school kids would not likely walk there for lunch. (My kids probably would because they’ve been inspired by the gallant stories of their immediate predecessor walking that far, every morning, before milking the cow, to deliver a single newspaper. But my kids are not average, of course.) The average kid would wander school halls looking for something to eat. They would find a vending machine where heads of cabbage are dispensed. Cabbage Coke.

Zoning could slim down retirees by siting all-you-can-eat buffets thirty miles from neighborhoods where gray hair predominates. Allow no tour bus parking.

Planning departments can limit sign size for food establishments to one square foot.

And while we are on advertising, we can outlaw ads for any food items except broccoli, spinach, rice crackers, grapefruit and tofu. This is called the Jim Beam solution.

Or, we could do as has been done with tobacco- sue Burger King, Arby’s, the U.S. Stockgrower’s Association, Kraft, Pepsi, and the Wisconsin Cheese Producer’s Association for $100 billion. Give what’s left after paying the lawyers to the states. They will run media campaigns persuading people to stop eating meat, cheese, Twinkies and pop. They can also teach fat cessation programs. This is called the RJR Reynolds-Phillip Morris solution.

As soon as Haliburton gets done rebuilding Iraq, it can come back to our chief domestic problem: obesity. First, President Bush can attack restaurants with pinpoint missiles, limiting collateral damage where possible, of course. Then Haliburton can be given billions to build a Gold’s Gym on each cratered site. Victory can be claimed in yet another war, The War On Obesity. This is called the Bush/Cheney Pre-emptive Strike, “Nation Shrinking” Doctrine.

New buck-a-pack taxes on cigarettes have proved to reduce smoking. Following this pattern, states could levy a tax on pizzas: $1 on a small; $2 on a medium; $3 on a large. The money could be used for Medicaid stomach staples, and for hiring food police. This is called the Pizza Hut Solution.

It is high time to bring a little professionalism to the fight against obesity. We must get out of the grip of this consuming problem.


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