Penelope Royall says restaurants are expanding American waistlines
This Washington Post column about a new government report targeting restaurants in the battle against obesity proves yet again why the government doesn't have any business meddling in the affairs of businesses and individuals -- especially when it comes to issues of diet and nutrition.
It seems a 134-page FDA-sponsored report (can I have the Cliff's Notes version?!) called "Away-From-Home Foods: Opportunities for Preventing Weight Gain and Obesity Report" has zeroed in on the 900,000 restaurants as the reason for the obesity problem in America. As a result, the FDA (I told you they could make an impact on your life more than you realize!) is almost demanding restaurants cut down their portions and calories in favor of more low-fat/low-calorie/portion-controlled meals in their report.
The director of health promotion in the Department of Health and Human Services Penelope Royall believes restaurants need to bear the burden of responsibility for leading the American people down the path to obesity.
"We must take a serious look at the impact these foods are having on our waistlines," said Royall.
While I can certainly appreciate and understand the logic that we should look at the role restaurants play in making decidedly unhealthy foods available to Americans on a whim at virtually every corner, I do not believe the government should be the one strongarming the restaurant industry about this. The government can't lose weight for you!
Restaurants are in business to make money by giving the consumer exactly what they want. If the restaurant customer wants to buy a "super-sized" meal to eat, then it would be in the best financial interest of the restaurants to offer these kind of meals. At the same time, if someone is watching their weight and wants to eat a smaller or healthier meal, then making those options available and allowing the market forces to work will satisfy that market as well.
The reason "healthier" options at restaurants don't do as well is not because of the restaurants that offer these foods, but rather in the final choices that are ultimately made by the consumer. If someone goes into a fast food restaurant to buy a burger and fries, guess who made that decision? It was the fast food customer, NOT the fast food company. The company is merely providing a product that meets the needs of the customer base.
If restaurants are marketing their products too convincingly to the public, then it must be the public who demands more out of these businesses and urging them to provide healthier options. The government needs to stay out of legislating what businesses can and cannot do as a means for promoting good health because it is none of their business. If there was enough of an outrage about this, then a grassroots effort would bring about change.
What the government CAN do about public health and obesity is get rid of the ridiculous Food Pyramid that has done NOTHING to improve the American diet and has produced years of frustration and agony among those who sincerely want to lose weight and keep it off. Perhaps they could open the door of opportunity to ALL nutritional approaches, not the least of which on that list should be the low-carb lifestyle which has changed the lives of so many people just like me. THAT is an initiative the FDA and other government-health cronies should be looking at, not taking dead aim at restaurants.
The report was prepared by the Colorado-based public policy institute called the Keystone Center and they concluded that the American people eat one-third of their calories somewhere besides their home. Additionally, we are eating an average of 300 MORE calories as of 2000 than we were in 1985 according to statistics from the Department of Agriculture.
Lamenting that two out of three Americans are either overweight or obese at an annual cost to our healthcare system of $93 billion, the report wants to point the finger at restaurants jumping on a popular bandwagon that they are to blame for obesity. As someone who used to weigh over 400 pounds and was able to get my weight under control, I could not disagree more.
Certainly, restaurants could do a better job of giving healthier options to people, the fact is that they will only do what the consumer demands. As much as I would love to have a sugar-free dessert option at a restaurant, that won't happen until enough people are vocal enough to convince a company to begin offering one. It's that simple.
Requiring the calories, fat, and carbs to be listed on the menu or food packaging is a novel approach, but most people don't want to know what's in the food they are eating. When I see people eating something unhealthy and ask them, "Do you know how many carbs you are eating?," most of them reply back, "I don't want to know." The same goes for these restaurant meals. People who want to know can go to the restaurant's web site and find the information, but the rest of the people just don't care.
THAT is a problem, but it is not going to be fixed by forcing restaurants to cut their portions, reduce their calories, and share nutritional information with the consumer on the menus or food packaging. Changes must be made, but they must fall on the individual to make. Stop blaming others for your obesity and start taking control of your own health and weight before it's too late!