We need government to help us be less fat

Are we not capable stewards of our own welfare? In general, yes, but the government has taxed cigarettes to high heaven, as a means (successful) of steering us away from them, and made it illegal to partake of many recreational drugs. Like those substances, heavily sugared soft drinks are wholly unnecessary and are implicated in health problems that wind up affecting all of us, not just the individual suffering from them. Food ceased to be a frontier too far when the fraction of American adults who qualify as obese climbed above one in three.

We’re fat, folks. Seriously, dangerously fat. And you don’t need statistics to tell you that; you just need to look around. All three people ahead of me in line in a food shop in Des Moines last month qualified as morbidly obese; they had 900 pounds — easy — among them. One of every two people in line with me at a Coney Island concession stand last weekend were carrying at least 25 extra pounds. When this many people are this overweight, you have not only an epidemic. You have a new normal, a context in which each obese person is less likely to recognize and appreciate the magnitude of his or her health problem because it’s entirely unexceptional…

Bloomberg and Farley aren’t taking anything away from us, not really. They’re just pushing back against the new normal. They’re trying to reroute our expectations and tweak our habits. “The portions that people are served have a big influence on what they consume,” Farley told me. “It doesn’t seem logical, but that’s the observation.” If given a larger measure or enticed to purchase it, many people will upsize their intake without quite recognizing it.