Education seems like a logical approach. Many years ago a neighbour of ours in the UK moved to Canada with her family. When we saw her a couple of years later we were stunned at how much weight she had lost, and how good she looked. She said on her first visit to a doctor in Canada, he had told her that he considered her to be obese and that if she wanted to be his patient she had to lose weight. That simple approach worked for her! No one had ever actually told her a) that she was obese and b) what the consequences might be.
How about refusing to serve food to an obese person? Would that be very effective at helping them reduce their weight or change their attitude towards food? (If, indeed, that is their problem!) Take a look at this bill:
House Bill 282
AN ACT TO PROHIBIT CERTAIN FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS FROM SERVING FOOD TO ANY PERSON WHO IS OBESE, BASED ON CRITERIA PRESCRIBED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH; TO DIRECT THE DEPARTMENT TO PREPARE WRITTEN MATERIALS THAT DESCRIBE AND EXPLAIN THE CRITERIA FOR DETERMINING WHETHER A PERSON IS OBESE AND TO PROVIDE THOSE MATERIALS TO THE FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS; TO DIRECT THE DEPARTMENT TO MONITOR THE FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS FOR COMPLIANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ACT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) The provisions of this section shall apply to any food establishment that is required to obtain a permit from the State Department of Health under Section 41-3-15(4)(f), that operates primarily in an enclosed facility and that has five (5) or more seats for customers.
(2) Any food establishment to which this section applies shall not be allowed to serve food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the State Department of Health after consultation with the Mississippi Council on Obesity Prevention and Management established under Section 41-101-1 or its successor. The State Department of Health shall prepare written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is obese, and shall provide those materials to all food establishments to which this section applies. A food establishment shall be entitled to rely on the criteria for obesity in those written materials when determining whether or not it is allowed to serve food to any person.
(3) The State Department of Health shall monitor the food establishments to which this section applies for compliance with the provisions of this section, and may revoke the permit of any food establishment that repeatedly violates the provisions of this section.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2008.
Doesn't this read as though the dateline should have been April 1? Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Surely the courts in the USA have already dealt with this issue? I believe restaurants should provide adequate nutritional information about the food they are offering, and leave the choice up to the consumer. The fast food places are actually fairly good about posting information about their foods since the lawsuits against McDonalds. I would like to see more restaurants including more nutritional information on their menus, but to ask them to make an on the spot assessment of the cause of a customer's obesity is ridiculous! If I eat a high calorie, high fat, meal from time to time, that's my business. Maybe I compensate by eating nothing but veggies for the rest of the week! Maybe I'm overweight because of a medical problem, and nothing to do with what I eat. (I would guess most truly obese people do eat too much and the wrong kind of foods, but I'm sure there are some who don't.)
I don't believe there are any easy (I was going to say one-size-fits-all) answers to the question of obesity, but legislating who can eat in restaurants is NOT something that is going to help anyone! In fact, although it wasn't an April Fool and certainly wasn't intended as a joke, the author of the bill didn't expect it to pass and the state House Public Health Committee chairman said he is going to "shred" the bill:
"I was trying to shed a little light on the number one problem in Mississippi," said Republican Rep. John Read of Gautier, who acknowledges that at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, he'd probably have a tough time under his own bill."