The Obesity Epidemic: America is a country that doesn’t know how to say ‘no’ to food

This week in Mississippi – the fattest state in the nation – a law was passed that made it illegal to limit portions of food, or require restaurants to post calorie information next to menu items.

Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi – where 68% of it’s residents are overweight – is expected to sign the bill into law.

The author of the bill was State Senator Tony Smith, who owns a BBQ chain in Mississippi called Stonewall’s. Stonewall’s has 5 locations across Mississippi, and one location in GA. The chain does not serve soda, even to children, in cups any smaller than 20oz. One 20oz soda has 220 calories. Two of those (presumably how much you’d drink with a meal) carries about 440 calories, or about a quarter of the daily caloric intake for an adult.

The bill has been called by many, including state legislators, as the “anti-Bloomberg” bill after NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to pass a law banning the sale of sodas bigger than 16oz. This is largely due to the fact that obesity and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions in the United States.

To put matters into perspective – the burden of obesity on American taxpayers is about $147,000,000,000 a year. It also costs airlines an additional $200,000,000 a year in airline fuel alone due to the fact that the average American has gained a whopping 20lbs since 1990. At the increase of 1lb a year, by 2030 the average American male will weigh 200lbs. In 1950, that average American male weight was 155lbs. Somewhere along the line, America gained about 45lbs, or the weight of an average dog.

A Harvard study has cited that American caloric intake has risen dramatically while calories burned has remained somewhat the same. The paper (available here) says that one of the main reasons this has happened is due to the fact that the American habit of eating out has risen sharply since 1980 – with the majority of Americans eating out 4 to 5 times a week… down from once a week in 1970.

By 2015, Type 2 Diabetes – a preventable disease – will affect 15% of American adults.

So, while many Americans are dying, becoming obese, and putting a strain on the American way of life both financially and emotionally due to their eating habits, Mississippi politicians and Bloomberg opponents are doing everything in their power to make sure that Americans stay fatter. Why is that?

“If we give government a little more control of our personal rights – where does it stop?” said Stonewall’s BBQ CEO and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, according to the New York Daily News. Mike Cashion, the executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association says that the bill ” … centers the responsibility on the state legislature.”

In a weird, Ayn Rand-ian flip, Tony Smith believes that the free market should be the one to signify the change towards healthier food and that Mississippians trust the market to respond to their needs. “For a lady, if all you can buy are black shoes, well, that doesn’t go with every dress you may have,” he said. “Hey, if you want to buy baked fish, fine, I love it. But if I want fried fish, that’s my right.”

To drive home that statement, D&T has learned that 1 in 3 Mississippians are classified as obese. Give ‘em enough rope and they’ll hang themselves. Give them enough pulled pork and they’ll die of a heart attack.

But this isn’t just adults. I called a Stonewall’s. The “Little Piggy” pulled pork sandwich packs a whopping 600 calories alone, before two sides of fries and mac and cheese, making the single meal come out to around 1300 calories, or over half of an adult’s daily intake in one meal.

There’s one catch, though: Stonewall’s refuses to serve the “Little Piggy” to anyone over the age of 12.