The beverage police have arrived…

The jeans in my dresser fit a little more snugly this time of year and the belt is usually a notch looser. It’s winter and like most other mammals, I find the need to eat too much to ward off the cold. So, I sit here pounding out this missive with a bag of pretzels nearby with a giant package of Nibs to wash them down.

I’m fat. Or overweight. At least that’s what the charts and diagrams tell me. At 5-foot-9, 166.5 pounds (usually it hits about 170 in the winter before I start seriously getting back on the track and treadmill and anything else the Y can throw at me), I’m overweight by 6.5 pounds. I should be between 147 and 160, I’m told, although only in my most anti-eating, living in a hot-as-hell climate days did I ever come close to the low end of that scale.

I thought about my burgeoning gut the other day when I ran across this. For those of you who haven’t been following this, Gov. David “Man, I wish Spitzer hadn’t gotten caught until after the budget was fixed” Paterson is proposing a tax on beverages. The point of the tax is to help fix a $15.4 billion budget gap while simultaneously passing this off as a necessary step in fighting childhood obesity. Paterson compares this to the way in which we’ve taxed cigarettes in an attempt to get people to quit smoking.

OK, here’s my problem with this. In many cases, we do things that are bad for us that really have no impact on others. Smoking isn’t one of those. You smoke a pack and a half of Lucky Strikes near me each day, you make me smell like an ashtray, irritate my lungs, increase my chances of asthma and essentially play a game of “pin the tumors on my soul.”

Same thing with drinking. We don’t have laws that prevent me from opening every bottle of booze I have in my house, pouring them into one giant glass and drinking from it as I watch the ESPN Classic replay of my Indians losing the 1997 World Series to the FloridaCarpetbaggersMarlins. However, the minute I’m still thirsty and get in my car, then I’m totally screwed (unless you live in Wisconsin where being shithammered behind the wheel draws you very little in the way of punishment). The idea is pretty clear: Mess yourself up all you want. The minute you hurt other people, that’s when we’ve got a problem with it.

I’m not going to get fat by watching a guy pound a gallon of Coke out of his backpack-sized 7-11 mug. The kid who can’t breath because his neck has succumbed to 88 chins doesn’t hurt me by ordering a giant vat of PowerThirst. I’m not somehow harmed when the giant woman in oompah loompah pants decides to order everything to the left of the bacon cheeseburger on the McDonald’s scoreboard menu (of course, if you’ve ever been in one of these places, you know what actually happens here: “Uh, yeah… I’d like a Big Mac Extra Value meal, with six extra cheeseburgers, three extra large fries.” And to drink? “Yeah, give me a Diet Coke please…”)

I guess this really brings home the point for me. While we consume an insane amount of calories from high-calorie beverages, many of them appear to be uncovered. Anyone want to guess how many calories are in a vanilla shake and Mickey D’s? How aboutmore than half of what the average woman is expected to take in during a single day… What about those great candy coffees Starbucks has been pumping at us lately? A white chocolate mocha is packingmore than twice the calories of a can of fully leaded Coke, with almost half of those calories coming from fat.

The fast food industry has been oversizing and overfattening us for decades. Why not drill them to shore up the budget? Actually, New York City, the heart and soul of the state, has beensupporting these businesses with tax breaks which seems to run contrary to the health initiatives at the state and city level.

The governor has two very good intentions here: fix a foundering budget and keep kids from becoming obese. That said, using the beverage tax to try to do this makes little sense. It has the likelihood of having little to no effect on the obesity epidemic and will likely force the poorest among the state’s citizens to once again pony up for something that brings a little joy into their lives.

The only way to get people to slim down is to offer alternatives and let them make the choice. I know eventually I’ll hit the point where I’m back to that one pair of 36 x 30s and I’ll be sick of washing them so I’ll hit the gym and get back into shape. When I was really out of shape a few years back, the relatives who told me at family gatherings, “Wow, you’re a little heavy, aren’t you?” only made me want to say “Fuck you. Please pass the potatoes.” Taxing my soda wouldn’t have had much affect either (I was a 54-can a week guy on regular soda until I switched to diet a few years back).

Would taxing high-priced hookers have made the governor’s predecessor reconsider a roll in the hay with Ashley Dupree?

Yeah, that’s what I thought…

11 thoughts on “The beverage police have arrived…

  1. I would not consider you, at 5-foot-9, and 166 pounds to be overweight. My wife is 5 foot 3 and about 220. That’s overweight.

  2. They should freakin’ tax fast foods and the parents should control the monies kids have to spend.
    I come from this from the other side- I’m 5’10” and weigh about 130#s. My nutritionist the other day asked me if I really want to gain 20#s. After he heard my cooking procedures (everything from scratch an as clean as possible) and that I do not normally eat fast food, he said, “That explains everything”. I’m going to have home-made milkshakes at night in order to gain some weight.
    These mooks have to stop taxing things and actually get parents to monitor what their kids eat. Make healthy meals, and stop stocking the pantry with crap.
    If I want a Coke (rare… I prefer whiskey tonics), I don’t want to pay a tax because some GameBoy kid is fat.
    This child-obesity poop is about parents NOT DOING THEIR J.O.B.
    I raised my sibs after Mom died. Fed them well and taught them what was good and what was bad for their bodies. (Don’t count the ciggies… that was Dad’s stuff) 38 years later, they are still slim and active.
    No extra taxes… force parents to do what they are supposed to do.
    ‘Nuff said.

  3. I’m 167 cm tall and tip the scales at 68 kg (that’s ~5’6″ and 150lbs for you decimally-challenged folks out there). I’m one of these people for whom the BMI fucks up big, because I’ve been lifting weights fairly seriously (for someone with cerebral palsy) for years now, and I bulk up pretty well pretty much everywhere the CP doesn’t really have its teeth into me. I couldn’t downsize to my 34″ waist jeans even if I were sure they’d close over my massive haunches; I don’t think they’d go over the tops of my thighs.
    While I’m not the thinnest person around, I’m probably almost as thin as it’s possible for someone with my somatotype to be. I’ve still got a few visible pounds around the middle, and a chest out to there, but I’ve also got the hollow-cheeked face of a long-time heroin addict, and tiny wrists and ankles (which contrast strikingly with my broad back and hips, grr). Am I fat? Shit no.
    Also, you will pry the seven or so cans of Coke (sugar, that aspartame shit will fuck you up) out of my cold, dead, weight-lifter’s fingers.
    I haven’t eaten at a McDonald’s in almost 20 years, mostly because eating in ostensible restaurants where the first smell that greets you when you come in the door isdirty diapers is exceedingly offputting. Don’t do it, folks…

  4. I almost always agree with you. But not this time. In my East Harlem neighborhood, there are only high-sugar drinks in the bodegas and delis. Kids in my neighborhood would switch to a diet drink if a) they were available and 2) they were a tick cheaper. (A whole lot would switch if only they were available.)
    My guess is that Gov. Paterson, who grew up near here, is thinking the downside to this tax (which I’m still not sure what you think it is) far outweighs (excuse the pun!) the upside. I know there are better ways to fight obesity, and I know there will be some people who aren’t obese who will end up paying a bit more. (Hey, they could always drink diet too.) And I know there won’t be a lot of revenue from this. But to me it’s like the tax on plastic bags: the upside more than outweighs the down side.
    Oh, and for those of you who think this is the result of poor parenting? Open your eyes to more than your own experiences. Kids often grow up in ways their parents could not have prevented, despite their best efforts. I’ve spent enough time with enough families that blaming mom and dad is easy, but only sometimes correct.

  5. I’ve been trying to shed a few pounds myself–at least until whatever bug is floating around decided to play Texas rules cage match on me for the last few weeks…
    For the record, my height/weight is…in English measurements, 6’3″/probably about 210, (I guess roughly 190cm and what, around 90Kg in metric?)…twenty years ago I was the same height, but weighed about 30 pounds less. I’d like to get to 195 pounds…and then I wouldn’t have to take heartburn pills so much.
    To be sure, I’ve eaten my fair share of junk, and am not by any means on a health food diet; however, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done the fast food thing this year (no McDeath–mostly a local Chicken Finger drive-thru)…mostly I do my own cooking–I’m not an artist in the kitchen, but am a decent enough craftsman.
    I’ve sworn off soda for a couple of years now–neither aspertame nor corn-syrup. To the latter, I do wonder about the effects of fructose and corn based starches/solids, which you’ll find in pretty much anything and everything besides vegetables…and I guess fish, though who knows what fish farms are pumping into the feed. I’m not anti-corn–I make a decent enough shrimp and corn soup–but agriculture policy in this country makes it almost impossible to NOT find it somewhere.
    Aside: in the mid-80s, right around the New Coke debacle, I noticed that the old Coke in the vending machine at one of my jobs tasted…different, and in a good way. In retrospect, I think it might’ve been because they were part of the last batch of Coca-Cola made with sugar instead of corn syrup…a quick check with Wikipedia says they made the change in 1985…yep, it was right around then…

  6. This post reminds me of this gender bias test that I saw in the excellent pop psychology book ‘Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind’. There is a pencil drawing of a slender woman in the foreground and a very heavy man in the background and a question “Is the doctor fat?”. Most people quickly answered “Yes, the doctor is fat” but the image doesn’t tell you which of the two people was the doctor, both are wearing doctor coats.

  7. i’ve gained some muscle weight. i used to pack on 5lb for winter, but now i just try and stay contant. sorta. PMS does mean chips and fries dammit. or course i added about 5lbs of clothers or more depending on the sweater. i got a few that weigh about 4lbs.

  8. WRONG!
    All those overweight people add considerably to the costs of health care. That DOES affect me, you, and everyone else. People who are overweight have worse health than those who are thin or “normal” weight. Just losing five pounds can make a huge difference.
    In my family I am the only one who is thin. I take NO medications and am a 50 year old female. All my relatives are on blood pressure and cholesterol meds, have bad backs, knees and hips. I have none of that.

  9. what gets me on biggest loser, when the scale hit 149 on my 5’5″ in high school(i was shapely, not fat), i said time to lose weight. how do you get to 250/350?

  10. You smoke a pack and a half of Lucky Strikes near me each day, you make me smell like an ashtray, irritate my lungs, increase my chances of asthma and essentially play a game of “pin the tumors on my soul.”
    Yeah, not so much Doc.
    Does anyone you know wear makeup?
    pthalates in most makeups are worse than second hand smoke.
    Does anyone you know get their clothes dry cleaned?
    That chemical smell is perchloroethylene – terribly carcinogenic
    Does anyone you know live near the road?
    Dust from brake linings contains asbestos to this day.
    Do you know anyone who drinks french press coffee?
    The fine particles in that are significantly more irritating and bioavailble to the blood vessels than those in second hand smoke.
    So, enough with the faux coughing as you walk by the outdoor smoking area. You’re just being a cholostomy-bag about it at that point. Capeesh?

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