Big Gulp on hit list

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his soapbox planted firmly on his treadmill, disgusted with the way his people are still overweight and unhealthy, no matter that he has taken cigarettes from dining patrons and those congregating at neighborhood watering holes, or that trans fats are no longer welcome in the Big Apple. This time the mayor has targeted Big Gulps.

Bloomberg is proposing that sugary soft drinks should no longer be available in cups larger than 16 ounces. The notion still has to go before the city’s health board, but reportedly they do whatever he tells them, so it’s as good as done. I think the mayor is probably well intentioned, unless of course he is actually mad with power and will next start to spot check people’s tooth brushing habits or the dirt under their fingernails.

He makes some valid points such as being sick and tired of the government having to pick up the pieces when people can no longer work because of poor health, while at the same time I’ve read commentaries pointing out that his attack on sodas is a crackdown against poor people. What about those Park Avenue types who swig fancy Starbuck’s coffee that has every bit as much sugar in it with some artery-clogging whipped cream to top it off? Others contend consumers will simply frequent places that offer free drink refills.

How did we get to this place where we stuff our pizza crusts with even more cheese and “supersize it” is as much a part of the fast food order as do you have any ketchup?

I read in an article that we need to look no further than the dinnerware in our cupboards for an answer. Today’s plates are huge and so as not to look like we’re eating in some trendy restaurant where they give you a tiny piece of this and a few sprigs of that, we fill them to the rim.

When we have a special meal at my parents’ we always bring out the dishes that once belonged to my grandmother, the flower decorated ones from when my dad was growing up. They’re noticeably smaller than the newer plates and that translates into less hefty servings and ideally smaller waistlines. Maybe Bloomberg could work on limiting the diameter of dinner plates while he downsizes drink cups.

All this is not to say that we don’t have a problem. I’m bothered, for instance that in poor neighborhoods the closest place to shop for food when you don’t have transportation is at the 7-Eleven. A steady diet of cheese puffs and donuts does not a healthy person make. I know of convenience stores that stock only squishy white bread and when I’ve asked for whole wheat I’m told they don’t carry it because no one will buy it — the old supply and demand.

But there is a glimmer of hope. I think the schools must be teaching kids about eating healthy and it’s starting to stick because my friend’s two boys will call her on the carpet if she depends too much on chicken nuggets or delivery pizza, asking instead for fruit and vegetables.

Bloomberg’s “nanny state” is not the answer, but maybe the publicity he stirs up every time he comes out with a new scold at least makes us stop and think about our own actions and whether we really need to have a Dr. Pepper in a cup large enough to wash out a few unmentionables.

—Nancy Luse writes from Frederick, Md., and is now taking her meals on a saucer.

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