Reader Jen let me know about a new bill proposed in Washinton state in which “sugary soft drinks would have to be removed from kid meal menus.” To be clear, restaurants could still sell as many sugary drinks as they want to kids, but the kid’s menu could only list drinks including water, milk, and milk substitutes. If you think that this sounds like a useless political stunt, then you and I have something in common.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Marco Liias (D), the goal is to “reduce childhood obesity and diabetes cases.” What he doesn’t say is if there is any evidence at all to suggest that this bill will do anything to achieve those goals – I certainly can’t find any.
It matters that he has no reason to believe that this bill will achieve its stated goals, because there are downsides. Banning things in an effort to keep kids from being fat further stigmatizes fat kids. It also gives thin kids something to blame them for. Pretty soon, the suggestion is that we should just restrict what fat kids are allowed to have (remember that time that Mississippi tried to make it illegal to serve fat people in restaurants? I do.)
As many experts have pointed out, restriction sets kids up for unhealthy relationships with foods. This is significant in the context of his “prevent diabetes” thing since research has shown there are as many as twice as many kids with eating disorders than diabetes, and eating disorders are far more deadly.
This may seem like a small thing, but it is part of a larger, very dangerous trend. In a decade we saw a 119% increase in eating disorder hospitalizations in kids UNDER TWELVE. That is straight-up horrifying, but not surprising. We put fetuses on restriction diets, and then give babies low calorie formula, schools grade kids on their weight, people who claim to be experts on kids’ health don’t feel the need to have any evidence before implementing interventions on fat kids, we perform medical experiments on fat kids without informed consent or permission and amputate their stomachs. The outcomes are tragic and, more tragically, exactly what we should have expected.
Controlling what restaurants are allowed to put on their menus in an (at best) ill-advised, fatphobic effort to control the body size of kids (or people of any age) with absolutely no evidence that it will improve health (or control body size,) but with evidence that it has a distinct possibility of perpetuating eating disorders is a terrible idea no matter how many political points can be scored through legislative fat bashing.
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