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Jewish World Review July 16, 2003/ 16 Tamuz, 5763

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

In Nanny Nation, being fat is not your fault | A careful reading of the day's headlines reveals this poetic tension: G0d and America's tort lawyers are on opposite sides of the war on fat. Where you gonna put your money?

Playing his parenting role as surely He intended it, G0d is inspiring people like Lucille Johnson of Denver to take personal responsibility for her actions. Johnson is one of 150,000 overweight Coloradoans who have joined the nationwide "America on the Move" program

(, vowing to walk 2,000 extra steps per day and to eat 100 fewer calories. Although the program isn't church-affiliated, Johnson is director of health programs for the Metro Denver Black Church Initiative and has taken her weight-loss message to the pulpit. She has distributed 1,600 pedometers to oversized parishioners in 32 Denver churches, according to an Associated Press story by Joseph B. Verrengia.

"G0d doesn't care where you are when you start," says Johnson. "You will reap the reward." Which is less poundage, praise the Lord.

While losing weight by eating less and moving more seems like one of life's easier equations, you wouldn't know it to hear some lawyers talk. To John F. Banzhaf III -a George Washington University law professor who has never met a consumable product he didn't hate or a hugely profitable company he didn't want to sue -the plague of American obesity is the fault of corporate, not human gluttony.

His premise is simple: Food, especially fast food, is making people fat. Apparently against their will or their ability to resist.

Of course anyone who has ever stood in line at a fast food restaurant knows that fast food is fat food. You don't see many social X-rays queuing up for super-sized Big Macs and fries. What you see are hefties eager for a quick, cheap meal that's not bad on the tastometer.

It's hell living in a rich country with too much to eat, isn't it? Heaven presumably would be a hungry nation where food is scarce and otherwise tastes like tofu. Wait. Before all you soy lovers whip out of your lotus positions, I love tofu. But more than tofu, I love common sense; and more than fat, I hate frivolous lawsuits.

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Common sense tells us that eating less and moving more will solve most obesity problems. Yet lawyers are bibbing up for the banquet their litigation surely will produce.

Last month, Banzhaf and others gathered in Boston to confer on strategy and lawsuit methods. Part of their plan is to demonstrate that junk food is as addictive as tobacco, such that obesity is the food's fault, not the foodie's.

Predictably, "scientific" studies are surfacing to support the thesis. Rats who got used to sugar, for instance, displayed symptoms of withdrawal when sugar was withheld, according to one study.

Other research suggests that combining certain foods to increase a product's "palatability" creates an "opioid effect," so that people want to eat more. Allow me to translate: By combining sugar, fat and protein in certain ways, food vendors are purposely trying to make their products taste so good that you'll eat them.


Years ago when tobacco companies first came under assault for selling a legal product to people who might have connected the dots between their breathless hack and the smoke they were drawing into their lungs, nanny-watchers warned of the slippery slope. Today cigarettes, they said; tomorrow burgers and beer.

Welcome to their prophecy.

The idea that restaurants are trying to make food taste better by combining sugar or fat to their protein, also known as "cooking," hardly qualifies as criminal conduct. But what matter. Look for juries to be loaded with overweight people who, out of guilt and their own need for redemptive victimhood, will sympathize and reward obese overeaters for their lack of willpower.

As to the opioid power of the food, so what? The human brain works on a pleasure/reward system. Those things necessary to survival tend to be pleasant. If the original design had been otherwise, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

The real genius of the original plan, however, was free will, which includes the option of restraint, personal responsibility and, as Colorado's walkers have learned, putting one foot in front of the other.

Even so, I'm putting my money on the lawyers. In the game of greed, G0d doesn't stand a chance.

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