You think that it’s bad in New York, where ordering a Big Mac brings you nothing but tsk-tsks from those around you. They look at your belly (it’s not too hard to miss), then eye the calorie count prominently displayed beside your chosen value meal and give you that look – that raised-eyebrow, pursed-lip, you-should-know-better glare your mother always employed when you reached for a third or fourth cookie. You feel like a scolded child as you take your factory-farm burger with fake cheese and “lettuce” back to your booth. And as you eat, it seems that everyone is watching you, judging you with each bite, because they know, thanks to the New York City Board of Health, just how bad for you that burger is. You can’t imagine it could get any worse than this. But evidently it could, because at least in New York, you were allowed to eat. In Mississippi, you may not be so lucky.
Legislation has been proposed that would ban restaurants from serving obese patrons. Based on criteria created by the state health department, servers would be forced to deny those who were too fat food. The customers would have to go elsewhere (a different state or their own kitchens) to find sustenance after they had sat idly sipping water, watching their skinnier friends eat. The thought is that this law would help combat the state’s obesity problem – 30 percent of adults are obese – but would it really? Or would it simply widen the chasm between the haughtily healthy and the woefully overweight?
The concern over the country’s weight problem has been met with hundreds of proposals detailing just how we can shrink America’s waists. Some, such as mandatory physical education in schools, are good, while others, such as Mississippi’s newest plan, are not. Before we create laws dictating who can eat what where, we have to consider what we are truly doing and if our methods will, in any way, help. There is such a thing as going too far. And this, an instance in which nutritional concern has blended with discrimination, is a perfect example.