Let’s start with this: We know our mayor is great with limits—for other people.
He famously took stands against smoking in restaurants, bars and public parks. His administration has tried to limit everything from the size of newsstands to the number of cars entering Midtown. Then last week, the mayor, surrounded by piles of sugar cubes, said he wants to limit restaurant soda cups to the 16-ounce size.
The only limit he has not really liked is the one allowing a mayor two terms. So he found a way to get that overturned, with very few high-profile New Yorkers daring to stand in his way.
So I get why Mayor Michael Bloomberg drives some people crazy, especially if they happen to like supersizing their beverages. There’s something unseemly about a billionaire who cannot stop telling other people what to do. And there’s not much that’s warm and fuzzy about the guy to help his medicine go down.
I also understand—oh, boy, do I—that it’s hard to hear that we’re too fat, especially during tough times. When First Lady Michelle Obama started her healthy eating campaign, I resented the hell out of it. I was newly unemployed and that woman was running around the country talking about vegetables. But my pals in New York City schools told me she was exactly right to tackle the obesity epidemic; it plays out in ugly ways in the lives of children (and adults) in this city and nation.
Bloomberg is right to take action. His critics say the limit on soda size is random. It is. Wherever we start tackling this issue, it’s going to seem subjective and maybe even silly. But we have to start someplace, somehow.
Yes, there are scientific reasons to question the mayor’s specific proposal. Some people think diet soda is even worse than the sugary variety. Others want to target specific foods instead of beverages. There’s a camp that prefers an education-only approach, with nothing punitive.
Perhaps Bloomberg has picked the wrong piece of this monster topic to begin with, but he’s trying to come up with a political answer to a health crisis. Starting with sugary soda, where there has already been some slippage in usage and a growing agreement, makes political sense.
Even if the mayor’s decree falls flat or gets overturned by the next mayor, the whole enterprise will have been worthwhile if it initiates a discussion about portion sizes. Because let me tell you: I’m really not all that old, and in my lifetime there has been a drastic change in what gets put in front of you when you say “small,” whether you’re ordering a beverage or a food item.
The simplest criticism of the mayor’s plan has its logic backward. Opponents say rebellious guzzlers will just order more than one soda. But that’s the whole point. Right now, we’re playing restaurant roulette. People need to be reminded what exactly one single beverage size should be. Is that subjective? Sure, but some of us are tired of the subjective decision to serve us, way too often, way too much food and drink.
Who’s to decide the proper serving size? I pick me. And Bloomberg. Yeah, the mayor and me. ’Cause he looks OK and I just lost 10 pounds in four weeks.
Basically, the one thing I did consistently and consciously was stop drinking sugary soda. It worked. I had Diet Cokes on special occasions: Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and the night I saw Linda Lavin in The Lyons. I cut out the sugar-laced variety—and, sadly, French fries.
I wasn’t trying to be trendy, I swear. I was just taking slightly better care of myself.
Starting with soda just made sense.
Christopher Moore is a writer in Manhattan. He is available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and is on Twitter @cmoorenyc.
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