The politics of weight loss

Before you read this, you should know it’s written by somebody who sees herself as a Left Libertarian.

That means I care about my fellow man (woman and child) and I care about the environment. I believe in giving help where help is needed, and I am a firm believer in helping people move into better circumstances for themselves rather than just allow them to subsist at their current poverty level.

I absolutely respect and expect personal responsibility. I’ll speak out to maintain personal rights and freedoms and I abhor legislative interference. I wear a seatbelt because I think it’s safer. I manage my weight by eating a balanced diet because it pleases me. I don’t do it to help keep the cost of health care insurance down for the general population and I don’t think anybody else needs to feel obligated to do so either.

Now you that know my position it should not surprise you about my attitude towards weight loss. If somebody wants to lose weight, or doesn’t want to lose weight, whose business is it? It’s not mine and it’s not yours and it’s certainly not our elected officials.

The decision as well as how to approach weight loss, when or if desired, is completely the choice and responsibility of the body owner. Yes, even if it’s a child. In the case of a child the responsibility to ensure that the child is offered nutritious food and opportunities to enjoy physical activities lies with the adults who love the child. Better still, when it comes to the children, I like to see the adults in their lives behave in ways that make them positive role models.

If you don’t think politics is creeping into your personal weight loss decisions, you are missing something.

Places that have more than 20 locations and serve food (that isn’t already in a package with a nutrition facts label) will need to post calorie information.This is part of the Affordable Care Act. The law is so clumsy and onerous that it continues to get postponed.

It was supposed to take effect in 2011. In March it was announced that it won’t go into effect until some time in 2017. Meanwhile some restaurants including Panera Bread, Dunkin Donuts, and McDonald’s have already posted calories voluntarily. I love that! That’s how I think business should work. Do it because it helps your customers and gives you a competitive edge, not wait until it’s a law. Give the customers what they want!

How else does the government want to manage our collective waistlines?

The city of Philadelphia has just approved a 1.5 cent tax on every ounce of soft drinks with added sugar. If it’s a sugar-free soft drink, they’re going to tax that too! This is based on an assumption that sugary drinks make people fat and sugar-free drinks trick people’s bodies into wanting more food, so they make people fat too.

It will affect sodas, teas, sports drinks, flavored waters, bottled coffees, energy drinks, and other products. Exempt products include baby formula and beverages that are more than 50 percent fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, or milk. Beverages for which customers request sweetener or add it themselves (as at a coffee shop) are also exempt.

It will affect sodas, teas, sports drinks, flavored waters, bottled coffees, energy drinks, and other products.
Exempt products include baby formula and beverages that are more than 50 percent fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, or milk. Beverages for which customers request sweetener or add it themselves (as at a coffee shop) are also exempt. That means this grape juice with 36 grams of sugar (no added sugar, but it’s a drink made of concentrated grape juice) and 140 calories in an 8oz serving will be exempt! 

I don’t drink a lot of sugary drinks. On occasion, I’ll have a diet cola. Mostly I drink milk, unsweetened iced tea and water. Cutting out sugary drinks or artificially sweetened diet drinks isn’t going to change my weight one way or the other. The effect those calories have on my overall calorie consumption is negligible.

Some people drink a lot of sugary drinks. Some people may drink 36 oz or more every day. 36 oz is just 3 cans of soda. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds 140 calories for each can – a grand total of 420 calories! 420 calories is a lot! When you don’t even realize you’re ingesting 420 calories, it’s really a lot. Eating a slice of layer cake with frosting is about 420 calories and most people recognize that cake is a high-calorie food. Liquid calories rarely get the same attention. They tend to slip into the body unrecognized.

If you’re sipping 420 calories a day in soda daily and you suddenly stop that and drink only water, you’re going to lose weight. You’ll lose weight even if you do nothing else differently.

Kicking a sugary soft drink habit is an easy way to lose weight and if you want to lose weight, that’s an effective way to go about it. What if you love soda and want to drink some in Philadelphia? What if your weight is healthy and you only drink a sugary drink on rare occasions? You’ll be paying a “sin tax” and you’re not a sinner. You’re going to pay that sin tax anyway. Is that fair or even right? I don’t think so.

Do you think Philadelphia will benefit by this tax by making the people who live there healthier? 

Those who support it say it will, but this tax isn’t just about helping establish healthier drinking habits. It will be a significant new source of revenue for the city and they already have plans to spend it where it will do good for the citizens. The money raised will be used “mostly for pre school programs, parks and libraries.”

What do I think about this? It’s another tax. This one is a “feel good ” tax which helps make it more palatable to the public. It’s to help people reduce sugary drink consumption and that’s good for their health and the money will benefit programs for children. That sounds good, but make no mistake, it’s another tax. It’s another tax and another attempt to push values on the people of Philadelphia whether they want to embrace or reject them.


Maybe you say, “what’s wrong with that? It’s good for everybody! Help people be healthy and create more pre school programs, and such!”

I think there’s plenty wrong.

Legislators have been heard to say, “the soft drink industry makes billions of dollars and we want a piece of the action.” That would explain why the tax is applied to the sugar-free soft drinks too. I’m not even sure if they think the tax will reduce the consumption of sugary drinks nor would they want it to do that. If fewer sodas are bought, they miss their soda tax revenue mark.

The city expects to make 90 million dollars in new tax revenue next year to pay for prekindergarten, community schools and recreation centers. It bothers me is that the city announces it plans to “spend most of that new tax revenue” on prekindergarten, community schools, libraries and recreation centers. What is “most” and where will the rest of that money go? Oh, I bet you can guess. It’s going in the general fund.

I’m not defending the sugary drink industry. I’m defending our freedom of choice. I am against our legislators imposing more taxes on citizens when there are indications that the money already collected in taxes is poorly managed. Of course I want to see money spent on important things such as prekindergarten, community schools, recreation centers and libraries. I just don’t like the way the money is being raised and am particularly suspicious of how much will end up in the general fund.

I’m mistrusting of the real reason behind a soda tax.

If it truly is a sincere effort to make people healthier, then I appreciate the sentiment although I resent the interference, but I don’t think it is. I think it’s sold to the public as a health initiative, but it’s just a way to squeeze more tax money out of citizens in a way that brought on a lot of public support. After all, “who’s going to oppose a tax that makes people healthier and raises money for the children?”

I have no doubt that some readers have decided I’m against laws meant to help people eat healthier and lose weight is because it’s bad for my business. Yes, it’s true I am a general manager of a commercial weight loss company. If the government’s “war on obesity” was actually won, some may think I’d be out of a job. I’m not worried. As far as I’m concerned there are 3 things in life you can always count on – (1) death, (2) taxes, and (3) people seeking commercial weight loss solutions.

I’m aware that many people will say I’m wrong.

They’ll assert “imposing taxes to help people make healthier choices is a good, noble and probably necessary thing!” I have a hard time using “good” and “taxes” in the same sentence – period! Politics are already a big, ugly, nasty, convoluted mess. Can we please leave weight loss out of it?



Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.