Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
King Obesity sat grandly on a huge hassock atop a throne composed of solidified animal fat surveying his domain. The last thirty years have been bullish for Obesity, during which the number of seriously overweight children in America tripled. Eating fat, sugary and salty food while sitting for hours daily looking at video screens, being bused to and from school, and not having to bother with physical education, millions of lads and lassies were following orders.
An agitated messenger arrived in the throne room, breathing heavily from his travels. “Oh, my liege, Obesity, I have disturbing news. Michelle Obama, the First Lady, is launching a nationwide project she calls ‘Let’s Move’ to combat childhood obesity and shed billions of pounds of your stuff. She claims that success would reduce all types of diseases now and later, save on medical costs, as well as raise the energy level and self-esteem of millions of children. Here, Your Eminence, are the complete details of her plan.”
Obesity was a hard person to agitate. He had heard of these campaigns before. They went nowhere. He shook his heavy jowls and rubbed his many-layered belly, which was his way of saying “ho, hum, here we go again.”
His fleshy fingers clutched the plan by those people he always called the “lean and meaners,” and saw that improvement in the school lunch program’s menu, exercise at school, farmers’ markets and community gardens were at the top of the action list. Obesity chortled at his adversaries’ naivete and reticence.
For some reason, they avoided the real causes of his success in pouring massive amounts of empty calories into the mouths and down the throats of these children who cry out for more and more of them.
It is all about who owns the tongues of these youngsters, not who reaches their brains, mused Obesity. Ownership, Obesity knew, belonged to his most faithful allies—the vast fast food and food processing industry and their clever advertisers. For decades these companies have transformed millions of young tongues into fast food first responders.
The tongue has been turned against the brain for so long that the kids’ parents and even some grandparents accept this conditioned response. Look what they head for in the movies, what they choose in the supermarkets, what they order in the chain restaurants and takeouts. It’s all about the pipeline full of enlarged amounts of sugar, fat and salt, dude! Hour after hour, day after day, these pipelines are flowing to the delight of their video-addicted young customers.
Obesity has been defeating his principal opponents – Knowledge, Nutrition, and Health – for so long, he sleeps most of the day when he is not eating. So, Michelle Obama is going to concentrate on the schools. Hah, not a chance unless she wants a rebellion of the kids, whose habit is to cast aside much of the cooked and raw vegetables even when they’re hungry. The school vending machines are stocked with the perfect junk food and nearby stores can make up for any lack of ready supply.
So, though knowing better, school lunch managers, to quell any unrest, load up on sugar-glazed cookies called Crunchmania Cinnamon Buns and sugar-laden cereals for breakfast. At lunch there are dollops of modified cornstarch, lipolyzed butter oil, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar-flavored milk.
It wasn’t accidental that McDonald’s most successful words to get children to nag their parents were “It’s a Child’s World”. So, if sincere schools can’t get the children to eat their fruits and vegetables, what about the burdened, commuting parents? Can they overcome the daily barrage of junk food and drink that shapes their children into Pavlovian specimens—mere conditioned responders? Don’t be silly. They eat from the same menu.
Obesity continues to bet on the children’s tongues as wards of the irresistible junk food companies. After all, his ranks keep swelling and the Fat Pride movement is picking up steam.
The messenger, standing with military erectness, deferentially asked: “Oh master, what are you thinking?” Obesity looked down on him and rendered his conclusion: “So long as the lean and meaners do not focus on the battle for the tongues and their captors and instead concentrate on presenting nutritious foods to children while explaining why and how they are good for them, I say to you and all messengers of these tidings, do not worry, Obesity is and will continue to be king.”
“Why,” he continued, “just a few days before Michelle Obama’s multimedia White House event announcing ‘Let’s Move’ with former NFL runner, Tiki Barber, Barack Obama was with a group of schoolchildren. As if being at the White House was not enough excitement for the students, what did Mr. Obama do? He presented each of them with a box of red, white and blue M&Ms imprinted with the Presidential seal and his signature, no less.”
With that pontification, a smiling Obesity picked up a dozen triple deck cheeseburgers, a gallon of thick ice cream milk shakes, 100 Hostess Twinkies, topped off with a bucket of sweetened lard to start his third meal of the day.