By Amanda Hill

The other morning, I saw a Today Show interview with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he explained his “soda ban” policy.  In the spirit of reducing obesity rates for NYC adults (now at more than 50 percent), the mayor is proposing a ban on all “full sugar” drinks larger than 16 ounces. If the law is passed—by the NYC Board of Health, which Mayor Bloomberg appoints—New Yorkers will be banned from buying large sodas in restaurants, movie theaters or even at their sacred Yankees Stadium.

While I agree with Mayor Bloomberg that obesity is a serious problem in America, the rule is fundamentally flawed. Take his reasoning as I remember him explaining on the Today Show:

Matt Lauer: “Do you think this soda ban is really going to reduce the obesity problem?”
Mayor Bloomberg: “We’re not banning anyone’s right to drinking soda. If you want to buy 32 ounces of soda, the restaurant just has to serve it to you in two glasses. This isn’t taking away your freedoms. It’s just reminding you to drink less.”

You’ve got to be kidding me! I heard that response and about burned my finger on my straightening iron. (Does anyone else multi-task in the mornings?) The fact that he admits New Yorkers will circumvent this rule by ordering a second Dr Pepper or go back for a refill just proves that the government cannot force people to make lifestyle changes. “Motivate,” maybe. “Force,” no.

It’s the same as telling someone what religion they must follow. At the end of the day, each individual has the right to choose. Americans are allowed the freedom to make their own choices. Government can’t tell us what we can and cannot eat. Drinking soda on a daily basis is not healthy. We know we are much better off with a glass of water, milk or 100-percent fruit juice. But that must be a personal choice.

To me, Mayor Bloomberg should take a lesson from First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. Instead of forcing kids (and adults) to exercise, the First Lady has motivated them to get out and get active—and to make real lifestyle changes. Or, maybe Mayor Bloomberg should just increase the advertising buys for this public service announcement by the NYC Board of Health. It certainly motivated me.

How do we fight obesity, Mayor Bloomberg? We encourage real and permanent lifestyle changes like a balanced, moderate diet and regular exercise. But reducing America’s waistline through regulations just makes me give a big gulp.