octor. As usual, he caught me at my office in the evening and his words were simple. "Fred, I’ve been watching this for a few years and this year, your blood sugar level is outrageous.
"Now, I’m sure," he said, "that you can control this with diet and exercise. But the fact is that you are a diabetic, even if you can get the numbers back to normal and you ought to start acting like someone who gives a (expletive deleted) about his health."
I was 48 years old at the time. My weight had ballooned to about 220 pounds and, from years in print and broadcasting, I had acquired the dietary habits that go with the stress and schedules which tend to come with this business.
In short, I needed to do something to avoid a slow, painful death which would surely have happened eventually absent some action.
I write this in the context of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s threatened lawsuit against Kelloggs and Viacom "to stop them from marketing junk food to young children.
"The plaintiffs contend that these two companies are directly harming kids’ health since the overwhelming majority of food products they market to children are high in sugar, saturated and trans fat, or salt, or almost devoid of nutrients. They will ask a Massachusetts court to enjoin the companies from marketing junk foods to audiences where 15 percent or more of the audience is under age eight, and to cease marketing junk foods through web sites, toy giveaways, contests, and other techniques aimed at that age group." (The text in quotes came from their press release)
Sadly, all that is true.
But the fact is, however correct the assumptions behind the lawsuit are—and they are—this is still the United States of America and we expect our parents to handle these decisions, not the Massachusetts court system so well portrayed by James Spader and William Shatner in Boston Legal.
I heard a representative of the Center tell Fox News the other day that this lawsuit is necessary because parents just cannot resist the "nagging" of their kids when it comes to soft drinks and sugary treats.
That is a problem which is simply not in the province or jurisdiction of the courts in Massachusetts or any other blue state. Unfortunately, they’ll go judge shopping and find some clown—like the one in Vermont who sentenced a child rapist to 60 days—who will be sympathetic to their cause and, at least at the lower levels, will probably win some kind of judgment. You don’t think they picked Massachusetts by accident, do you?
But ultimately, I don’t want the court system, Kelloggs, Viacom or the Center For Science in the Public Interest to raise our kids.
That is the sole job of parents.
In our household, you can ask my 15-year-old stepson how well "nagging" works to get us to stop buying diet soft drinks and sugar free foods. Stephen will probably be glad to tell you of his very limited success in those areas. (He will also tell you that his cell phone is in my desk drawer until further notice and that I have a collection of his shirts which I have deemed unsuitable for wear in school. The Nevada court system had nothing to do with those decisions.)
If the Center for Science in the Public Interest really wanted to spend its money wisely, it would forget lawsuits and spend its money educating parents about what future problems the nine Cokes a day that I used to drink caused me and how to avoid those problems.
All things being equal, I have found that a little education—learning to read food labels for starters—and a little willpower can put a much bigger dent in the onset of juvenile and adult diabetes than their silly lawsuit.
Forcing people to do the right thing is often not possible.
Teaching them the consequences of doing the wrong thing almost always works.