But I’m thirsty!

Did you hear? New York City is banning the sale of large sugary drinks over 16 ounces. You won’t be able to gulp down a great big empty-calorie laden drink in restaurants and other venues.

Hahahahahahahahaha! Wait a minute; I have to wipe my eyes because I’m laughing so hard. Stop it. I can’t breathe. Really.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Just what will that accomplish?

Hmm. People will pay more to get what they used to get by buying two 16-ounce drinks instead of one 32-ounce drink. Yay! Let’s hit the purse strings. We wouldn’t want to cut any of these people any slack whatsoever. Make ‘em pay to gain weight.

And … well, I think that about covers it. No, wait. There is one other thing: it effectively shifts the blame outside ourselves because, oh my God, we wouldn’t want to think we had anything to do with something that made us unhealthy. Surely we cannot be held accountable for our actions. Quick! We need someone to sue we can sue.

Unfortunately, here’s what it doesn’t accomplish:

  • It doesn’t educate anyone about why drinking those sugary drinks leads to weight gain or health issues.
  • It doesn’t affect the advertising that uses archetypes and stereotypes and movies and celebrities and all kinds of societal prompts to reinforce peer and society pressure to have, be, do what’s cool.
  • It doesn’t really tackle the heart of the problem; it just sticks on a bandage, and it’s unfortunately on the wrong knee.

I just facilitated a workshop on change, and one principle we discussed and agreed upon is this: until we strip a situation down to the absolute, stark raving truth – the gritty reality – we can’t make good choices (get that? CHOICES). So, in that spirit, let’s get real.

It’s all about choice.

You see, I bear the responsibility for my choices. I can’t blame anyone outside of me for anything I choose to do, unless they hold a smoking gun to my temple. Even then, I have a choice; I could call their bluff. The result might be less than pleasant, of course, but that’s my choice to make. And if I call their bluff? Whether they pull the trigger is their choice. Taking a chance on it happening? That’s risk.

If I choose to consume gargantuan-size drinks fully loaded with empty calories and tons of sugar, day after day, well that’s just my choice. It may be stupid. It may be ill-advised. It may be slowly killing me. But it’s MY choice to accept that risk. (If I’m under the magical age of 18, it may be a shared choice with some parental unit, but it’s still a choice.)

So, when I come face-to-face with the cumulative consequences of my choices (those risks I had an obligation to consider) – be they obesity or heart problems or malnutrition or osteoporosis – I have no business blaming anyone else for what I chose. They didn’t make my choices; I did. I could have had a mind of my own and not bowed to peer pressure or societal norms or advertising ploys. I could have done my own research on health and decided for myself that if I didn’t drink humongous amounts of sugar in liquid form I might keep the pounds off or check my declining health. Choices, always choices.

It just seems to me that in nearly every aspect of life, we’ve gotten way too good at embracing an ability to seek and find someone or something to blame rather than acknowledging our part.

I say strip it down to the honest truth; man up. We bear the responsbility for our own choices. My choice; my responsibility; my accountability. That means it’s also my place to fix it.

And that’s where New York City could make a little headway. Legislate educational campaigns. Legislate awareness. Work with people in all areas to educate – work with parents to begin explaining things to their kids. Work with schools to offer health information. Work with people as individuals to spread understanding. Because once we’re armed with knowledge, we can make such better choices. And just think about it! Once we learn how to make better choices about soft drinks, maybe we’ll start applying that to our friendships, our life choices, our educational choices, our political choices. Wow.

Banning sugared drinks over 16 ounces is not the answer. Besides, when was the last time you had to pay for refills? What, will they now be required to issue wrist-bands with your first drink order so they know you can’t have any refills unless it’s non-sugared? Seriously, if I really want 32 ounces of a sugary soft drink and my local restaurant won’t oblige, I can just wander over to the grocery store afterward to get a cola chaser.

I drink only diet drinks and have since 1979, so this regulation doesn’t even affect me. But I’m with McDonalds and Coca Cola on this one. You know why? Because New York City is legislating my choice, and I’m not willing to be legislated for that. Nor am I sure it’s actually appropriate to try. Sure, sugary, empty-calorie-laden drinks contribute to weight gain. Sure, the availability and advertising behind them contribute to “peer pressure” and the desire to drink said drinks so we will be like the “in” crowd. Knowing that, and knowing the risks I am taking, it’s still my choice.

Their intentions are laudable. Their actions? Sadly misguided.

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