A New York Times editorial today suggests that restaurants opposed to mandatory menu labeling “must have missed the news that New Yorkers gained 10 million pounds over the last two years.” But if the Times’ own editorial board had followed that story a little closer themselves, they would have learned that people living in Manhattan have gained less weight than their counterparts in the other boroughs of New York City. There’s no evidence that they eat less than other New Yorkers. So food is clearly not the issue.
The problem is physical inactivity. City food czar Thomas Frieden explains that “we’ve engineered the last physical activity out of our life.” Moving less (not eating more) is the behavior behind the weight gain of other city residents compared to Manhattanites. Since Frieden and other city health officials recognize physical activity as the problem behind obesity, it’s unsettling that they’re pushing for policies (like menu labeling) that focus solely on food.
Instead, those truly committed to reducing America’s waistline should embrace measures like National TV-Turnoff Week (April 21-27), which addresses “the arsenal of tools that make us more sedentary.” Campaigns like this rightly focus on the hundreds of small choices we make every day that impact our weight. These decisions are not about what we eat, but what we do. One Mayo Clinic report found that switching from automated to manual versions of daily tasks can burn an extra 185,000 more calories annually — a 53 pound weight loss for the year.
Promoting physical activity has shown real results — a fact that menu labeling simply can’t claim.