In May, the Food and Drug Administration will begin requiring restaurants that have more than 20 locations to post the calories of their foods in a conspicuous place.

Battle of the Bulge

Americans, who are becoming more obese by the year, need and deserve all the help they can in the battle of the bulge.

Some may say that this decision is “government interference” in our lives. Information is not interference. You don’t have to read what is posted. And even if you discover that your favorite dish is twice as calorie-laden as a healthy option, the “food police” are not in residence. It’s your call.

Two quotes apply to [this] column. The first, “No one changes until they are really uncomfortable,” is my favorite from four decades of psychology practice and three decades of raising kids. If you are only mildly uncomfortable, you’ll complain. If you are miserably uncomfortable, you may change. A high level of discomfort is the only thing that really promotes a different way of handling a problem situation.

The second is, “Knowledge is power,” which is attributed to a variety of sources including 10th-century Arabic, the Hebrew Bible, Persian poetry and Sir Francis Bacon. Take your pick, but almost all sources believe that one must know real facts in order to make good decisions.

Considering these two quotes, if we are concerned for the 35 to 40 percent of Americans who are now overweight, it makes perfect sense for eating establishments to let their customers know how many calories they are going to ingest. Posting food calories, which is the unit of measurement of energy from food, permits diners to make informed choices. Years ago, Maury and I had a few favorite beverages at Starbucks. One didn’t look particularly fattening–some coffee, a little milk, a little sugar and some flavoring. But it added up to almost 500 calories, and with our favorite small little coffee cake that had close to 400 calories, a little afternoon snack had more calories than a usual lunch.

Some may argue that calorie counting is not the only important aspect of food. That’s true. We also need proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. But, over the years, diet gurus have sold the American public on easy ways to lose weight. This is a $20 billion industry built on special diet foods, pills and other “quick fixes.” The truth is that there are no easy ways and counting calories requires information and it is tedious and boring. However, it works.

We Americans have change dour eating habits over the years, so that we now expect bigger portions and food that takes little time or energy to prepare. The fast-food industry fit in nicely with these preferences and have taught our nation that if it tastes good, the more the merrier.

But we’re getting sicker and sicker; diabetes and heart disease are linked to obesity. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that health costs due to obesity in this country in 2015 were estimated between $147 billion and $210 billion.

Obesity is harmful and expensive for our nation. Not only are adults overweight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that obesity in children and teens have quadrupled since 1980.

A HEALTHY LUNCH SALAD

We need to make some changes. Two of those should include becoming better informed and more uncomfortable about our excess calorie consumption. A good start is for chain restaurants, and even independent ones, to post those calories counts in big, bold print where everyone can read them.

[Diane W. Mufson lives with her husband Maury in Huntington, West Virginia.  She is a retired psychologist.  This column first appeared in the Huntington, West Virginia Herald-Dispatch on Thursday, March 16, 2017.  It is reprinted with the permission of Ms Mufson.]