Though different dieters may have different meals on their plates, they all have the same thing on their minds: food. Numerous studies show that as people tighten the limits on the types and amount of food they’re "allowed" to consume, their thoughts become increasingly preoccupied with those "forbidden" foods (everything from ice cream to potato chips). And that day-long obsession usually turns into a night-long binge, ultimately resulting in weight gain.

In today’s Chicago Tribune, dietitian Janet Helm extends the psychological effects of food restriction from adults to kids, warning that "if certain forbidden foods are made off-limits, children only learn to value them more."

Though researchers and nutritionists caution against "well-intentioned moms and dads" erecting a super strict environment for their own homes, we’re far more concerned about politicians pushing food restrictions on everyone else.

Yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer reported that New Jersey just became the first state to set up an anti-obesity agency — the Office of Nutrition and Fitness. But "the department’s new rules limiting the high-calorie, high-sugar foods available [in schools], a strategy meant to prevent children from bypassing nutritious lunches and getting French fries or snacks from vending machines" may easily backfire on the bureaucrats. (Note to the Garden State: When we called for a Department of Menus, we were joking.)

At the federal level, Senator Tom Harkin is still hyping the prohibitive policy on foods in school that we denounced a month ago (reminding him that "food bans don’t help fight obesity"). Harkin wants to pull everything from candy bars to carbonated water out of the cafeteria. But his coercive strategies won’t teach children to make smart choices and maintain healthy weights.

In fact, some experts — like dietician and therapist Ellyn Satter — believe that in addition to being counterproductive, restricting food (as promoted by Harkin and other food cops) is "actually one of the reasons behind the skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity."