People whose livelihoods are rooted in the weight-loss industry have a vested interest in perpetuating obesity hype. Case in point: This morning, USA Today featured an op-ed on that very topic by David Zinczenko, editor of Men’s Health magazine and author of numerous diet books. Zinczenko’s piece is a prime example of food cop propaganda. Not only does he liken our love handles to assault rifles, but he also paints menu-labeling legislation as some sort of overweight antidote.
Like other nutrition fanatics, Zinczenko levels some big accusations and makes lofty promises, with little evidence to back them up.
For instance, his claim that “a whopping 35% of our weekly caloric intake is consumed in restaurants” is just plain wrong. According to reports from the USDA, thirty five percent of our calories are consumed “away from home,” a figure that includes more than just restaurants. It also covers calories from school lunches, vending machines, residential dining halls, soup kitchens, shelters, meals on wheels, and other public places. When you strip away all of those sources, restaurants actually only count for eight percent of our caloric intake — a mere 163 calories.
After overestimating dietary statistics, Zinczenko then underestimates our nation’s IQ. He lists the calorie-counts for dishes like French fries and macaroni and cheese, claiming that “the typical American has no way to tell just how unhealthful these choices are.” (What? Of course we do.) If common sense doesn’t give it away, most consumers can figure out the relative “health” of these items same way Zinczenko did — by checking out the nutritional breakdown already provided by most restaurants.
Menu labeling is an unproven measure that targets only a tiny fraction of our food intake. And many health experts fear that government-mandated calorie counts and other anti-obesity policies may be doing more harm than good. Last month, the London Times addressed this very issue in its educational supplement:

Organizations specializing in eating disorders worry that the focus on young people’s weight—and the way some adults demonize certain foods—is creating a generation obsessed with growing fat and increasingly guilty about eating.

In an Albany Times-Union interview last week, Zinczenko provided his thoughts on the growing number of teenagers harboring unhealthy obsessions with their bodies: “Let’s not treat vanity like a deadly sin. A little more vanity would save a lot more lives.