Sunday, February 24, 2008

Where's the Beef? Not in Mississippi!

If you think your lawmakers pass some rather bizarre bills, I'd like you to meet State Rep. W.T. Mayhall Jr. of Mississippi.

The Republican lawmaker stirred up the legislative pot a little more than usual last week when he introduced a bill that would make it illegal for restaurants to serve obese customers in his home state.

According to the wording of the bill, scales will appear at the door of restaurants that seat five or more patrons, and folks with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher won’t be allowed to be served. And to comply with government regulations, restaurants will have to keep records of patrons' BMIs.

Naturally, the mainstream news media jumped on this story like a hungry fish on a night crawler. Rep. Mayhall couldn't be serious, could he?

Well, sort of. It seems that Mayall, a retired pharmaceutical salesman, was appalled that so many of his constituents were tipping the scales at what he called dangerous levels.

Therefore, in order to protect folks from the dangers of oversize cheeseburgers, curly fries, loaded pizzas and cream puffs, he introduced the law to stop the abuse of calories right at the front door of the restaurants. Mayhall said that he hopes the bill will “call attention to the serious problem of obesity and what it is costing the Medicare system.”

Predictably, all hell broke loose from every corner of the state as well as the nation. Restaurant owners reminded the legislature that they don't want to be saddled with the burden of deciding who is too plump to be served in their business.
Imagine trying to convince a 300-pound construction worker to step on the scales or be subjected to a body-mass measurement in order to be served. Most patrons will more than likely tell the host or hostess to shove the scales and BMI measuring device in an area where the sun don't shine.

The Coalition of Fat Rights Activists (COFRA) – yes, there is such an organization - is calling on the Mississippi House of Representatives to withdraw the bill, pointing out that restaurant employees are no more qualified to judge a person's BMI than an auto mechanic or pipe fitter.

Besides, COFRA pointed out, under some body-mass index standards, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and actor Brad Pitt wouldn't be allowed to eat in a Mississippi restaurant because of their muscular build. I can just picture a 110-pound hostess telling Governor Terminator that he can't enjoy today's rib-eye special because he's overweight. “I'll be back,” he reminds her.

For what it's worth, I probably would be rejected at the Jackson, Mississippi Waffle House, too. I have yet to lose the "baby fat" that came along with my youngest son.....four years ago.

Just because someone is overweight doesn't mean they're unhealthy. In fact, due to their metabolism, some people can gain weight by just looking at a strawberry shortcake.

While Rep. Mayhall's bill might have been a tongue-in-cheek effort to highlight what he perceives as a problem in his state, he should have known better. People all over the nation are getting tired of laws being passed for the “common good” of society. Individual rights seem to be flying out the window.

Hopefully, the Legislature across the rest of the country will take heed of the Mississippi fiasco and not try to pass a similar law. If they do, I suggest we stage a protest at the state house cafeteria and hold the cooks hostage until the bill is either withdrawn or defeated in committee.

But first, we'll have lunch.

Even writing this makes me hungry.

1 comment:

Maren said...

I heard about this bill and was shocked. How many ways can government attempt to take away free agency? I'm all about people doing what they can to be healthy and educating kids to know what that entails, but if someone wants to consume 13,000 calories in one day and deal with the health problems that go with it, it's completely their choice. I worked at a restaurant when I was still going to school, and I CANNOT even imagine having to turn someone away because they didn't meet the BMI standard someone thought up for them. I would just die.
I guess what's next is a cleanliness bill to be introduced somewhere -you can't go somewhere to eat unless your nails are trimmed and your hair smells good. Food establishments could hire an official sniffer. ...or maybe what's next is...real Fashion Police?
What a strange world we live in.

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