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Eating Out And the Nanny State Mindset

This morning, James Joyner speaks to [1]… and quotes… a Ezra Klien article:

Since obesity has somehow become our unofficial theme this morning, I’d be remiss not to mention Ezra Klein [2]‘s observations about trying to eat healthy at Cheesecake Factory.

On first glance, I would have figure the salmon for the lightest entree, followed by the chicken piccata, the carbonara, and the crispy beef. Not so. The salmon weighs in at 1,673 calories — which is to say, a bit more than 75 percent of the food an adult male should eat in a day. The piccata is a comparably slim 1,385 calories. The crispy beef is 1,528 calories. And the carbonara? 2,191. The answer might be that someone looking for a healthful meal shouldn’t go to the Cheesecake Factory. But insofar as you’re already there, or your family wants to go there, making a good decision isn’t a particularly straightforward proposition.This is why the obesity crisis is such a tough issue: Calories are delicious. The Cheesecake Factory isn’t doing anything wrong, either ethically or culinarily. Human beings are wired to prefer abundance, salt, fat, sugar, and value. The Cheesecake Factory is giving people the whole package. Changing people’s eating habits so that type two diabetes don’t become the new chubby would be easy if the food was actually repulsive or the value was bad or it was all, in some other way, a trick. But it’s not. The food is enjoyable. The value is incredible. The cost is long-term, and remembering that we might get diabetes down the road is pretty hard when eons of evolutionary wiring are telling us to eat this stuff now now now now it’s right here now now!

People go to the Cheesecake Factory because they like being there, not because they’re being deceived. The only catch is that they really don’t know how bad the food is for them. Study after study shows we wildly underestimate caloric load of our foods, and we underestimate by more as the meal becomes larger. It’s not clear that nutritional information on menus would actually change eating habits. But it would at least give people a place to start. Diners know what they like. They know how much money they’ll have to pay to purchase it. No reason they shouldn’t also know what it’s going to cost their waistline.

James adds his own thoughts, and they’re worth reading.

For my part, I’m noting a pattern here. Follow my logic on this:

People don’t go to places like that to stay thin… they go to celebrate or at least do something out of the oridinary. Something special. To indulge themselves or their date, their family, what have you. A feast, for lack of a better description. Forgive me but calorie counting doesn’t strike me as a feast, a celebration, or something special.

Makes almost as much sense as creating a law demanding a Super-Snake Mustang get 45mpg. The result isn’t a supersnake, but a super worm, if that. It runs afoul of the whole purpose of the vehicle.

I should point out that Klien’s discomfort with that scenario speaks volumes to the nanny state mindset. OK, even he admits to finding the place enjoyable, but by God he’ll be the first to tell you how bad it is for you to enjoy yourself.

And wonder, often as not, aloud, if there isn’t something the government should do about such enjoyments.

Pattern: Isn’t Klien the one who not long ago was making lots of noise in support of stricter CAFE limits?  Isn’t he the one invariably trying to grow governmental control to protect us from ourselves, in his view?  More than granted, his nattering in this case is a step and a half away from calling for governmental control of the board of fare at a resturant… but it’s the kind of leap we’ve so often seen him take before, that it’s more than worth the mention. It’s the pattern that’s striking to me. That he identifies people enjoying themselvs as a problem, is troubling to me.