Friday, February 01, 2008

Open letter to Rep Mayhall about the no fat people served bill

Representative T. Mayhall, House, Mississippi, USA
re: HOUSE BILL NO. 282

An act to prohibit certain food establishments from serving food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the state department of health; to direct the department to prepare written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is obese and to provide those materials to the food establishments; to direct the department to monitor the food establishments for compliance with the provisions of this act; and for related purposes.

Dear Sir,

With all due respect, I think this is a very foolish bill.

First of all, if the BMI limit for serving is set to 29 then, if Governor Schwartzenhagger of California visits your state, he might not be served? (His BMI is 32!) Also if most of the Olympic athletes visit your state, they also could be, under your bill, denied being served. In fact a large segment of the population would be no longer eligible to eat in Mississippi restaurants and this definitely might be damaging to your economy! So I have to believe that the BMI limit will be set higher than 30, like for example at 40. Assuming this, the bill still has many issues which should be addressed.

First, according to the CDC's revised statistics, people who are in the BMI range of 26-35 LIVE LONGER than those in the so called "normal range", probably, opined the CDC, because the so called "normal range" of BMIs are underweight for most people.

Second, according to the 20 and 30 year Cooper Institute studies thousands of people AND the HAES clinical study at USC, the KEY FACTOR to health is lifestyle NOT weight. Even National Geographics in a show which was generally NOT fat friendly, admitted that the scale alone does not tell the story about health and that a person who is normal sized could have viseral fat (that considered unhealthy) while people who are considered "morbidly obese" by the scale i.e. BMI over 40 but who were fit, could be totally healthy with NO viseral fat (like SUMO wrestlers who by the way, might also NOT be served in Mississippi restaurants). And what you may not be aware of is that many studies which suggest that clinical obesity is "deadly" do not give a relative risk factor which is significantly greater in high BMI individuals i.e. the relative risk factor must be above 2.0 to be significant. And as one author pointed out, for as many epidemiological studies which suggest that severe obesity is "deadly", there are an equal number of epidemiological studies which suggest that clinical obesity (BMI over 40) is not much of a risk factor.

Third, will restaurants have to weigh people before they are allowed access to the establishment? Weighing oneself, even for slim people is not necessarily, conducive to buying a lot of food and/or enjoying a night out, and this, if done on a large scale basis, might definitely negatively impact the restaurant industry in Mississippi. That would be political death to the sponsors of the bill especially if large groups of the populace of Mississippi either stopped eating out or traveled across state lines to enhance the economic coffers of neighboring states.

If you watched the movie, "SuperSize ME" you would have seen Morgan Spurlock, the underweight man who ate 5000 calories of fast food daily, for a month, visit the doctor at the end of that month and while still underweight (he only gained less than 20 lbs), his liver was showing evidence of "fatty liver" or cirrhosis, and, his cholesterol and blood pressure were also elevated. So one might ask how not serving overweight people would help those people who are normal sized or underweight whose food choices might be making them ill inside?

Furthermore, I guess I am further, tempted to ask if you feel Mississippi restaurants can NOT serve healthy food that you are so concerned about overweight people eating there as to prohibit them access?

However, since most folks in the USA are beginning to understand that fat is NOT necessarily linked with illness or bad health, and they know that bad food choices are bad even if they don't cause obesity (which is the case in the majority of the populace who are not obese), I have to conclude that health couldn't really be a factor in this attempted denial of access but then, what can be, I am wondering, your motivation for sponsoring this bill?

Perhaps, this is all about allowing restaurants to -not make- "reasonable accommodations", like chairs without arms, for those who are very large and do not fit into booths. And of course, since, disallowing groups of people access to restaurants for non reasons, is something Mississippi has done in the past, I guess your proposed law, that way, would be in the tradition of Ol' Miss!

Or maybe it's something as simple as name recognition since your name AND the bill have been plastered in the headlines across the country. There is something to this even if the name recognition is negative - after all, didn't Will Rogers say "there is no such thing as bad publicity, only publicity"?

Whatever your motivation for drafting this bill, what you might not have thought about is perhaps, the families of those large people might ALSO stop patronizing restaurants who deny access to their fat relatives or might seek those restaurants which DO serve all people and thus it might become very non advantageous for a restaurant to choose to comply with your bill, wouldn't it. And the bottom line would be starving out small business persons and I believe when you are reaching into their pocketbooks, that tends to be a bad move politically, in this country where economics is so important!

I cannot help wondering that since you have had strong ties to a large pharmaceutical company in the past, perhaps this is all about selling folks diet pills so they can eat out. I understand that the corporation from which you retired, Merck, is working on a new "hot" diet pill based on marajuana - perhaps you are helping to sell this (since their current diet pill has received some bad publicity for being damaging to the heart)? Said somewhat tongue in cheek but, ok, couldn't resist asking. Pharmaceuticals have done some "over the top" moves to sell medications!

I guess you know by now, that this bill has made great news and your state has become the "laugh of the day" across the USA. Congrats on that. What do you do for an encore? ** smile **

learn about obesity - what science REALLY Says:


Anonymous said...

Since this bill it to keep people out of restaurants, maybe next is a bill to limit what they can and how much they can buy at the grocery store? Then after that RFID chips so the guberment can keep track of their activities to make sure they aren't going from store to store to buy groceries and twinkies?


Anonymous said...

Excellent letter. You might be interested to know, that Sumo wrestlers actually eat a special diet at the dojo, which helps them gain weight but remain healthy. So I'd imagine they wouldn't eat out, cause they have to stay on whatever the secret diet is at the dojo. Like different dojos have recipies they keep secret, cause it's what makes their Sumos better than others. I heard about this on a TV show about Japan.

Lacy said...


Let us know if you hear a response.

Laurence said...

Your main point in this letter seems to be that the three state legislators responsible for the bill are wrong about morbid obesity being bad for your health.

Certainly, there are cases where people have body types that have a large BMI but are otherwise healthy, but these are the exception, not the rule. In a state where two thirds of the population are overweight and a third are obese, to say that obesity is not a real issue is ignoring quite a bit of reality.

While I will agree that banning the overweight from going to a restaurant is a poor gambit, I also think the senators were using a bill they knew would not pass in order to draw attention to the issue.

Even if they did think it would pass, I don't think its fair for you to say that these legislators have some ulterior motive - you said yourself, its a form of political suicide. Why would these men sacrifice their careers for profit?

SueW said...

Dear Lawrence,

No one is "sacrificing their careers" and I never said that. I said THEY DID NOT THINK ABOUT THE REPERCUSSIONS to the business owners. In truth, fat-a-phobia is not only socially acceptable, it's highly popular as your uh...knowledge-challenged fat-a-phobic letter proves. No, these legislators are probably being lauded by the diet industry (making more business for them) and also by fat-a-phobics like yourself. And since when does the great (NON) "obesity epidemic" need drawing attention to? We hear about it daily from the news blabographers and also from members of the public who don't have the fat genes themselves and just love to feel superior to the fatties. So no, their move wasn't political suicide at all - it was pleasing to a lot of folks but it might be BUSINESS suicide for small restaurant owners however, who cares about them, right?

Laurence said...

You remind me alot of another person I know who can't argue rationally, and defines anyone who even moderately disagrees with him/her as a bigot or a nazi.

Just so I can make sure everything I say isn't missing the mark. I want to make sure I am fully aware of your stance.

Are you conceding that obesity is actually a health problem, and that morbidly obese people, for their own benefit, should eat better and exercise more, and that your main issue with this law is that it was an extremely poor, short-sighted, and unenforceable measure?

Or are you saying that the entire medical field is wrong, obesity is not a health issue, and people with thrity percent or higher body fat should just continue sitting on the couch all day shoving potato chips down the hatchet and expect no negative effects, and your main problem with the law is that it is discriminatory?

SueW said...

Dear Lawrence,

The bill is pure bigotry, period. There is NO excuse for this type of bigotry and no one would DARE anything like that against any OTHER minority group... but cruelty to people of size is an acceptable form of prejudice in our society.

No I do NOT concede that obesity is a health problem because that is NOT what SCIENCE says - that's what the DIET industry driven news media says - big difference.

And since the studies which suggest that obesity is neither healthy nor unhealthy (BAD LIFESTYLE and luck are WHAT DETERMINES HEALTH) are in peer reviewed journals, I cannot say the medical profession is wrong about this because it is MEDICAL studies to which I refer and many of which can be found on:

However, since many doctors either keep up at pharmaceutical driven seminars which preach obesity is something "to be treated" (like a cash cow) or rely too much on the news media INSTEAD of reading all the books and studies available telling the true story about obesity, many of them may not be clued in about the reality. However, I find that all I need to do is show the doctors some of the obesity research out there and they get wise quickly.

15 percent of the American people are seriously obese. But 95 percent of the American people live the American lifestyle. Eat junk and fast food, do not exercise ENOUGH (should do DAILY cardio) and yet only 15 percent are seriously obese so how do you explain THE Majority of the people living the sedentary unhealthy American lifestyle, eating MickyD's and not getting fat?

Truth is, the relative risk factor between obese and non obese is NON SIGNIFICANT. BUT There is a 40 percent LESS risk of heart attack and other illnesses in those folks, fat and SLIM who do DAILY cardio. That IS what the studies show. ALL of them.

Blogs like mine are just trying to educate the American people because while fat people are doing unhealthy things to get "slim" and thinking this will make them healthy (WRONG) and slim people are just going along thinking that because they are slim they must be healthy, and teens are starting to smoke so they don't get fat, (that's real healthy... NOT) I see people (MOSTLY SLIM) dropping like flies around me of lifestyle illnesses and they are shocked because the news and their doctors told them since they were slim, they were healthy.

You see this obesity hysteria is not only UNHEALTHY because it causes people to put themselves at risk with diets and it encourages fat prejudice, it's ALSO unhealthy to the slim folks who are NOT told the truth about the importance of lifestyle and exercising and NOT smoking....

Hope this clarifies,

Laurence said...

You argue alot better when you're not resorting to name calling and out-of-the-park accusations.

The majority of your open letter seems to be an insult to Representative Mayhall. It seems to assume that he is "aware" that obesity is not an actual health issue, and immediately jumps to the conclusion that he can't be making this bill simply because he thinks that Mississippi has a large scale health problem, and that he must be trying to financially help the company/industry that he's no longer even apart of.

In reality, the widespread (and currently not definitively defeated) notion is that obesity is a health issue.

Ever hear of the phrase "you'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?" Would it have killed you to send a letter that simply stated the flaws of the B.M.I. system, the flaws of the bill itself, and a more clear outlining of your arguments about how many of the health problems that are associated with obesity such as cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol are actually symptoms of lack of fitness than excess weight?

Would it have killed you to do this without libel?

The thing that makes an extremist an extremist is the fact that they seem unable to empathize with the people on the other side of an issue.

SueW said...

Lawrence, First, your criticism about my letter is somewhat well taken. It probably would have been better to stress the prejudice and bias against a minority group aspect of the bill rather than the way I went about it. There is always room for improvement, true! :) I suppose in defense of my writing, it could be said that the nature of these blogs is that they are supposed to be spontaneous emoting articles rather than polished OP EDs which would be otherwise print worthy. That being said, I surely could have done it more effectively!

To address the issues you raised:

Actually a good part of my letter IS pointing out the flaws of the BMI system (first paragraph) and that obesity is not the health problem some who are providing diets, surgery and pills, would like to make it to be (2nd and 3rd paragraph).

Second, I don't feel it is libelous to suggest that the Congressman is not aware of the fact that obesity is NOT the health problem the media tries to make it out to be. But you are right - it would have, again, been better to omit that and emphasize the REAL issues because I do not know whether he is aware of the facts about obesity or not - I guess I was assuming he was not and was really "concerned" about the health issues involved.

That being said, as for my trying to see "the other side", I felt the underlying issue here is prejudice against a minority group and regardless of what minority group we are talking about, that type of bias is never right, moral or ethical. If that makes me an "extremist" so be it but I happen to feel that bias and prejudice against any majority group regardless of whether I agree with their stands or not, is wrong...

Why do I feel that prejudice is the underlying issue?

To wit, even if obesity were a major medical problem (which to date, has NEVER been proven in peer reviewed studies), then it would fit into the same category as cancer or heart disease. For example, since indulging in rich food is a killer to someone with heart disease, would you think it proper to deny service in restaurants to people with heart disease "for the sake of their health"? Yet heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (and Dr Mehmet Oz, cardiac surgeon REF: YOU STAYING YOUNG) IS 80 percent lifestyle caused! And how about people with AIDS and cancer? I'm sure we could find "health reasons" to not serve THEM either.

So you see, any way you look at it, this bill was really nothing to do with health (cancer and heart disease are a much bigger problem healthwise than obesity - cancer kills 550,000 per year in the USA), and everything to do with a simple prejudice against a minority group which doesn't "look right" (bottom line) to the 85 percent of the population who are not obese.

I do appreciate your criticisms though and will try and keep them in mind next time!


Laurence said...

I would just like you to know that I first heard about the bill on the radio yesterday morning, and I came across your blog doing some additional research on it.

Our ongoing conversation has been extremely educating for me, and I would like to thank you for the thought provoking discussion.

I draw a weekly webcomic that I like to discuss social issues in, and this will be the topic I'll be doing this upcoming weeks' update on.

I'll send you a link when its done.

SueW said...

Lawrence, thank you for your kind comments and I will be looking forward to seeing your webcomic!


Elizabeth said...

Laurence, I can only assume that you are thin person. I have been fat all my life, I got fatter by "yo-yo" dieting - dieting for a while, then hitting a plateau, which happens when your metabolism slows in response less calorific intake. Then whatever you eat makes you gain weight. My weight has been stable for 10 year now, and I am healthier than I have ever been. My BP is 102/60 without medication, I eat a healthy diet, and exercise, as do many fat people. I once asked a naturally thin person whose weight didnt vary whatever they ate what they would do if they were told to gain 100lbs. They said they wouldnt be able to do it. So why do you think that people who are fat can lose 100lbs. We are the way we were made. Thankfully, I wasnt made a bigot!

Laurence said...

I have to wonder, Elizabeth, if you even read anything I said, because I can't seem to find anything anywhere in any of my posts here that suggest that I think fat people are all lazy pigs.

I won't even say what my "body-type" is, because I think you are being a bigot by assuming that I am thin.

Laurence said...

The strip is done. You can find it at

The main character is Gray. Please don't take offense at the visual portrayal of the person arguing with him. I've historically created non-human characters to debate with Gray, even the ones that have wound up winning the argument.

This is actually one of my more favorite created creatures.

SueW said...

Lawrence, what a talented artist you are - wow! I bookmarked the page! I WILL return! :)

Thanks for being open to the "other side" - that is very appreciated!

BTW, I am one of those who has a BMI over 40 (42 to be exact) and works out daily (40 minutes cardio, plus 3 (30 min) walks a week, plus 15 minutes, 5 days a week of yoga/stretching, plus weight training). I have had the same or more intense workout program for 14 years now without stop. I have journaled my food intake since 2002 and have 1800 calories a day with no junk food, or fast food or candy, pop or anything like that. Last time I had fast food was in 1995! I don't think they would put me in "Ripley's" though because I know quite a few others like me who watch what they eat, and exercise regularly and are still very overweight! Like your character pointed out size is mostly genetic (I love that cartoon also AND the character who is representing our side, and am SOOOOO impressed with your talent!!!)

So you might ask why do I work so hard? To be healthy. And to live to see my grandkids grow up. And because hard as my program is, the alternative (illness etc) is worse! :) I decided if I DO get health problems, I don't want it to be anything *I* did, lifestyle-wise.

Sue who is 63 years old

Laurence said...

BMI seems like its just really inaccurage period.

What's your body fat percentage?