Coca-Cola has an ad campaign that confronts what it calls the "complex challenge of obesity."
In the campaign, Coke notes that of its more than 650 beverages, there are more than 180 low- or no-calorie drinks. Most of the full-calorie drinks also have "healthful options," which usually means a diet version sweetened with something artificial.
A 12 oz. can of Coke has 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar. Not horrible, but not great either, particularly when we consider what is not being consumed instead of the soda. Instead of that soft drink, we could be drinking water or something else without artificial ingredients.
The Coke campaign reminds me of the lame response from the fast food industry when the movie "Super Size Me" came out in 2004. The movie, classified as a documentary, follows the health results of Morgan Spurlock, who ate only food from McDonald's for a 30-day stretch in 2003. At the end of the test, Spurlock had gained 24.5 lbs.
Instead of pointing out the absurdity of Spurlock's premise — that its food is not meant to be eaten three times a day — the fast food industry went on the defense and pointed out that their menus have healthy options as well as cheeseburgers.
Now, Coca-Cola is using the same approach to combat charges that it contributes to the nation's obesity epidemic.
So let's get one thing straight: Eating fast food three meals a day is not a good idea. The thought that a filmmaker or anyone else can profit from proving that point is amazing. Also, drinking a lot of Coca-Cola isn't a good idea either, not only for dietary reasons, but for the terrible effect the phosphoric acid has on bones. Even a diet soda will not prevent bone damage, particularly in women.
The nation's obesity problem is not caused by the presence of sugary drinks or fast food joints all over town. When consumed only once in awhile, there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating a big cheeseburger and downing it with a Coke. But Americans don't consume these products periodically; they consume them constantly.
Sugary drinks and cheeseburgers have been around for decades, but it is only in the past decade or so that obesity has become a national problem, particularly with our children. So something has changed, and it's not the fast food or sodas.
Actually, several things have changed. The most noticeable change between then and now is our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Instead of going outside after school to play, more kids are entertaining themselves by sitting in front of a screen, whether it is their phone, iPod or computer.
Another change is parental support of all the screen watching. The myth of "stranger danger" has prompted more parents to keep their kids indoors. Plus, let's face it, having kids indoors numbing their brains in front of a screen means a lot less potential problems, such as scraped knees or twisted ankles.
The final big difference is one of an increasing lack of parental will power, discipline and example-setting. Parents today are far less likely to tell their kids to stop eating junk and far less likely to set the healthy lifestyle examples kids need to see because they are too busy or too lazy to monitor the family diets.
As my former boss Dr. Laura Schlessinger has said repeatedly, the obesity solution may be as simple as the need to "eat less and move more."
STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to email@example.com.