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Sugary Sweet Ahimsa

The mayor of this most fabulous city, New York, has recently proposed a ban on the sale of all soft drinks (sadly not including diet) sold over 16oz (one pint) in public venues such as bodegas, movie theatres, ball parks, restaurants, and anyplace that has to submit to a health grade rating from the city's Health Department.

It's being hotly debated now, with many decrying his desire to be overly controlling, and still others thinking the ban doesn't go far enough.  I've been thinking a lot and reading a lot about it, and trying to reconcile the fact that, in my heart of hearts, I don't think it goes far enough but...there are plenty of issues I feel strongly about that don't necessarily feel like need to be legislated so the world can be forced to agree with me.

This article by Mark Bittman, however, really helped clarify (and frankly, justify) my viewpoint.

When observing the yogic yama ahimsa, you strive for non-harming of all creatures, including yourself.  Can we ever stop people from making decisions or doing things that will harm themselves?  Of course not.  It's part of being human, and it's part of the freedom that we're so lucky to have in America.  Lord knows I've had too much to drink, too much chocolate, too much sun with too little sunscreen, too little sleep - you name it.  We all do, and it's part of being alive.  The idea is to do the best job you can and be as aware and conscious in every single moment.  Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't - but as we tell the kids, it's a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect.

Swinging back to the article and the issue at hand, Bittman justifies his position on Bloomberg's proposal (spoiler alert - he's in favor of it) by "loosely" paraphrasing Oliver Wendell Holmes:  "Your right to harm yourself stops when I have to pay for it."  Saying, in essence, that the addiction to the nutritional wasteland that is soda doesn't just harm yourself, it harms our society as a whole.

Bittman explains with much more eloquence and intelligent detail than I could hope to achieve, so I'll turn it over to him.  Read his article, read about the issue, and let me know what you think.  It's a tricky one to call, but something very worthy of discussion.

"What is Food?" by Mark Bittman.


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