The Life's Too Short Diet

Drop It and Eat: A guide to normalize your eating & your weight.

Lori Lieberman

Lori Lieberman
Sharon, Massachusetts, usa
March 24
Lori Lieberman & Associates, LLC
Lori F. Lieberman, RD, MPH, CDE, LDN, nutrition consultant is the owner of Lori Lieberman & Associates, LLC, a practice of 3 RDs covering eating disorders and disordered eating, diabetes management, GI issues, pediatric and prenatal nutrition, to name a few. I have a passion for cooking and eating, hiking and biking, and travel, as well as hanging out with my husband of 25 years, my two awesome sons and my whippet. I have a BA in Biology from Brown University and a MPH in Nutrition from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Public Health. I have also been a CDE (certified diabetes educator for over 10 years). My practice has been serving the greater Boston area since 1989. I have spoken publicly to audiences large and small, lay and professional on everything from eating disorders to Parkinson's Disease. And now I've entered the rather obsessive world of blogging. I started this blog in May, 2010 and have truly enjoyed sharing with readers all over the world. Hope you find the perspectives and information refreshing!


Editor’s Pick
JUNE 8, 2012 10:37AM

Supersized Disaster

Rate: 8 Flag

I never recommend soda to my patients or my family members. And I cringe when I walk into fast food restaurants (only to use the bathroom, of course) or a movie theater and see single serving cups in the range of 32-44 ounces. It’s obscene. That volume of sugar devoid of other nutrients, consumed at a single sitting is crazy. Our society has a distorted sense of what normal portions are—not just for beverages, but for food as well. The only place I’ve been able to find a true juice glass, a 4 or 6-ounce size, has been at antique stores. Really. So I support NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg’s recent ban on the sale of supersized sodas, right?

Not at all. While the mayor is desperately trying to change a growing trend of overconsumption and obesity, his new policy restricting the sale of sodas larger than 16 oz is absurd on so many levels.

While I take my freedom for granted, having never lived anywhere that restricted my personal choices, including what I eat, the thought of a law limiting the size of my portions feels, well, un-American. Mark my word; if they try to restrict my purchase of cupcakes after 8 PM, for instance, I’ll start hoarding them at 7. I mean it. 

Who decides what you're allowed to eat and how much?

It’s quite a slippery slope. Who decides that Sprite is out, but grape juice is fine? Or that 24 oz smoothies are ok, but soda is not?  Maybe they should halt the sale of those cardiac-inducing hot dogs sold on food carts throughout NY, instead? Sure, there’s nutritional value in the smoothy, but if the driving force behind this policy is obesity and health—why would 24 or more caloric ounces of anything accompanying a meal be appropriate?

Next, will NYC next set limits on who can buy these large caloric beverages? Will we need to weigh-in at the food carts on 5th Avenue—high BMI? You get the under 16 oz regular soda or the diet one; low BMI? You may choose the supersized drinks—but ONLY those drinks with calories—no diet beverages for you.  

Should we perhaps ban the sale of large portions of diet beverages, given that they displace the calories and nutrients desperately needed by those with eating disorders and those simply underweight? 

And what about cost? Can we not buy a bottle of soda at the deli to share with others, resulting in a smaller portion and less cost per person? Bloomberg’s ruling prohibits this.

The unforseen consequences

What message does it send if 16-ounce beverage portions—regular or diet—are considered the norm? Our caloric needs vary; for some, 16 oz of juice is absolutely appropriate. For others, it’s excessive for their need. But a law stating that 16 ounces is fine or distinguishing between soda and juice as healthy versus unhealthy creates a hierarchy people will believe is valid—when it’s not. If we are talking about weight management it's about calories, and a Coke is no different than a bottle of 100% juice. 

Should those with high blood pressure be forbidden this heavily salted popcorn?
I understand that simply educating the public to improve health is at best challenging. We are impacted by visual stimuli and sensory prompts to eat, as well as our perception--not just information about what and how much is healthy to consume. Prompted by the suggestion that you can size up for only 75 cents more (which I overheard at the movies yesterday), most of us will go for it. If you perceive that you haven’t eaten much you will continue eating, regardless of your fullness. And if you believe that 16 ounces is appropriate--because the Mayor believes it's fine for your health-- you may be more inclined to select the 16 oz size than something smaller.

If they’re going to set rules…

Perhaps there are better alternatives than Bloomberg’s to reduce our excessive intake—if or when it is unhealthy for the individual. How about a pricing policy removing the financial incentive to size up? If ordering the 32 oz soda vs the 16 oz adds $1.20 vs 20 cents, I suspect there’d be more thought before supersizing.

Or what about a rule allowing individuals to bring their own snacks into a movie—maybe healthier popcorn from home? Or limiting movie-theater food to a specific eating area as opposed to in front of the screen? Can we not go 90 minutes without a feeding? Why are we encouraging distracted eating, when all evidence supports mindful eating helps us better regulate our intake and our weight?

Yes, something needs to be done to improve the health of our nation. But setting arbitrary boundaries on portions, about good beverages and bad, is hardly the answer. And the fallout from this perhaps well-intended policy may only result in more problems.

And I thought I lived in the liberal Northeast...

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You do live in the liberal Northeast, it is not red states ruling in tyranny over its' citizens, it is cities like NY and the state of California. You are so right; Bloomberg is not a king, he is a mayor of an American city. There will be a huge backlash. When the people are afraid of their government, it's called tyranny. When the government is afraid of it's people, it's called freedom. Of course, Michelle Obama fully supports this tyrannical move. It won't last and his bans have shown to have absolutely no effect on anybody's life in a good way. rated.
I do not particularly care for the taste of fast food, and only purchase something when I use their restroom while traveling. The few times that I have been in a McDonald's over the past decade I have noticed they offer lower fat alternatives for those who want them. It comes down to the consumer making choices that are healthy, it is not the marketers fault.

With freedom comes responsibility. Pizza, pop, burgers, fries and tacos are nothing new. The difference is we have become a population that does not connect behavior with consequences. Instead of blaming ourselves for getting fat we want to blame companies, the government or TV for our bad choices.

Michelle Obama's pet project is all well and good, but there are dozens of factors causing people to eat poorly and education is the least of them.
...and maybe, just maybe Bloomberg isn't foolhardy enough to propose an ordinance that has no chance of passing or of passing the muster of any appellate court (I mean, the guy's no dummy) and instead was attempting to establish dialogue and awareness on the part of consumers and companies.
Just a thought.
and let's see, I buy the store brand soda in a 3 liter bottle for a buck. It lasts me all week--I go through a gallon of milk faster.
And there's no limit to how many 16 oz. drinks you can buy so just buy two or three to make up for the forbidden larger size!! The intent is understandable but the means just seems ludicrous!
This idea sort of reminds me of war time portions. I don't drink too much. I don't eat wrong. Rarely do I eat at a fast food restaurant. But I love my soda. And I drink diet. I think I started in college when work and college demanded more than I could do in a normal 24 hour day. Life got better but the diet coke remained. I have the big one in the morning and then one normal sized in the afternoon. But if they want to limit soda they should limit wine, beer, alcohol, etc. Perhaps cigarettes should be illegal. And marijuana should be legal???? Not sure what Bloomberg is doing but I don't like it! One state starts it then all the others get thinking about it. What happened to it is my body and I am responsible for it? Over regulations lead to fascism. And this rule remind me of it. When do the rations cards come, I wonder?
I'm going to disagree to a point with a poster commenter. It is too marketing's fault. You have a fully uncritical audience at home watching TV, reading Scholastic Weekly, getting literally flooded with marketing that is entirely devoted to warping and shaping the atitudes of not only adults, but also little kids from the time they can watch TV to their graves.

Marketers hire in their firms, people with Psychology Degrees as well as marketing degrees and business degrees. Why? Because psychology is at the heart of knowing how to manipulate and convince people not with just words, but with visual imagery, body language, facial expressions, etc.

So don't let marketers off the hook for getting paid millions of dollars for accounts with companies that hope to reap tens to hundreds of millions in profits in return for that marketing. It is too their fault as much as it is groups of people who put their head in the sand and pretend that only people who eat or consume are fully responsible for their actions when they have been carefully, craftily and ethically questionably manipulated since they could say, "Mommy, I want..."

As to the article itself, education is a key factor, but that education is fighting an uphill battle for the attention of the patient, who is busy trying to make ends meet, have enough time to even be with their kids, make them happy and still have enough time to sit together and eat a meal, perhaps while watching a movie at the theater.

I'm not saying individuals don't carry the burden of their choices, but you cannot hold blameless the people who's job it is to convince you, from the time before you can talk, to consume something for someone else for profit and no healthy education can compete with that when it's limited to 43 minutes a week in a classroom compared to the 24/7/365 bombardment of unhealthy advertising all clamoring more effectively for your attention -- even if you're not really paying attention -- because that's the best time for marketing to have it's impact -- when you're not paying attention to it. It seeps in there, repetitive, enticing, sweet, peer pressuring and convincing you that to have these things makes you a more successful, happier, more beautiful and satisfied person.

dunnit, when it comes to kids it is the parents and adults who must make the right choices. Junk food is nothing new and has been advertised since the beginning of TV and radio before that. The difference was 50 years ago kids had 1% input parents had 99% input when it came to what kids ate and when they ate it. There was no negotiations.

People know what makes them fat, they are not stupid. They just don't care enough to deny themselves of the pleasure of eating non stop sweets and fats. If you run a restaurant you serve what people want to buy. Most offer healthy choices for those who want to limit their fat and sugar, but the majority want high calorie foods or unlimited portions so that is what they sell. Again it is people who make their own choices and have to live with those choices.
It is stupid and misguided to try to legislate large servings. Personally, I weigh 100lbs. and I buy the largest serving of iced tea at McDonald's without ice and then a large ice water or just ice and it lasts all day. But, I also eat bread, candy, fries and ice cream, in moderation, besides salad, veggies and seafood . We need to show obese people options, balance and commonsense in eating and encourage them, not humiliate and control autocratically.
Speaking as someone on a long trip through Weight Watchers, healthy eating and weight loss is about so much more than soda. I don't even like soda, diet or otherwise, and I still weigh too much. There are so many factors for me (and every overweight person). This journey is about self-discovery for me. What I've learned about my own behavior is that I eat for all the wrong reasons (angry, tired, bored, annoyed), and I can't estimate correct portions to save my sorry soul. I can't. I'm having success, finally, slowly, because I weigh, measure, and write down every blessed mouthful of everything I eat. Everything. I cannot trust my own instincts on what a portion is. Not a bit. That's how I got here.

I love food. I love it too much. I'm learning so much about it--how much I really need, what I don't need, and how to make appropriate choices. I'm exercising more. I'm actually keeping track of how much I exercise and when, and again I'm making better choices.

Bloomberg or anyone else can't legislate that.

I appreciate that this is a public health issue, and we all pay when public health is out of whack. I don't know what the answer is, but this isn't it.
I'm not so sure this is utterly wrong. Oh, sure, people will work around it. But humans, like any animal, eat what is available in the environment. There is not one creature on earth that depends on making intelligent decisions and exercising will power to construct its diet. They all eat what is in the environment. We are not really that superior to other mammals, though we like to flatter ourselves. We eat what is in the environment, like any other animal. Specifically, we eat what provides the most nutrition (which means calories, not necessarily balanced nutrients) at the cheapest cost. Alter the environment, and you alter eating patterns. Bloomberg is working on altering the environment, just like food activists who want to remove these toxic offerings from public schools.
Consumers need to exercise common sense in every choice they make, whether there are bans or other forms of censorship, consumers will always find ways to consume unhealthy products, regardless of mandates or regulations.

It's no wonder 2/3 of our nation are obese. We're terribly dishonest when it comes to owning personal responsibility and when others remind us to mind own our faults, it's easy for some to point fingers at others without realizing it's pointless arguing with those looking for excuses for making poor nutritional choices.

I'm glad some public servants are proactively involved with our nation's obesity issues.

Prohibition doesn't work. People will always find ways to satisfy their cravings.
came for the name, stayed for the article - will they be trucking in Big Gulps from North Carolina with the cigs?
Thanks you for the overwhelming response to this post! It's great to hear the perspectives from a different audience than the one I usually write for (at

Obesity is a complicated issue. What I didn't even address is the issue of labeling it an epidemic. Identifying a problem based on weight or BMI or size is itself problematic, as it doesn't correlate well with health measures. Yes, as a population, risk increases at higher weights--but how much is due to the weight and how much is the result of lifestyle and behaviors is truly unknown. Case in point:
As many commented, environment and triggers play a role in weight management. Yes, it might be easier if small portions were available and there was less incentive to supersize. Temptation is hard enough. And yes, I do believe that parents need to be better gatekeepers--but not by setting simplistic black and white rules about good vs bad food. That's absurd too.

Odds are good that those buying food on the streets of NYC vs taking the time to thoughtfully prepare and pack a lunch will only make up the difference in calories (from their limited size beverage) with an extra hot dog or knish (do they still serve those?)

The bottom line for me is this--who the heck is the mayor of NYC to be drawing the line as to what and how much is healthy for me to eat?!

Now, back to my chocolate cake...
Free is the key.
Rated and I agree with your synopsis.

When my wife or I use a toilet at a fast food joint for our convenience, I purchase something whether I consume it or not.
A small black coffee is my usual low calorie choice. Maybe a small treat snack.
This way I support the company that pays the wages to some very needy citizens.
Someone less fortunate than me has to clean that facility.
so to sum up -

the nation tried - and failed - at prohibition. and we're too chickenshit to outlaw cigarattes, which condemn thousands and thousands to a miserable death from lung cancer. nyc police have been told to stop enforcing marijuana laws . ..

wait - if they're no longer busting people for pot, then they're available to drag bodega owners to jail for dispensing liter bottles of coca cola to kids on a sweltering afternoon.

carry on. as long as we're spending taxpayer dollars wisely in these tough times
I have some problems with your logic here. RE: "Mark my word; if they try to restrict my purchase of cupcakes after 8 PM, for instance, I’ll start hoarding them at 7. I mean it." So if last call at the bar is 1 a.m. do you binge drink at midnight?

You know, portion regulation occurs on lots of fronts. You bring up the movie theatre. At the AMC chain they do not sell a "small" soda to adults. Yes, there exists a "child size" cup, which looks suspiciously like a "small" size, but they will not sell it to an "unaccompanied" adult. Is that, as Deborah Young suggests, a "tyrannical move?"

As some wags have pointed out. You can always buy two. That's the way it works, for example, with beer.

But you are an MPH and an RN, Lori. What should be done? And how?
Correction: RD, not RN. My apologies.
@Klingaman Problem with my logic? Perhaps problem with my sense of humor! That said, those who feel deprived and those who feel guilty about what they eat are more likely to overeat when they do get their hands on that which they are denied.

The solution? As stated, remove financial incentives to supersize. And start educating from the kids up--they will likely impact change on their family more than change coming from above. Teach kids to be critical viewers of the media--see Read a few more posts and you'll see a very different approach to eating.
What passes for "food" in this country is often very toxic and is an enormous drain on our economy because of the health problems that result. But Bloomberg is just being silly here. He has access to serious amounts of money. Perhaps he should donate some of that to the numerous groups are fighting for food justice. He could also use his influence among his Wall Street pals to have a "friendly" chat with such corporate scoundrels as Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, Kraft, Smithfield and the like.

Come on, Mike. You can do better than this.