First, let’s generally define what is meant when the term ‘fat tax’ is used. In essence, this is any tax or surcharge placed upon foods or beverages that are deemed to be fattening. Later in this post, we’ll look further into how this broad interpretation can lead to problems. For now, let’s just say that the supposed “goal” of this type of taxation is to discourage unhealthy diets and to offset the economic costs of obesity. Let’s get right to it: The root of the obesity problem in this country has nothing to do with money. This isn’t to say that treating obesity and its accompanying conditions isn’t expensive. It is. But the underlying reasons that obesity has become such a crisis in America are far more complex than dollars and cents.

As a trained physician, I know that the greatest strides in medicine are made when the actual cause of a condition, disease or disorder is determined and effectively addressed. Treating only the symptoms of a condition, disease or disorder may provide temporary relief, but it won’t cure what’s causing the symptoms in the first place. When it comes to obesity, food itself is not the underlying problem. The way we think about and behave around food is really what needs to be addressed, as well as the other lifestyle choices that go along with it, like exercise and attitude. Though a complicated issue, what this really boils down to is choice. The choices we make, whatever the reasons, in the foods we eat must be made with the understanding and ability to decide for ourselves what is appropriate. An example of how these taxes won’t cure this problem: avocados. One medium avocado has approximately 22 grams of fat. That’s close to 35% of the recommended daily allowance based on an average 2000 calorie diet. As a comparison, a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger has 23 grams of fat. Which option do you think the creators of the ‘fat tax’ have in mind to tax? It’s probably not the avocado. Even though the avocado is fairly comparable to the cheeseburger in terms of fat grams, it’s nutritional value is far superior. But the sad similarity for both foods is this: if you consume too much of either of these foods in too short a period of time with zero focus on balance and exercise, both have the ability to make you obese. And that’s the point. We can turn even the most seemingly healthy and nutritious foods into those that are deemed to be ‘too fattening’ by the ‘fat tax’s’ broad definition.

As I’ve said before, labeling foods as “off limits, not good for you or too fattening” tends to only make those who are predisposed to obesity want them more. One way to look at it is to envision the relationship between an overbearing parent and a teenager. No matter the issue, that dynamic often turns into the teen rebelling and doing the exact opposite of what the parent wants or thinks is best. We can look at the ‘fat tax’ in much the same way. Education on making informed choices, moderation and digging deeper into the root causes of obesity are what is necessary in order to really address the challenge our nation faces in this regard. The great news? You have the right to decide for yourself what your healthy and appropriate food choices should be. So get started.