The Food Police on TV

      36 Comments on The Food Police on TV

Fellow comedian and blogger Josh Goguen alerted me that a recent episode of Stossel dealt with obesity and the food police.  I recorded the episode, took a few clips, and added some comments in the form of subtitles and some Fat Head clips.


I actually find MeMe Roth more annoying than the sue-happy lawyer.   This is a woman who is obviously naturally thin.  She was born on the finish line and thinks she won a race.  So now she feels justified in telling other people how to eat, and in criticizing pretty much every overweight person in the public eye.  (You may recall when she proclaimed American Idol contestant Jordin Sparks a bad role model because of her size.)

My advice:  never take advice on losing weight from anyone who’s never had to work at it.  They have no flippin’ clue what they’re talking about.


36 thoughts on “The Food Police on TV

  1. Melissa

    Meme Roth has an eating disorder! I’ve read interviews with her and she won’t eat until she’s ran her like 10 mile run each day. So if she hasn’t gotten to it by 3 pm, well she hasn’t eaten. I can’t believe this lady is allowed to speak on fat. She’s fat phobic because she had fat parents.

    She’s probably a walking example of what Gary Taubes explained about naturally thin people who are always moving: their bodies don’t like to store fat, so they have a lot of available fuel and feel compelled to move. If that’s true in her case, then she mistakenly believes she’s thin because she moves so much.

  2. Sarah

    Huh? From what I’ve heard from fat-acceptance blogs around the interwebs, Meme Roth is not naturally thin. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen a clip where she’s speaking to Joy Nash and she tells the girl that she comes from a background of obesity and needs to constantly restrain her eating in order to maintain her current figure. Which would explain in part her freakish obsession with other people’s weight – if you have to starve and torture yourself to obtain a desirable figure how could you be happy with seeing others living out their lives at a higher and more comfortable weight?

    Fully agree with you on the never taking advice from anyone who’s never had to work at it though, they have no idea what it’s like to be following a reduced cal diet plan to the letter and still stalling or gaining.

    Her “background of obesity” consists of having fat family members. She says she’s never been on a diet and I believe her. I’ve never seen a picture of her looking like anything other than a stick woman. I’m guessing she talks about restraining her eating to give herself credibility.

  3. Isabelle

    “It should be handled with the care and intellect that the swine-flu and other things are handled… ” (that girl Roth, around 7:35)

    Exactly where in the world was the swine-flu handled with care and intellect rather than panic spreading propaganda?

    Oh well. Very good, thanks.

    That was my thought exactly when she said it.

  4. sharbelanthony

    Great video Tom!

    It seems as if there is a new activist born every minute in the western world. Where did this broad come from? (i know – derogatory term) And what makes her an expert?

    The John Banzhaf part reminded me of that “lawyer logic” skit you did in Fat Head.

    Roth has no actual expertise. Her background is in public relations. Banzhaf is actually the same lawyer I was skewering in Lawyer Logic … he was a big star in Super Size Me.

  5. mezzovoice

    Pre-blooming-cisely. As for government trying to control people’s habits: Remember prohibition? Now there’s a good example for how well this works.

    Governments are useful for things like eradicating malaria and polio. They should stick to what they do well.

  6. Jeanne

    This was so depressing I could hardly stand to watch it.
    I work as a therapist in nursing homes, and, a few days ago, had a patient who was well educated, intelligent, and happened to be grossly obese. It broke my heart when he talked about how he could see that just the sight of him disgusted people. I don’t know how people can stand it how they are talked about and treated.

    It breaks my heart too. Countless obese people have tried starving themselves, horsewhipping themselves into running or doing aerobics, all to no avail because they’ve been given the wrong advice. Then people like MeMe Roth try to shame them for being fat.

  7. Shayne

    MeMe (!) Roth makes my skin crawl. She’s Carrie Nation in a deseigner pantsuit.

    Btw, Fat Head = AMAZING! FACT!

    That’s a perfect description! Carrie Nation in a (size 2) designer pants suit.

  8. Alexia

    Ummm wow. I can’t believe there was a “fat” guy up there trying to tell us how to eat LOL I would love to see you take on these people on TV instead of someone who really has no clue what to say.

    I’d love to be the guy they bring in to debate these people, but so far my efforts to make the TV folks aware of me and the film haven’t led to any of that. Maybe someday.

  9. Elenor

    Her strenuous (and astonishingly idiotic) comments along with your note about her defending her activism by citing herself as coming from an obese father makes me wonder what family dynamics are going on there. Was her father mean or distant — or god forbid abusive — and that’s why she’s a complete freak about fat people!?

    But, OMG she’s insane! And that lawyer is just a snake. (Sorry, snakes, for the slur…)

    And, as always Tom, you did a superb job pricking the fatuous. (Oops, I wrote “fat”!)

    Eric Oliver was also on the show. He told me in an email that Banzhaf basically tried to filibuster the whole time Oliver was talking, so much of it was cut. Banzhaf is indeed a snake.

  10. Dan

    I get very irate about people like MeMe who have never had a weight problem, but harp on others about their weight problems. She has no clue about it at all. She has probably never know the intense cravings that are impossible to resist, even when you “know” the mantra of eat less, exercise more. I assume she is just pushing more of the same BS — reduce calories, eat less, etc, as if it’s so easy.

    I became so frustrated with my weight loss efforts, that I just gave up and accepted the fact that I would be fat. It took a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and discovery of low carb to see that it didn’t have to be that way. MeMe should just stuff her face with a nice thick steak and shut up.

    Your ire is completely justified. MeMe does what any fat person does — she eats until she’s satisfied. She’s not thin because she’s disciplined.

  11. Charise

    I especially like how John the law professor won’t let John the TV host talk at all. I’m finding that happens a lot – when people try to fight this “food police” nonsense. If you fight it, they’ll just talk over and louder than you until you give up. Similar to plugging their ears and going “La la la I can’t hear you! I’m right you’re wrong so A+ I win!”

    “You think this is wrong?” (Well, obviously, as it essentially charges you extra, unfounded money for no reason and tries to control what you eat)
    The law professor’s response?
    “You don’t think eating fast food frequently can cause obesity?” (What does that have to do with anything?! That is a completely unrelated question to the one he just asked of the TV Host!)

    So boys and girls, if you say that you think taxing your Twinkies (tee hee) is wrong and un-democratic, apparently that means you are too stupid to know that frequent crap food can cause obesity.

    And I’m not sure what bothers me more – über skinny white take-on-the-world-type people who’ve never had to struggle with weight, or fat people, telling me what to eat. Either way it feels hypocritical. And dirty.

    Since all of these health “professionals” are being such children, may I please throw a tantrum? I really feel like kicking and screaming.

    I corresponded with Eric Oliver, who was also on that show. He told me Banzhaf wasn’t interested in letting anyone else talk, constantly interrupting. At one point, he criticized Oliver for having an opinion about obesity even though Oliver isn’t an MD. Okay, the guy who wrote “Fat Politics” and did a ton of research on the subject doesn’t understand obesity, but the fat lawyer does … ?

  12. Bruce

    I love the weasel words…”Studies show”

    I love any true health crisis that needs “air quotes”

    I love that Roth at 7:35 decides that the “Health Crisis” is not a First Lady crisis. Does the first lady not have the intellect to handle such a job? What job can she handle? Jello molds for state dinners? But then, I don’t want to listen to the prez, let alone whoever they marry.

    Regarding the serving size stupidity. I worked for a LARGE food company. 3 years ago they decided to focus on selling the public “healthy” food. The plant I worked at was, of course concerned, as we produced candy bars, made from sugar, corn syrups, and lovely trans fat. The corporate decision for us, was to make the bars smaller. Now instead of one large bar in a package, it would contain 2 “fun size” bars. The wrapper would state that there was 2 servings in the package. Of course, with the smaller bar, the nutrition label would seem more favorable to your health. And I’m sure, that people buying the bar would dutifully wrap up the other piece and save it for tomorrow.

    You can shrink the serving sizes all you want, but until people fix the insulin problems that drive both hunger and fat accumulation, they’ll just eat more servings.

  13. musajen

    Love the guy with the functioning brain. The arrogance of people on the obesity crusade is nauseating (would like to throw-up on Meme Roth).

    I’d like to know exactly where they’re getting that $147 billion dollar price tag for obesity. Pretty sure it could be picked apart and down to pocket change for what is actually attributable to obesity. And even then, is it really the extra weight causing the problem or the factors contributing to the extra weight that cause the problems?

    Sounds to me like a figure the CDC made up. Nobody can track the costs of obesity that accurately. I believe for the most part it’s high blood sugar that is doing the damage, not the extra weight itself. The weight is a symptom.

  14. MikeC

    Just a quick amusing note about calories and labeling. I’m going through the 6-week cure again (first time was good, but I still have a ways to go). One day last week my non-shake meal was three bun-less double cheese burgers from Burger King. Now, I don’t think I’m an idiot, and I knew it was a high-calorie meal. I had no idea how high.

    When I got back to my apartment, I looked it up on BK’s web site: 640 Calories per double cheese burger, without the bun! In that one meal I downed 1920 Calories, plus my three shakes for the day. I think I was right around 2900 for the day.

    However…at the end of week 2 I was down about 13 lbs and almost two belt notches from my starting point. Starting week 3 today and I feel just as great this time around as I did the first time.


    I find that if I do eat a high-calorie meal that’s low in carbs, I’m not hungry again for hours. So it tends to balance out. That’s why these calorie-count laws are stupid. Even if we shame people into eating less at McDonald’s, they’ll just eat more later to make up the difference.

  15. Ms. X

    I must protest! I’m a naturally thin person, your wife is a naturally thin person (as you’ve said many times); I don’t generally walk around handing out weight loss advice to strangers, but when I do discuss weight loss with people (usually relatives, and I don’t bring it up) I talk about what I have learned reading about low carb and paleo approaches.

    Should people like myself and your wife be ignored when we share knowledge just because we haven’t experienced the dramatic weight loss benefit? (When I low carbed for diabetes issues, even I lost some weight, just a few pounds but it was real weight loss). We can change our lipid profiles, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and achieve so many health benefits from low carb too. The other thing is, not everybody who is overweight loses weight the same way. Some have a much, much easier time than others, so should someone who has an easy time losing weight also be ignored if their advice is sound?

    But then, why listen to me…

    Fair point. After listening to me rant and rave for two years, my wife knows plenty about what drives weight gain. Unfortunately, I’ve talked to many naturally thin people over the years who think they know all about losing weight simply because they’re not fat. MeMe is clearly one of those.

  16. Annette

    I have recently become a big fan of the ‘Fathead’ movie but until now I wondered whether the ‘poor people are stupid’ thing was a bit of an exaggeration… wow! This clip blows me away right at 4:12 “We don’t put warnings up there for the best and brightest like you and me…” That says it all. Wow.

    And I agree that being shamed and guilted by these people who have never had to try to lose weight in their lives is absolutely ridiculous. I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of “obese” people who have more will power than this Meme does. I remember starving myself when I was younger and lost weight initially but who can keep that up? These repeated efforts along with trying to follow conventional wisdom caused me to really balloon up. It wasn’t until I had a “special” no sugar, no starch (eg low carb) diet prescribed to me by a naturopath that I almost effortlessly dropped about forty pounds!

    Thanks again!

    I wish the “poor people are stupid” line were an exaggeration too, but it isn’t. I came up with that after debating the premise of Super Size Me with several people in California. I kept hearing how “those people” don’t know what’s good for them and need help. And these were mostly earnest, caring, liberal types who would scream bloody murder if you accused them of being classist or racist … but they clearly are, whether they know it or not.

  17. Katy

    My head is spinning. Haven’t studies shown that poor people are more likely to be obese and diabetic because they mainly eat starch? Oh, wait, was it too much much protein? Oh, it was the fat, right? So let’s see… poor, fat people will be given subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables and skinless chicken breasts and tofu (which will also be delivered to the inner cities where none are available) and they will have to pay more for ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese (starch AND high fat. Gosh, poor college students will starve!). But low fat Spaghettios and Chef Boyardee ravioli will be ok (unless they add hot dogs, or Pepperidge Farm goldfish, my poor, skinny son’s favorite). The dollar menu at McDonald’s will also be outlawed. Rich fat people, on the other hand (yes, there are some!!) will be able to afford anything they want and so can get as fat as they wish because they can afford the highly taxed food. Yep, sounds like a plan.

    I’m afraid your synposis sounds about right.

  18. Dave, RN

    I wonder if the audience noted the tubbiness of the lawyer. It was the first thing I noticed when he appeared…

    Like I always say, I’ll start to listen to someone giving dietary advice when they can do it with their shirt off, look better than me, and bang out 70 push-ups (REAL military push-ups) in a row (as I can) before they start to talk…

    And yea, I started with high blood sugar and an extra 30 lbs around my waist, so I do have some personal experience getting rid of at least a little excess fat. (not bad for a 49 year old!)

    It’ll be a sad day indeed if these diet nazi’s success in taxing “bad” food. I can just see my chicken costing more because it still has the skin on it (the best part).

    Banzhaf has the Kelly Brownell problem going on: he’s a fat guy trying to tell us that calorie counts will prevent other people from being overweight. Like I’m supposed to believe this guy can’t find out the calorie counts of what he’s eating?

  19. Felix

    I could only watch part of this. There is, was, and always will be a distribution of differently weighing people, simply based on genetics – on the very same food supply. We now have the skinny parts of the natural distribution harrass the fat part while offering no long-term solution, all while moderate obesity even means a bit higher longevity than being at the projected ideal weight. But hey, it gives you a part of the population to punish, exploit and ridicule for something that’s not their fault. Way to go! It even goes against the science on health and longevity. It’s the skinny ones who live the shortest and have the worst health. Shouldn’t they pay? Shouldn’t we then tax broccoli and salad? Shouldn’t we send skinny kids to feeding camps? No. Because this doesn’t help either. A good example is the overfeeding study done similar to Super Size Me. They took naturally thin people and had them eat a high-calorie “junk-food” diet. They gained some weight (different amounts) on their high-calorie diet, but lost it all without effort afterwards – no Vegan-girlfriend-diet needed. The worst part is really that they now go after the fat kids. It’s disgusting. This is not about health at all. It’s all about looks – a media-implanted distorted image of what humans should look like (Avatar is a great example of the new ideal). Now you can “fast”, “detox”, take laxatives and go on crash diets all allegedly in the name of health. Anorexia and other eating disorders are on the rise. No wonder there’s a rise in eating disorders even among kids under 10 years of age if having an overweight kid is now considered child abuse and you have kids on low-calorie diets. It really makes me angry.

    Spot-on about the distribution. There are skinny people who eat way more than fat people. And as Eric Oliver explained in the bonus tracks on Fat Head, a lot of obese adults are suffering from wrecked metabolisms because people put them on crash diets when they were young.

  20. Katy

    “Should people like myself and your wife be ignored when we share knowledge just because we haven’t experienced the dramatic weight loss benefit?”

    No, absolutely not, but MeMe isn’t sharing but dictating and proposing actions based upon no knowledge whatsoever, just her beliefs and prejudices. Big difference.

    Exactly. She’s on a committee for CSPI, which means she’d recommend their grain-based, low-fat diet. It may work for naturally-skinny MeMe, but it’s a disaster for a lot of other people.

  21. shutchings

    That fact that you are able to make this video makes me want to dance! How can we get more people to see it? Now, could you use your talents to turn that “Green Police” commercial into one that highlights how they’ve made CFC Asthma Inhalers illegal and since the replacements don’t work, children with asthma have to stay near electrical outlets to plug their nebulizers in when they have an asthma attack? Child: “Mommy, can we go camping?” Mom: “Sure Johnny! Just grab your CFC Inhaler!” Green Police: “Sorry Maam, you’re going to have to stay put–can’t risk blowing a hole into the ozone!” Aaaaaaaargh! I’ll watch your video again. It makes me happy.

    I had no idea about the inhalers. That’s horrible.

  22. Katy

    Another question… “normal” weight persons will have to pay more for those higher fat foods deemed “unhealthful,” calories that they may very well need to maintain their weight. Or, if they eat the “healthful” food, they’ll have to buy and eat even more of it in order to not lose weight. If they save the receipts, will they be able to get a tax-refund?

    Re: MeMe’s “elective” diseases… How ridiculous! How would we ever know the absolute causes of various diseases? How many Twinkies does it take to cause cancer? Were they eaten when a person was a tot, a teenager, or an adult? Did the parents know? Was milk consumed along with them? Before or after meat or tofu? Did the person consume vegetable oil (cold-pressed) or lard? And who sold that person the Twinkies? Will there be a national tracking system where everyone will have to record their daily food intake for future health coverage? (I won’t ever confess how many Snowballs I’ve consumed in my life–but none in the last five years). And of course we all know that thin people never get sick. OMG!!

    The “elective disease” concept is goofy. Smoking causes lung cancer, so she’d label that elective … but my maternal grandfather died of lung cancer and never smoked.

  23. Lawrence

    Yeah, quite right Tom!

    I lost 200 pounds on my own by taking the initiative on my own. I didn’t need to do a diet – I just needed to eat right and be more active than I had been. Simple as. You can’t know what it’s like unless you have been overweight yourself which makes MeMe Roth’s opinions somewhat skewed. Even if she had obese family, she herself had never been obese and so has never REALLY had to think about the intricacies of diet and nutrition. She can’t sit on the fence barking orders to obese people forever.

    No, but she’ll try.

  24. Ellen

    IMO, the real problem is that John Stossel actually chose to give these two idiots air time. Let’s just change the channel or turn off the TV.

    I’m glad he had them on. That gives the public a chance to see these people for the meddling busybodies they really are.

  25. Josh Goguen

    Nick Gillespie got into it pretty good with MeMe. I don’t think she’s used to having someone pushing back as aggressively as he did. I’m sure some saw it as a bit chauvinistic, but I thought it was hilarious.

    Just YouTube “Nick Gillespie pwns Blond Health Nazi”.

    She was clearly getting flustered by the end of their exchange. He’s a brilliant guy and he called her on the b.s.

  26. matt

    100% true about the inhalers. Thankfully it was about 2 yrs ago which was the same time I started supplementing vitamin d, and started my mostly sugar-free, grain-free diet, so my asthma went away along with my eczema and seasonal allergies. I bought one of the new inhalers and never got it to work, but never needed it after I bought it. – you will appreciate the movement.

    This is the kind of overkill that has given environmentalism a bad name. When I hear someone described as an environmentalist, my first reaction is now “nut-case goofball.” It shouldn’t be that way, and wasn’t at one time.

  27. David R

    As usual they have it all wrong. People need to be accountable for their own actions not everyone else’s. Instead of taxing everyone, make health care a privilege not a right. If you are obese, smoke or do drugs…no health care for you.

    Instead of costing the rest of us billions you can pay for your own medical treatment. If you can’t afford it, well that’s too bad for you I guess. Enjoy your next life!

    Harsh? maybe… Effective? Definitely!

  28. Cathryn

    I love her constant referral to “Studies show…” In my stats class, my students are forbidden to use that contrite, overused, meaningless expression without hard evidence. In other words, if they use the words “Studies show…” or “Reseach has proven…” they better have a hard copy of those studies or the research. Why do we not demand the same thing from these blowhards?

    Right now New Mexico passed what’s known as the Tortilla Tax. If you buy white flour tortillas, you will be taxed, but not if you buy the whole wheat flour tortillas. If you buy red chile, you will be taxed but not the green chile. If you buy coffee or tea you will be taxed. The state legislature is trying to force people to make better and healthier choices according the WIC program.

    *lifts a brow*

    Amazing … as if what we eat is any of their business. I think we need to start taxing legislators $500 for each new law they pass. For each one they repeal, we’ll give them $1,000.

  29. Dave, RN

    That’s what frightens me about the government telling us what’s healthy. It’ll cost even more to eat healthy. I can see it now, a line on the 1040 form: “Please state the approximate square footage of chicken skin you consumed last year”.

    And please attach Form 1040-CHX “Chicken Skin Consumption Worksheet.”

  30. Amy

    Thanks for the “heads up” about the show. Stossel should have mentioned that changes to farm subsidies in the 70s have led to an abundance of cheap corn. That means an abundance of cheap, processed food. It could be argued that the government is making us fatter. So, if government intervention is making us fatter, it makes complete sense to have the government intervene again to solve the “obesity epidemic!” 🙂

    One of the three biggest lies: we’re from the government, and we’re here to help.

  31. Katy

    I suppose that Tim Russert and Bill Clinton and others who have been “eating right” yet then develop heart disease are exceptions to the rule, hmmm?

    I believe the preferred medical term is “paradox.”

  32. mezzovoice

    I am being a little vitriolic here, but does a person whose first name ist made up of a double “ME” have any other choice than being full of herself?

    It is rather fitting, isn’t it?


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