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PR- 314-12
September 4, 2012


Nation’s Weight Loss Experts Back Plan to Limit Size of Sugary Beverages, Which are a Leading Contributor to the Nation’s Obesity Epidemic

Queens Resident Discusses Successful 91-lbs Weight Loss and Role Sugary Beverages Played

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley were joined today by Weight Watchers President Dave Burwick to announce Weight Watchers’ support for the City’s plan to limit the size of sugary drinks sold at food service establishments to 16 ounces or less. Sugary beverages are a leading driver of the obesity epidemic, which is worsening around the country. The proposal will be voted on by the New York City Board of Health on September 13th. Nearly 60 percent of New York City adults and 40 percent of children are overweight or obese and one in eight adult New Yorkers has diabetes. The City also released statements of support from weight loss experts, including the creator of the Best Life Diet, the creator of the South Beach Diet, the CEO of Jenny Craig, the creator of the Dukan Diet and the creator of Picture Perfect Weight Loss. The Mayor made the announcement at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, a Make NYC Your Gym location, where he was joined by Weight Watchers member and Queens resident Rachelle Conley who recently lost 91 pounds and attributes much of her successful weight loss to ending her consumption of sugary drinks, as well as Council Member Gale Brewer.

“It’s time to face the facts: obesity is one of America’s most deadly problems, and sugary beverages are a leading cause of it,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “As the size of sugary drinks has grown, so have our waistlines – and so have diabetes and heart disease. As weight-loss experts can attest, men and women struggle every day to lose weight, or even to just not gain a few pounds – and portion control is key to success. Our proposal for reasonable portion sizes won’t prevent anyone from buying or drinking as much soda as they want, but it will help people keep from inadvertently taking in junk calories simply because the small drink they ordered was actually very large.”

“New York City has led the way in bold health interventions – eliminating trans-fats, posting calorie counts and banning smoking in parks and restaurants – that have had profound and positive consequences, ” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “With our proposal to limit the size of sugary beverages, we have a potential game-changer when it comes to fighting the obesity epidemic that is destroying so many lives.”

“There has been a lot of discussion about obesity, but little action, which is why we at Weight Watchers support what this administration is doing to help New Yorkers live healthier,” said David Burwick, President, North America, Weight Watchers. “It is only with this kind of commitment and community-based support that major strides can be made against obesity. We hope that more mayors, health departments and businesses will follow New York City’s example to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

“In a City with large sizes of high-calorie snack foods and beverages at your fingertips around the clock, it is no wonder many New Yorkers struggle to maintain a healthy weight,” said Health Commissioner Farley. “Today we are proud to have the support of Weight Watchers, a leader in sensible approaches to healthy eating and weight loss. Reducing sugary drinks is the simplest dietary change that people can make to lose weight or avoid gaining weight. We hope that our proposal will help New Yorkers do just that.”

“I joined the Weight Watchers meeting at my workplace and was immediately motivated to change what was in my kitchen. Before losing weight, I would drink 48 ounces of fruit flavored juice drink each day and coffee with 25 – yes, 25 – packets of sugar every morning,” said Rachelle Conley, a mother of 3 and Weight Watchers member. “Now, I’ve completely cut out sugary beverages, drink mostly water, eat healthy portions and exercise near Flushing Meadows Park. For the first time in my life I’m at a healthy weight range – and I plan on staying here.”

“As we reach a critical point in our country’s battle against obesity and type 2 diabetes, we need bold and effective approaches to combat these twin epidemics,” said Bob Greene, founder of The Best Life. “The proposal to limit the size of sugary beverages is an important step toward addressing these preventable health concerns. These drinks are arguably, the number one source of empty calories. My hat’s off to Mayor Bloomberg for working to protect our future and that of our children.”

“Sugar-sweetened beverages are little more than liquid candy, but many people don’t seem to realize this,” said Arthur Agatston, MD, and creator of The South Beach Diet. “A position paper in Pediatrics on sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and its role in adolescent obesity showed that soft drink consumption among kids has increased by 300 percent since the mid-1980s, with 56 to 85 percent of schoolchildren consuming at least one soft drink daily. A child who drinks just one sugary soft drink every day will consume the equivalent of a 50-pound bag of sugar by the end of a year. Given all the hidden added sugars in foods, reducing sugary beverage consumption—and ideally saying no to sweetened beverages altogether – is one of the easiest ways to cut out excess sugar and help prevent a host of obesity-related ailments down the road. With less sugar intake New York City will be a healthier place.”

“Jenny Craig is fully committed to combating the global obesity epidemic, and with it the overwhelming health issues caused by weight-related diseases,” said Dana Fiser, CEO of Jenny Craig. “Along with Mayor Bloomberg, we support all efforts that will help get America healthy. Through our clinically proven, comprehensive program, we educate about the importance of portion control and moderation. We also teach our clients that the majority of sugary drinks are filled with empty calories and lack nutritional value. By learning to adopt healthier eating patterns and make more informed choices, our clients will be primed for a nutritionally balanced life, and the health benefits that come along with it.”

“North America’s obesity problem has escalated at an alarming rate and as a doctor, I want to help,” said Dr. Pierre Dukan, creator of the Dukan Diet. “I support the proposed amendment to decrease the consumption of sugary drinks, as it mirrors a core belief of my diet – that in order to fight the war on obesity and diabetes – one must first decrease and/or eliminate processed carbohydrates and sugars from their daily diet. Sugar and insulin are now identified as the 2 primary offenders associated with Americans becoming overweight. Therefore, the measure proposed by Mayor Bloomberg is a compelling one. It is a first step, but one we must take as we can no longer turn our backs on the perils of sugar. And, any campaign to help fight America’s leading health challenge to date, is one that I stand behind.”

“We have an obese population in the U.S. with a multitude of health risks including cardiac disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes, said Dr. Howard Shapiro, creator of Picture Perfect Weight Loss. “Children at the ages of 11-12 are being diagnosed with Adult Onset Diabetes due to obesity. In fact, this is the first generation of Americans predicted to have a shorter lifespan than the previous generation. The restriction on selling supersized sodas that Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to implement in New York city on restaurants, theatres, stadiums and street vendors, is an important step toward raising awareness of one of the issues responsible for causing increased obesity and diabetes in this country (especially among our children). This is not to say that obesity is only caused by drinking too much soda, but there is certainly a correlation between the amount of sugar we consume and our overweight status. What the Mayor is doing is helping to educate people about the sugar content of sodas and the risks they impose on our health. Our portion sizes are becoming ridiculous, bordering on vulgar, and the Mayor is stepping up and telling it like it is. As he did when he further exposed the dangers of smoking by instituting bans in restaurants and limiting the use of trans-fats. These changes were not popular in the beginning but are applauded by most now.”

“We should be working to create good choices for kids and families, not sitting back while super-sizing pours our health down the drain,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “This proposal is one step toward making it easier for more New Yorkers to make a healthier choice. Research shows that a whole lot of folks will do exactly that, cutting down on fattening, unhealthy soda. And, let's be clear: those who want to drink more will still be able to go ahead and have two.”

“It’s an uphill battle helping our kids make healthy choices,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “The Mayor understands the stakes here and his plan puts the City on parents’ side. We have to be innovative when it comes to fighting obesity, because our kids’ lives depend on it.”

“We can’t ignore the fact that obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the country, and that it has now reached epidemic proportions in New York City, particularly in our poorest communities,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. “More than half of New York City adults are now overweight or obese, as are some 30 percent of our public school children, and we must declare war against this public health menace. The Mayor’s proposal to limit the size of sugar-sweetened beverages is a step in the right direction, and I thank him for the courage he has shown in taking on this issue. We must also guarantee that people in all neighborhoods have access to fresh and healthy foods, closer to home. Bold steps are needed and we must act today – for the sake of our City and our children.”

“The health of New Yorkers matters to me,” said Council Member Brewer. “That’s why I have stood with the Administration and the City Council to support funding for parks, playgrounds, plazas, and recreation, bike lanes and safe riding, limits on smoking in public places, and access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. Limiting oversized unhealthy drinks is another step. It is not a panacea – we also need more school gym-time, and we have to find a way to include the chain stores that are now not affected by the ban because they are regulated by the state not the city. But limiting oversized unhealthy drinks is a common sense move to help New Yorkers stay healthy and avoid obesity.”

“As the son of a long-time Weight Watchers lecturer, I’m pleased to stand with them in support of the Bloomberg Administration’s proposal to limit portion size of large sugary drinks,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “We need new strategies to promote weight loss, fitness and health in our communities, to confront the obesity epidemic. My mom’s lectures helped me understand some simple lessons – and one of the simplest is that nobody really needs a giant sugary soft drink.”

“The Mayor’s proposal has gotten people talking about the critical obesity epidemic in our country,” said Council Member Jessica Lappin. “Hopefully, when coupled with education and greater access to healthy food and exercise, it will change habits and move people in a healthier direction.”

“Cutting down on the consumption of sugary drinks is a major step in the right direction towards making New York a healthier city,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Obesity continues to be a growing problem in our communities and the Mayor's proposal to limit the size of these sugary drinks is a key part of our city's effort to address what is a public health hazard.”

“As a supporter of this initiative, I am proud to join Mayor Bloomberg in this push to make New York City the healthiest city in the nation,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “This is a tool that will allow New Yorkers to make healthy decisions and cut down on empty calories that add weight and contribute to a host of long-term chronic diseases.”

Obesity and being overweight is a rapidly growing and major public health problem that, according to the World Health Organization, accounts for the death of least 2.8 million adults each year. In the United States, obesity is a leading cause of preventable death, second only to smoking.

New York City is not exempt from this crisis: 5,800 New Yorkers die annually as a result of obesity and one in eight adult New Yorkers now has diabetes. By borough, the combined overweight-obesity rates are: 69.7 percent in the Bronx, 61.8 percent in Staten Island, 60.3 percent in Brooklyn, 57.2 percent in Queens and 47.4 percent in Manhattan. And despite recent progress with childhood obesity, 20.7 percent of New York City children grades K-8 are obese.

New York City’s portion size proposal – which will be voted upon by the Board of Health on September 13 – would limit the size of sugary drinks to 16 ounces or less at restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas. Sugary drinks are high in calories, served in large sizes and yet deliver no nutritional value. They do not create a sensation of fullness, so people typically do not cut back on other calories when they consume extra calories through sugary drinks. The long term weight gain and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease associated with sugary drinks has been documented. In 2010, experts from Harvard University and three other leading nutrition research institutions in the United States and Canada concluded that because sugary drinks are important contributors to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, consumption “should be limited and replaced by healthy alternatives such as water.”

In addition to limiting the size of sugary drinks, New York City has a comprehensive approach to changing itd food and exercise environment and is committed to increasing awareness among New Yorkers about good nutrition, healthy food options and exercise opportunities – such as Make NYC Your Gym and BeFitNYC – as well as improving the availability of healthy food and educating New Yorkers about the importance of a healthy diet.

New Yorkers looking for free and low-cost fitness opportunities can go to and search BeFitNYC to help find the right activity for them. It lists programs, classes, facilities, and leagues in the Parks Department's properties as well as those of a number of partner groups. Regular physical activity helps people maintain weight loss.

About the Obesity Task Force

In December 2011, Mayor Bloomberg charged Deputy Mayor Gibbs and Deputy Mayor of Operations Holloway with significantly strengthening the City’s anti-obesity efforts by convening a multi-agency task force that would recommend innovative, proactive solutions to address the obesity crisis in New York City. The Obesity Task Force was convened in January 2012 and conducted its work over the following several months.

Chaired by Deputy Mayors Gibbs and Holloway, Commissioners from eleven City agencies and representatives from the Mayor’s Office participated including: Alan Aviles, President, Health and Hospitals Corporation; Veronica White, Commissioner, Department of Parks and Recreation; David Bragdon, Director, Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability; Amanda Burden, Commissioner, Department of City Planning; David Burney, FAIA, Commissioner, Department of Design and Construction; Robert Doar, Commissioner, Human Resources Administration; Dr. Thomas Farley, Commissioner, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Kim Kessler, Food Policy Coordinator; Robert LiMandri, Commissioner, Department of Buildings; John Rhea, Chairman, NYC Housing Authority; Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner, Department of Transportation; Carter Strickland, Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection; and Dennis Walcott, Chancellor, Department of Education.

About Overweight and Obesity

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more and overweight is a BMI of 25 or more. BMI is a metric that measures excess weight in relation to height. More information about how to calculate BMI for children is available on the CDC website ( Many serious health conditions are related to being overweight or obese, such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory problems and heart disease.


Marc La Vorgna / Samantha Levine   (212) 788-2958

Jean Weinberg (Health)   (347) 396-4177

Kristi Widmar (Weight Watchers)   (212) 589-2786


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