IF THERE'S a message being delivered to the American people this summer, it's this: We're a bunch of fat slobs.
And we'd better do something about it, pronto.
Earlier this month, Kraft Foods announced it was joining the war on obesity - I hear that term and picture battalions of U.S. Marines sweeping through the streets, bayonets fixed, battling chunky people wolfing down Big Macs, Snickers bars, etc. - by reducing portion sizes, changing the recipes for some of its foods and providing "alternative choices."
Since Kraft makes such fat-filled foods as Oreos and cheesy snacks and lunch meats, it seems to me one logical "alternative choice" would be: Don't eat this stuff.
Unless you don't mind getting fat.
But maybe I'm just old-fashioned.
Now comes the stunning news that Applebee's, the giant casual restaurant chain, has teamed up with Weight Watchers International to offer low-calorie choices on its menus.
Think about that for a moment: Applebee's and Weight Watchers.
Could there be a more unlikely pairing?
Applebee's teaming with Weight Watchers is like Phillip Morris teaming with the American Cancer Society. It's like Exxon teaming with the Sierra Club. It's like the United Veal Producers teaming with PETA.
Driving all these announcements of food retailers changing their ways and offering healthier fare, of course, is the fear of lawsuits.
Apparently a lot of the fatsos in this country are coming down with all sorts of health problems, like diabetes and chronic heart disease.
And they're starting to do what Americans have always done when facing hard times: They're blaming someone else, looking around for someone to sue, taking someone to court.
"It's not me, it's that company over there," goes this form of thinking. "Sure, I just ate that whole bag of Doritos. But they made it."
Obviously, there's a precedent of sorts here: cigarette smokers who have successfully sued the pants off the big tobacco companies.
Look, I'll be honest with you. When smokers started suing the tobacco companies years ago, I never thought they had a chance of winning.
My feeling was: How could anyone in this day and age not know that smoking is bad for you?
Let's go over the evidence here, OK?
You're sucking in gobs of smoke and tar and charcoal and God knows what else every day.
You're coughing your brains out. You wheeze every time you walk up the steps. Your clothes stink. Your fingers are stained yellow.
How could any smoker go through all that and think: Gee, I wonder if this is bad for me?
So how could they turn around and sue these tobacco companies and say: Hey, I didn't know smoking was a health risk! You guys never told me that!
To me, it's the same thing with these overweight people who sue the food companies and fast-food restaurants.
Take the great Caesar Barber, the New Yorker who sued McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
I wrote about this guy last year, because his story was such a breathtaking example of denial that it belonged in the Denial Hall of Fame.
The great Caesar Barber stood 5-foot-10 and weighed 270 and said he used to eat fast food four to five times a week, even after suffering a heart attack.
In his class-action lawsuit, he said the fast-food chains never explained to him exactly what was in their foods or the risks of eating too much of it.
So that's why he was real fat, diabetic, suffered a second heart attack, etc.
Is that beautiful or what?
Think about that.
Not once did Caesar Barber say: I was a pig and ate way too much of that stuff.
Not once did he say: Everyone knows that stuff is high in fat and salt and sugar and cholesterol - I need to have my head examined.
No, what he said to the fast-food chains, in effect, was: It's your fault. You didn't tell me how bad it was for me. You didn't stop me.
Of course, with all the lawsuits being filed now against the food industry, you know what the next step is here.
The next step is: warning labels on food, just like on cigarette packs.
And they're going to be equally meaningless and stupid.
"WARNING: This product will make you fat if you eat it three times a day and don't exercise and sit around the house playing video games."
"WARNING: Constant consumption of this product will cause you to blow up to the size of Wyoming, and then you'll start feeling tired and listless and you won't get any dates and when they choose up sides for pickup basketball, you'll be the last guy chosen. And whatever you do, don't blame us like that knucklehead Caesar Barber did."