Politics & Policy

Florida Threatens to Throw Woman in the Slammer for Giving Unlicensed Diet Tips

Heather Kokesch (Photo: Institute for Justice)
Government doesn’t get much more intrusive than this.

A woman in Florida is being threatened with jail time for allowing people to pay her to give them nutritional advice — and that’s very, very dumb.

To clarify, Heather Kokesch Del Castillo is actually not tying people up in her basement and forcing them to listen to her diet tips at gunpoint in exchange for cash. No, these people want her tips, and they choose to pay her for them. It’s a completely voluntary, mutually agreed-upon arrangement, and yet Florida still somehow feels the need to intervene: The state has fined her more than $750 for being an “unlicensed dietician” and has warned her that she will face fines of $1,000 per incident and possibly a year in jail if she continues.

According to a piece in Reason, Del Castillo got busted because a licensed dietician looking to take down competition tattled on her, prompting a Florida Department of Health investigator to go undercover as someone who wanted Del Castillo’s fitness advice.

After finding herself in this ridiculous predicament, Del Castillo went to the lawyers at the Institute for Justice for help. According to her lawsuit, Del Castillo did not ever even claim to be a licensed dietician — all she did was respond to an undercover dieter with information about health-coaching services, and that was apparently enough to get her in this kind of trouble.

This is absurd for so many reasons. On the most basic level: If people want to pay other people for something that isn’t going to hurt anyone else, then they should be allowed to do so. Second of all, there are plenty of licensed dieticians out there who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. How do I know this? Well, because many of them say different — often, even opposite — things, and they can’t all be telling the truth. Think about it: A huge group of them will tell you to choose whole-wheat options, and another huge group of them will tell you that gluten is the devil. Many of them recommend a diet high in lean-meat protein; many others say that meats of all kinds are bad for you. Some are right and some are wrong, meaning that there are some people whom Florida is allowing to give other people wrong nutritional advice without penalty, just because they are technically “licensed” to do so.

By the way, I have absolutely no idea what the “right” nutritional answers are. Personally, I go with something called the Happiness Diet; I eat what makes me happy, and that can mean different things at different times. This morning, I wasn’t feeling like caring about my body very much, so I had a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. I liked it; it was delicious, and the fact that it was delicious made me happy. Other mornings, I’ll look at too many #FitFam Instagram accounts, and then I’ll go with fresh fruit because the shame of a bagel after seeing all of those acai bowls and abs would just be too much for me to deal with. I’ll feel healthy, and that makes me happy. It just depends on how I feel and what I want, and I’d recommend this lifestyle to anyone who’s listening.

But maybe I shouldn’t have said that. After all, I’m writing this article for my job, meaning that I am technically being paid for what I just said, so I might have to go to jail for saying it. Or, or, the government could just chill out about this kind of stuff and focus on more important things.

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