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Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Fast & Cheap.

The New York Times recently stated in an article that the reason American have been getting more obese over the last couple of decades has to do with the increased consumption of fast foods.  They also cited a recent study by the researchers from the University of Chicago and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found low inflation-adjusted minimum wages are party to blame for increased obesity.  Sigh.  Why is it that the cheap, quick foods that fill a nation of the overworked and underpaid also make us overweight and unhealthy?


Half a dozen years ago U.S. district Judge Robert Sweet tossed out a lawsuit that blamed McDonald’s for the obesity of the plaintiff suing the McMega corporation.  An interesting argument, to be sure, but as for me, I can assure you that McDonald’s did not make me fat.  In fact, it would be very hard to actually pin-point one culprit in the ongoing war to prevent me from ever resembling the waifish TV friends on Friends 15 years ago or now looking like any of the desperate housewives portraying women my age in today’s media culture.  To be honest, by the standards of the 1940’s and 50’s – I’m actually one hot tomato.  But, alas … I was born too late (sympatico sisters, I hear your sighs of agreement from here).


For a while there was a lot of flack being given to fast food restaurants for their apparent lack of responsibility for the health and welfare of their diners and over the years they have slowly made minor changes to their menus to allow for a few healthier choices.  Yeah, but we don’t always choose those nifty apple slices over the seductive siren call of french fries, do we?


Quite honestly, I don’t really think that it’s fair to make restaurants completely responsible for the lousy scores our LDL/HDL blood tests, but of course – I also didn’t think that lady deserved McMillions for scalding her own thighs back in the day when she tried to balance hot coffee between her legs.  Had I done something like that while my mother was in my car she probably would’ve snorted aloud and smacked me for being an idiot.  Adding insult to injury, they once called that, with the mindset of pointing out that if you’re fool enough to allow something that asinine to happen to you, well then, you deserve to be made fun of, on top of it all, too.


No, I cannot blame the convenience food industry for my butt’s inability to find its way comfortably into my jeans.  That would be MY fault, for not being able to leave the last slice of cake on the plate in the fridge where it belonged.  It would also be my fault for not walking past vending machines that offers quick fatty/salty/sweet answers to silence my stomach’s non-stop growling, because heaven knows it would take too long to get home and prepare something healthy – or to have pre-planned for just such a problem by having low-fat/sodium/sugar options stored in my car or purse.  Definitely it would be my own stupid fault for indulging in the margarita AND the bottomless tortilla chip bowl and guacamole prior to the high-fat, high-calorie, highly pleasurable Mexican meal on a Saturday night.  Golly, I can’t blame an entire culture of pretty cool people for that last transgression, because I can’t monitor myself!


Somewhere along the way, we, as a people, have forgotten how to be accountable.  Perhaps Dr. Spock (Benjamin the pediatrician, fellas – not the Starfleet Vulcan) should be taken to task for allowing a whole generation of parents to create such gremlins, little monsters that have grown up to be us – you and me — monstrous adults who stamp their feet about where their choices have landed them, incapable of recognizing limits and acknowledging actions.  There are times I think it’s as if the Playground Bully mentality has taken us over and we’re helpless to fight it.  The kid is unhappy about something unrelated, but pushes somebody against the wall in order to feel better, the old “I didn’t do my homework or bring a lunch today – so YOU’RE going to pay, twerp!”


As for me, I know who purchased the multiple pairs of jeans in my closet.  Thirty years of “fat” pants, “today” pants and “goal” pants hanging around in my closet.  And believe you me, I take full responsibility for whether I fit into them … or not.  However, it sure would be nice if more quick choice/low cost drive-thrus offered a better, tastier variety of healthy choices and controlled portions to choose from.  Fast-food chains should take a look at their menu content, perhaps making even more healthy selections a part of our choice-making and re-tooling their recipes to be healthier than they are … but I don’t think they deserve to be sued or bullied into being responsible for us.  It’s still our choice. 


For generations that follow us, we also have to remember that ultimately, the knowledge that goes into choice-making about food is a parent’s job, to teach about portion control and keeping wants/lusts/desires in check.  But that’s asking a lot in today’s society.  In a country filled with two-parent working households and divorced families where the latch-key kids are often in charge there isn’t always a lot of opportunity for meal monitoring and dietary education.  Maybe we should have compassion for the poor weary McMoms and Dads-in-the-Box – because fast food is the least stressful, budget-friendly choice for many households.  When that happens, then it does sort of behoove us to consider divided responsibility because fast food chains and parents do sort of become partners involved in the care and keeping of the American family.


Last week, the 20th edition of America’s Health Rankings reported that if obesity rises at its current rate, 43 percent of Americans will be obese by 2018 and will eat up (that pun is courtesy of the Boston Globe, not me) 21 percent of America’s health care costs, which means approximately $344 billion a year.


Trust me, I shop at the market like all of you and I know that healthy food is expensive and when given the choice between the five dollar basket of raspberries with their 65 calories and 5 grams of sugar and the 60 cent apple that has 90 calories and 13 grams of sugar – well, the budget will often dictate that I pick the one not rated as high for optimum health and weight loss: the apple.  But, it’s still the better choice than the just-as-cheap bag of chips or high-sugar bulk-buy bag of cereal.


There are some steps you can take to promote better, healthier eating habits.  Support your local farmers markets where fresh foods can often be purchased at lower costs.  Ask your local market to retool their product placement, by adding some fruit near the checkout counters instead of just candy.  Drop a letter to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and let him know that you’d like to see healthy produce made widely available and priced at a rate to compete with fast food. 


An apple-a-day keeps the doctor away, but if we can get healthier choices to fit our budgets (both time and money), it just might keep the bariatric surgeon away, too.

One thought on “Fast & Cheap.

  • says:

    I really liked your views on this. I believe in them also. We always seem to blame the other guy for our own selfish indulgences. I indulge but at least I blame myself. When is everyone going to take responsibility for thier own actions? Probably never, which in my opinion is a shame. If alot more people read your words maybe they would see themselves and change thier thinking. You never know, it could happen….

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