Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weighty Matters

Americans, in general, are overweight, or so they say. Over what weight, I'm not sure, but it's always been difficult for me to determine whether the media is more concerned about physical health or physical appearance when they talk about America being overweight.

Personally? I don't care. Alright, so I do care when a person's weight creates serious health problems, but I've been around people both big and scrawny my whole life, so I really don't pay too much attention to people's weight.

I've also been eating sugary cereal and salty potato chips my whole life, so I pay close attention when they mess with the formula of my food and "adjust" things so that my Cinnamon Toast Crunch is powered by Splenda.

There's been a push in recent years to reduce the amount of flavor in my food by lowering the sugar and fat content, and I find this trend to be downright unpalatable. Some of my favorite snacks and breakfast cereals have fallen victim to the vengeance of companies that have succumbed to the pressure from lawmakers and grumpy parents and health-foodified their clearly not-intended-to-be-healthy products. PepsiCo, which includes the likes of Pepsi-Cola, Frito-Lay, Quaker, and Tropicana, will soon be the latest victim.

Ostensibly, this movement to create healthier pre-packaged store-bought food stems from a concern for the nation's children: How can we possibly keep America's kids from getting fat if so many foods are unhealthy? If only we could control what kind of food we feed our children, and how much! Clearly, the best solution is to make the food companies change so that we don't have to alter our lifestyle at all! Well, except for Nathaniel, who has to stop eating Fritos and Trix because now they taste like mildly salted cardboard.

If this is how we solve our problems, what's going to happen when people start to fear that video games are too addictive, or that children are reading books that are intended for more mature readers? Will a federal regulation require that all video game systems shut themselves off automatically after one hour? Will mature themes be banned in adult-oriented books because children might try to read them? Where are we going to draw the line?

There are two kinds of solutions: one kind resolves the cause of a problem, and the other kind removes the negative effects of a problem. There is a time and place for both kinds of solutions. However, if we address the root of the problem of childhood obesity, we all get to eat delicious, sugary cereal until our parents or our own self-control cut us off. If we continue to slap bandages on our problems, it won't be long until we're all swallowing flavorless pills with just the right amount of nutrition to keep us functional.

Do Americans have their priorities straight? Honestly, which is more important: the thirst-quenching taste of a fully sugared Pepsi, or the health and welfare of your child?

Don't answer that.


zharth said...

Actually, I wouldn't mind swallowing flavorless pills with just the right amount of nutrition to keep me functional (although if we're going to go that route, why not add some flavor?).

I recently had some Pepsi Throwback which, as advertised, is made with REAL SUGAR, instead of high fructose corn syrup. The flavor was noticeably different, but not significantly better for me than modern Pepsi - at first. But after a week of drinking the stuff, I was reluctant to go back to the HFCS concoction.

Anyhow, quality is one thing, but I'm more concerned with quantity. Just go to any restaurant and see how big the portions are. You could argue about getting the most bang for your buck, but there seems to be this unspoken rule that you shouldn't be done eating until you've stuffed your face and popped a button or two. Like every meal is a feast. I feel socially pressured to eat more than I really need (or want) to. After all, "the banquet is in the first bite". Everything beyond that is just bulking up.

Anyhow, I'm no fan of federal regulations. Whether people want to regulate or not, it should be their choice. Of course, mention that kids are at risk, and no restriction is too tight.

Scott said...

Try eating only something bland for a week -- plain spaghetti and water for a week or something. Then go back to eating what you normally do; you'll find that it's amazingly, ridiculously bitter, salty, or sweet, most likely. Then after a day, you get used to it all over again.

I really think American food uses way too much salt/sugar/corn syrup.