Saturday, February 6, 2010

Are We Turning Our Children into Cows? : The Obesity Epidemic and Other Stuff the Government Regulates and the Media Inflates

I'm almost sorry to get so serious here, but not really.

Today is a snow day of epic proportions on the East Coast. Or at least that's what the media says. I'll admit, it's pretty heavy out there, and its supposed to keep snowing all day and into the evening, leaving us covered in anywhere from 12-30 inches of that not-so-fluffy white stuff. I've seen that much snow in Annapolis before. Its really not that big of a deal as long as the power stays on, and you have food. It would be even less of a big deal if the plows would actually do their job. Everyone in upstate NY is laughing at us for clearing out the shelves at the grocery stores. But they don't realize that we "Southerners" are freaking out because we know the storm may be over in 24hours, but the plowers are staying home cause its already snowed twice this year and they arent getting paid enough to bother with this third storm. We know we will likely be stuck inside for 4 days or more. And liquor stores in and around the nation's capital are reporting record profits with receipt stacks as high as the snow drifts.

So maybe the storm is a big deal, maybe its not, but either way the world wont end, and hopefully BGE won't let anyone freeze to death. Ok news channel, what else is happening? I have heard enough about the snow.

In other news, there is one thing that the media isn't overstating: the importance of dealing with childhood obesity, and obesity in general. 

Today I was reading through my list of 190 blogs I regularly follow (yes i am insane), and I saw this video post of an argument over Obesity, on Crispy on the Outside:  MeMe, YouYou: Nick Gillespie Overwhelms Bimbo Food Nanny MeMe Roth.

Wait a second before you start thinking I want the government sticking its nose into what people are eating. I DONT. In fact I get annoyed on a daily basis by the fact that I can't eat all the delicious bacteria and fungus laden cheese I want, cause of the government. The thing is, I know that there is a possibility that all the cheese I consume (especially the kind with raw cultures) could someday, somehow bring me to a slow and painful death. And still, I munch away, unconcerned by that grumbling in my stomach because I love that taste and I have weighed (pardon the pun) the benefits and pitfalls of eating that cheese. It is highly unlikely that I will die from any cheese ingestion and if I do, I will have died happy. 

In the video, MeMe Roth is arguing for some sort of reformation of school food programs as a way to deal with childhood obesity. She also wants there to be a system in place at schools that will track children's health and weight so the school can tell if their system is working. Roth is arguing for a system to help children combat obesity by regulating what the eat outside of the home. 

MeMe's point is that after eating McDonalds and reheated frozen chemicals at home these kids go to schools where the lunch programs have to figure out how to feed each kid for nearly nothing, and they end up eating that same pre-fab food because thats what the National school system allows. In most schools there are soda machines at every corner and that sugar tastes great to all the kids so you better be sure they are going to buy it, chug it, and chat with their friends over lunch rather than use their $1.50 to wait for a sandwich in the lunch line. 

I agree with MeMe and I'll go a step further and say we also need to show parents what they are doing to their children and themselves. I'm not sure they realize how large of an effect their habits have upon their children. I also think we need to enforce the distribution of healthy convenient alternatives to fast food chains, and frozen meals so that parents want to and are able to eat healthier themselves.

Nick Gillespie is arguing that Politicians and Nutritionists are sticking their faces in places they don't belong, ie on the plates of the nation. Gillespie says that the Politicians and Nutritionists are using Obesity as a foil to try to eradicate privatized health care. It is true that there are people who are angry that they pay higher insurance premiums because the x% of obese people who are using the same company, with terrible health, are driving up costs. In order to pay for the obese people to take pills for their heart, and kidney, and hormones, and diabetes, the companies must make the healthy people pay more money for less need. He is also claiming that the general healthy population is calling Obese people stupid. He is arguing that Obesity isn't a problem its a choice. He seems to think that Obese people are eating the fat foods because they like them and that they realize McDonald's is bad for them but they don't care cause the like it, rather than because it is convenient. 

People like me want to argue for regulation of fat food and soda tax because we see all these families who are raising obese children by feeding them the fat food. The children don't know any better at the get go all they know is that the food tastes "good", and they can't go buy themselves groceries so the alternative would be not to eat at all. These kids are really just sitting around waiting for a slow painful death they don't know how to and can't prevent. 

The real problem is that there are children growing up in families where obesity is the norm and fat food is a dietary staple. These children's bodies are never given the chance to develop healthy immune systems because their hearts and veins are always under stress from too much cholesterol and fat and not enough fiber and protein. They never have the opportunity to develop a reasonable metabolism because they don't eat food that gives them the type of burnable nutrition they need to support sustained bursts of energy. Nor do have enough energy to be interested in getting exercise, because they can't support a running heart rate without collapsing. The other chemical additives in the bright yellow cheese, and blue #7 cereal they are eating are clogging their pores and the formeldehyde in their soda is preserving them from the inside out. Their hormones are out of whack before their bodies even consider puberty. The "meat" they eat is pumped with so much crap that I'm pretty sure doesn't have a half-life short enough to dissipate before it gets into their bodies. It mutates their hormonal regulation and has the same effect on them that it does on the cows... making them grow bigger, with more fat interspersed throughout their muscle, earlier in life. We are in effect turning our children into cows!  

At least the adults of a few generations out have bodies that were given the opportunity to develop on diets of generally healthy food, frozen dinners were just coming into vogue, but mostly people ate healthy fresh protein and fiber and such. These people are not nearly as heavy as the next generation which began eating fast food as children when McDonalds was franchising all over America in the 1950's. I'm not sure that McDonalds was as bad for people then as it is now, I know it was still fatty, but maybe not so chemical laden and full of substitutes. 

The problem isn't that adults are stupid and are eating fast food cause they like it, and they dont think its bad for them. I'm pretty sure most adults know just how terrible fast food is for them (but I haven't seen any studies asking them so I can't be positive). Obviously people do like the way McDonald's tastes or they wouldn't ever eat it. 

The problem is that these adults don't have access to anything besides convenience food. In lower income areas where the population tends to be less well educated there are studies that have shown that the average person doesn't even have access to a grocery store. I know from experience living in Baltimore that even where there are "grocery stores" in low income areas, 90% of the food is packaged chemical filled crap that can be easily mistaken for real food. People think that because you have to "cook" it, it's not full of chemicals and its healthy. There are also studies that show that most of the population has no idea what cooking really means. In generations past cooking meant going as far as growing your food, and killing your meat and even turning on the stove. These days people think that pressing the frozen food button on the microwave is cooking. They go to these grocery stores and buy LeanCuisines and Healthy Choice meals to eat at work and they buy the meatloaf with pre-made sauce and boxed mashed potatoes and they heat it up and think that they are making a healthy meal for their families. They hear the criticism about not taking time to make a meal for your family, so they do that and feel good about it. I think that it is great to prioritize eating a meal sitting down at the dining room table with plates and glasses so I'm not criticising this on a family values scale, I condone it. However, to be frank, I'm not sure if McDonalds isn't healthier that some of these super-processed, hyper-preserved frozen concoctions. 

I agree with Nick, the government shouldn't tell me what I can and can't eat. I'm sure Nick would agree with me when I say that I don't think that it is the government's responsibility to make sure people eat only healthy food. But the government's job is to regulate big business. The government should step into this issue because  fast food is big business. Right now the government is letting these businesses park new establishments smack in the middle of low income areas. These establishments make big money off people who dont have much and want the most food for the least cash, in the most convenient way. Grocery stores on the other hand are staying away from these areas because they dont want to lower their prices and because they don't make that much money because they are not as convenient for people in a hurry. If the government regulated this, it would make healthy alternatives more accessible. 

I'm not saying we should eradicate fast food chains, I am not saying the government should remove bagged pork rinds from the grocery stores. I am only saying that we need to make it reasonable and possible for everyone to have access to food that is good for them.

Still, I guess that when the world does freeze over from all this snow, cannibalism will at least be juicy and unctuous seeing as we can slow roast all our children and obese citizens and baste them in their own fat. 

Sources of information: 

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