In North America, our number one problem may well be obesity.
It leads to many other health problems, which drive up health
care costs. Meeting health care costs is a struggle for our
governments and our society. Furthermore, the problem may be
getting worse, which alarms health care accountants as well as
doctors and nurses.
We are victims of our own success: in nature, every animal's
number one goal is getting enough to eat. Triumphantly, we are
the first species to have reversed the problem: we eat too much.
There are two ironic consequences: one is that the body is better
equipped to deal with being underfed than overfed. The other is
that our instincts continue to drive us to overfeed, since abundant
food has never been dependable - even here - until the last fifty
years or so.
If you find something you like, consuming it excessively can be all
too easy in a modern capitalist economy. Take peanut butter cups, for
instance. When I was a kid, chocolate was a rare treat. Your parents
rarely bought it for you, because they argued kids shouldn't have much
chocolate or candy. (They were probably right, of course.) You could
buy it with your allowance, but never as much as you wanted.
Nowadays, I can go into a store and buy a big bag of peanut butter cups.
They're really cheap - especially after the Christmas season. I can buy
a kilogram of them for ten bucks. Now, that's a lot of peanut butter cups -
easily more than I want to eat in a week. But I easily could binge and
eat twenty peanut butter cups in a day. If that became a habit, I'd
either have to exercise a lot more than I do, or else buy some "fat" clothes.
Here's the problem, though: pressure. We live comfortably in North America.
(The lucky ones do, anyway. I know not everyone has it easy, or
even - unforgivably, for a society so affluent - has enough to eat.) However,
our comfort often comes at the price of a fast-paced, ever-changing work
environment. Instead of "I need it in a few days", the request might be "I need
it yesterday." The worker - more likely, the contractor - has to change into
work mode from 8 pm until midnight, when they'd planned to watch a few shows
with their spouse on the couch.
Let's say that the contractor accomplished the task mentioned above. However,
they got to bed much later than they'd planned. Next morning comes. They've
got to get up, feed the kids, and prep them for school. Of course, they're tired.
Well, there's no better way to wake up than with a coffee and a few peanut butter
cups. (Of course, you can't do this in front of the kids; you've got to sneak the
peanut butter cups in another room with your microwaved coffee.) The tasty treat
energizes the weary contractor, so they can effectively and cheerfully feed the
kids their bagels with cream cheese and get them off to school. Problem solved;
peanut butter cups save the contractor's bacon.
The choppy, unpredictable lifestyle so many of us live in North America today leads
to quick meals and quick fixes. The sit-down, square meal of the fifties is much
rarer because you need time to prepare it and then time to eat it. On-the-go foods
you can eat walking into work or at the steering wheel are much more common. Since
they're meant to be tasty (it's, once again, a market economy), they often aren't as
calorie-conservative as a meal you might make yourself. Of course, it's harder to
gauge how much you eat in a day when you "grab something here, then grab something there."
One thing's for sure: when you need a pick-me-up, either because you really are hungry
or for whatever reason, the market economy is right there to supply you. If you're in
a hurry (which is always, for many), instinct is going to kick in. You're going to grab
more than you need, just to make sure you got enough. And you're going to go for what you
like, because being happy and cheerful is more than half your job, in many cases. And
you know what they say: fat and happy.
This is one of the many "roads to Jillian". Jillian, of course, is the tough trainer from
the hit reality show Biggest Loser. She conveys the idea that fat is public enemy
number one - and almost no cost is too great to eradicate it.
This is such a "big" issue, I'll be covering more aspects of it in future posts. We need
to get real about why we're fat - and why we want to be thin.