Rant: How Crappy Food Won Today
Bottom Line Up Front: Today I am going to just rant (vent? complain?) about the past 4 hours. There is a call to action at the end to at least make me feel better.
It started innocently enough with dropping off my kids at Sunday school. Then I got annoyed because as I was signing them in, I saw a snack roster. Huge annoyance for me. Like Trump would say, YUGE! They will be there for 90 minutes. Why does food need to be involved? Will they be running hill repeats or doing 500 kettlebell swings? Even if they were, I think they would be OK without a snack. Apparently kids can’t go anywhere without a snack. Just having to have snacks brought in aggravates me. Now imagine what kinds of things they are bringing in. You think anyone ever (in Missouri at least) thought of bringing something that was a real food? Maybe an apple or a banana? Can’t bring a nut for allergies. No one is going to bring meat of course. Can’t bring dairy. No one would dare bring a vegetable because no one would eat it. What are we left with? Chips, Doritos, Cheetos, Cheez-its are the majority. And heaven forbid these kids suffer through a snack without a drink. Water isn’t enough, so, you guessed it, some kind of sugary drink. I haven’t even seen the snack yet and I’m agitated.
I am tasked with doing my family’s grocery shopping for the week while the kids are at Sunday school. I have 90 minutes. I go super Ranger on it and shop wearing my 60lb GoRuck Rucker backpack and Vibram Fivefingers (totally normal). I made this all even worse by listening to a Joe Rogan podcast with Gary Taubes, who is a journalist who writes now about the obesity epidemic and how sugar is a primary cause, which has gone unchecked and reinforced by our government. It is as if I am a living the podcast as I see in front of my all the overweight/obese people and all the invented food (Cheerios are invented, oranges are not) as he describes how the American diet has changed in 150 years. It makes all of my normal ticks amplified.
Grocery shopping is fun to me, but I know I will be annoyed within 0.3 seconds because of the tons of crappy food and the obese people stacking it in their carts to feed to not only themselves but their children. And most of these people are servicemembers, so that adds to my frustration. These are my co-workers, the ones charged with defending our nation, the ones whose physical performance is essential to their job.
I am making my way through the perimeter (we all know the middle is where the really bad food is) and observe many overweight people stacking their carts with drinks, chips, cheap white bread, etc. I am watching all the overweight servicemembers (more than you’d imagine unfortunately) and/or the overweight/obese family members put all bad choices in their carts. I want to ask if they have any interest in discussing how they are killing not only themselves but their children who are eating this trash. I don’t. I work speedily and get to the checkout within 30 minutes. Then I almost gave up. I saw a cart that was sent down from above to test my will. Obvious servicemember (likely Army since that is the majority where I am, but I am hoping it was Air Force or Navy) checking out in front of me. His cart has every single thing I imagine reckless shoppers get: 3 large bags of Tostitos, 3 large bottles of sugary drink, 24-pack of Mountain Dew, multiple loaves of bread, cereal, etc. Then the kicker…a giant bag of actual sugar. I actually said to myself this was the only thing missing, then I saw it. I definitely said “f**king sh*i…” out loud. I had my earbuds in, so I am sure it was audible. I was going to take my phone out and take a picture because I decided at that moment I had to write about this. I really REALLY was close to asking this guy if he was kidding with his cart. It was like what a 6-year-old boy would buy if you gave him no limits. Even poor college stoners would have more useful food in their cart.
I picked up my kids from Sunday school. Both walk out with food – one holding a Capri Sun, the other eating Cheez-its. Ughhhh.
Stop at the Dollar Store on the way home to get a school supply. This is also not a good place for me (I am starting to realize not many are). Checking out. 400lb woman walks in, pajamas and slippers. Walks past me to the drink cooler area. I tried not to judge. I thought maybe she got batteries or some other end of the aisle type small item. Nope. Coke. She gets behind me in line. Rows of candy. I wonder if she will go for it. She starts to play with some Peeps (the Easter delicacy, sugar puffed marshmallow chicks), but she puts them down. I move to pay, she grabs the Peeps and puts them up with her soda. I lose hope.
The Food Paradox
I kind of want to stop caring about this, but I can’t because it affects my family and friends. It affects our country and the world’s population. The food industry has gotten us pegged and they are making money hand over fist on us.
Bad food is both enjoyable in reasonable or infrequent proportions and toxic/deadly if consumed frequently or to excess. Do we all agree on this? I assume so. Think of all the other things that are on the same level: alcohol, drugs, tobacco. You can extend this to non-consumables if you think of things that are OK if moderated but dangerous to excess/recklessly. Driving a car, riding a motorcycle, using guns. There are probably many more.
Would any one of you reading this sit by and watch your spouse, sister, friend, neighbor, anyone give whiskey, a cigarette, or a joint to a 6-year-old child? In moderation, all of these things are perfectly fine and in some cases healthy (marijuana has many lasting health benefits actually). No reasonable person would. But it is OK to give our kids many glasses of Coca Cola, Doritos, Wonder bread, or breakfast cereal EVERY DAY?
Sorry to break it to you but crappy food is just as bad for you, if not worse, than alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana due to its availability.
What Can Be Done?
I think there are only two things to do: 1. Teach our youngest citizens about food and 2. Be wary of the government and the food industry colluding to kill us to make money.
Teach kids about good and bad choices. Do some leg work and make them meals for lunch. Stop with breakfast cereal and juice right now. NOW. May as well give them ice cream for breakfast. Set a good example about how and when to enjoy food that isn’t a health choice. Have cake and pizza at birthday parties. Don’t have it on a random Wednesday. This is not easy, especially when all of their friends eat like stoners. Choose the hard right, not the cheap, easy, tasty wrong (like Lunchables).
Be Wary of the Government and Food industry. Our government pays and incentives farmers to grow corn and soybeans over other more useful crops. Something has to be done with all that excess crap. It finds its way into food to make it cheaper and taste better. The more people eat it, the more they will grow corn (for high fructose corn syrup), the more the system will reinforce itself. You know where else all this grain excess goes? Cattle. Factory farms love this stuff. Now here is where it gets really crazy. Cattle who eat grain (it’s not natural for them) are much cheaper to raise, but they get sick more, so they need antibiotics (this also makes them grow faster and larger). So Big Pharma is on board with grain fed cattle. You know what else Big Pharma is on board with? Big, fat, sick people. They need lots of drugs – not just to help them not die from obesity but from depression. You know who else loves sick people? The health care industry. You know who loves to keep the economy growing, corporations making money, and businesses paying taxes? The government. It is in no one’s interests in this game to have people be healthy except the population (who make up the corporations….head hurts).
Calls For Action
We need to resist this wherever we can. Bring something reasonable to your kids’ soccer game for a snack (like oranges) and don’t bring any drinks. They’ll be fine and they all have a water bottle anyway. Tell your Sunday school teachers to just eliminate snack time altogether (I didn’t do this myself…). Don’t buy factory raised meat. Teach your kids. Set a good example for your fellow citizens that eating well is good for you and not impossible. Inform others by sharing this kind of article or others you read. Don’t let the government and corporate America kill us all to make money.
QUESTION: Am I off on this? Too much? Not enough? What have you done, if anything, to deal with this?
Justin C. Hill
29 January 2017 @ 21:32
I have not gone vegan, but my wife and I have changed eating habits. Once we got out of the Army and settled down, we decided if we can’t make it with base ingredients then its not real. We get our milk and eggs from a family farm and bread is made with real items, not things you have difficulty pronouncing.
My wife has gone vegetarian due to issues with factory farming. I still eat meat but more lean stuff, also I have taken up hunting as well.
We both rarely consume alcohol, probably why I’m about 10-15 lbs lighter than last time you saw me.
At first I thought you were being a little ridiculous, but throughout the post I realize we also make concerted efforts to continue to be physically active and continue to exercise, mainly because we don’t want to be the people who get super fat once they leave the military and its super important our little boy sees that as an example.
My wife actually refuses to feed our son that garbage (Gold fish is our treat item) but he has never had canned baby food, we steamed and processed all vegetables and like you said hit only the perimeter of the store for the most part.
Over time your methods concerning food have become far less ridiculous than I originally thought back when I first met you in 2009, but I was also from south Louisiana where almost everyone is fat and ok with it, I just have to limit how often I cook Jambalaya and Gumbo.
Also, Big Pharma actually encourages employees to be healthy, I work for the largest generic pharmaceutical company in the US, but that’s for insurance reasons, but we have workout facilities and nutritionists available.
Anyway, I have been following this blog for a while and wanted to tell I think its a good source for people and keep up the good work, the toe shoes are still not my thing but to each his own.
Have a great day.
30 January 2017 @ 19:20
Justin, I am glad you have come around and now see at least some value in my madness! It sounds like your transition out is working well. I hate to have lost you from active duty. I think like most of us parents, you have come to realize your actions and those of other people can affect your family, so it becomes a little personal. I think about the kind of world my kids will grow up in every day and it definitely affects me more than if I was just worrying about myself. Do we want our kids stuck in a never-ending loop of bad food, obesity, big pharma, big ag, and big government? Your wife is definitely a keeper if she is choosing the hard right over the easy wrong for food. Far too many people jam Cheerios into their kids and think it’s healthy AND convenient. Maybe the toe shoes will grow on you eventually too. Great to hear from you, brother. RLTW!
30 January 2017 @ 05:33
You are not off on this at all.
My girlfriend and I now drive almost an hour to Syracuse to go grocery shopping because there are no stores near Ft. Drum that are worth purchasing from. A banana from the stores up here maybe lasts two days where as the ones from Wegman’s are more like a week. Wegman’s is the closest option to something like a Whole Foods Market.
I cannot even go into Walmart or other establishments on that level because I get physically upset for all the reasons you mentioned above. Specifically the extremely obese husband and wife with the overflowing shopping cart, stacked with only items from the interior isles, kids in tow begging for more snacks and sugary drinks. I want to say something to the parents, but I know I would just get a snide remark back about how I am inconsiderate about their weight when really I just care deeply about their children’s future. I was slightly overweight growing up and it crushes you and affects you for the rest of your life. As you know it changes the physical, mental, and emotional bonds with food, creating a distorted relationship.
I just started my MBA and during our business ethics class this week the question was posed for discussion about companies who are examples of corporate citizens (companies that are concerned with social and environmental issues as well as profit). We had to post for the class an example of a good citizen and bad citizen. One female in the class used Abercrombie and Fitch as her bad corporate citizen citing a quote from the owner stating that his company only offers up to size large women’s clothing because they don’t want overweight women wearing their brand. Another student replied saying he would no longer let his kids shop there because him and his kids were overweight and found it appalling that someone would be so inconsiderate. I wanted to reply, “you’re being inconsiderate to your own children when you bring home Doritos and Mt. Dew!”, but of course I can’t say that right? Then I would be just as inconsiderate as Abercrombie.
I proposed the same idea for the Army. When the Army decided to change uniforms to the new Scorpion pattern I suggested that they only offer up to XL. Then on July 1st when they were available only sell those sizes. Anyone outside of the range would be given 90 days to comply (on the ABCP) or they would be processed out. Seemed like a quick way to change the endemic of obesity in the military. Of course we know that this would not be a realistic solution because there would be no soldiers left!
Is it too much? No, it’s not, people need to hear it. The problem is today if you are direct and honest with people they are offended. So, as in business, we have to tailor the product to the customer. We have to figure out how we can effectively get this message to the people. As you stated, people know the right answer and they still won’t change on their own. They need coaches. Businesses are starting to realize that it is cheaper to hire a coach for their employees than pay the medical bills down the line. My mother works with shift workers at some local factories (who as you can imagine do not know how to eat healthy). Every week she checks up with them via video chat to make sure they are making the right decisions. We just have to find ways of expanding our sphere of influence so we can create more coaches to help more people. It’s never going to be solved completely, but we can surely try.
A problem that arises is that historically dietitians and strength and conditioning coaches make very little. In comparison to a physician. Understandably the physician can save you in an emergency, but as Greg Gassman discusses in his “Five Buckets of Death”, over 80% of health care costs are incurred by chronic illness. Chronic illness is the only one of the five buckets that we can protect and we can protect ourselves against it with behavior. So, if it counts for 80% of the cost than why don’t people who coach others about these behaviors and how to change them, not receive more compensation? It is going to take a culture shift to really see a change, but I think it can get there. I saw a shirt yesterday that stated, “Pay the Farm now or pay the Pharm later”.
I could discuss this forever. When I saw your post this morning I had to reply. I am not perfect of course, I have to work everyday, but that’s why I try to surround myself with like minded people who care about their fitness. Hopefully we can continue to influence more people and start to shift this around. Thanks for the post!
30 January 2017 @ 19:11
Michael, great comments and thanks for posting them. Great points such as the MBA discussion and Glassman’s Five Buckets. We definitely aren’t spending our money in the right places, but, as I outlined, the system doesn’t want this fixed. Too much money in it. Good luck with the MBA program by the way!