Sunday, September 25, 2011

Food for Thought

Grab this related post Widget!
Eating a leftover Sloppy Joe for lunch got me to thinking. About microwaves. You see, I heated my sandwich up in the microwave, which triggered the awareness that several of our friends don’t even own one. In fact, a couple of them have said, quoting directly, that they “don’t believe in microwaves.”

While totally respecting the rights of all to say, do, and believe whatever they desire as long as others aren’t negatively affected, that phraseology puts a small household appliance on the same level with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and capital punishment, which is a bit extreme for me.

I’m not overly concerned that occasionally heating a cold cup of coffee, a pastry, or a Sloppy Joe places me in imminent danger. My cell phone, which often sits unused for days at a time, is probably causing more damage to my defenseless left ear. However, if your grocery shopping finds you perusing the frozen food aisles for most of your meals I can see where there could be a concern.

And if you live in Cuenca trying to do this you’d have the even bigger problem of possibly starving to death trying to survive on the choices from that section of the supermarket. Our frozen food department is one row of glass cases about 30 feet long. Two whole portions are devoted to ice cream and other such treats. The bottom of two sections holds bags of ice. A dozen brands of pizza? A zillion choices of Lean Cuisine, Stouffer’s, and Healthy Choice complete dinners? Fuhgeddaboudit------.

So living here we’ve gotten back to our roots, cooking everything we eat from scratch. Well, we don’t bother baking our own bread with bakeries every few blocks. But even our butter is homemade (by me, of all people! Who’d have thunk it?) which surely must qualify for extra credit. I assure you that batch of ground beef goodness I consumed earlier wasn’t created with a bag of seasonings or a can of Manwich.

Eating fresh, locally grown products with no additives appears to contribute to an impressive payoff. I had a complete physical last week—weight, blood pressure, EKG, chest X ray, and blood work (all of this was completed in a single day, by the way). It is with great pleasure that I report my weight is currently less than when I graduated from high school, blood pressure is 120/80, and everything else is basically perfect. “Magnificent!” my doctor said. A wonderful and entirely underused word, I truly enjoyed hearing it applied to me.

Granted, diet alone doesn’t produce that kind of result. Exercise, genetics, and mental attitude all contribute as well. And, sure, Cynthia and I don’t have commutes, jobs, or kids to raise any more, so we can take the time to shop for and prepare more labor intensive food.

The point of this post isn’t to debate whether microwave ovens belong to the Jedi or the Dark Side, or to hold myself up as some kind of poster child for healthy living. But the epidemic explosion of obesity in the western world, particularly the US, concerns me greatly.

When I was a kid hardly anyone, adult or child, was fat. How could such a radical change happen in only one generation? I think the answer is crystal clear. Too many people are making consistently lousy choices about what they put in their mouths and how often they do it.

The health “experts” cry, “Obesity is a disease! We need more education! We need more programs!”

Hogwash. There’s already enough information out there to choke a horse. The solution to obesity isn’t the latest-and-greatest diet, and there is no pill that will permanently melt fat away. As long as people search for solutions outside themselves they are doomed to failure.

Because there is a “magic bullet,” a simple term that unfortunately seems on the verge of disappearing from our language.

Maybe you've heard it--personal responsibility.

Let’s face it, each of us is ultimately in charge of what, how much, and how often we eat. Somehow the collective consciousness of our culture now chooses to ignore this most basic fact. Perhaps it’s because the health experts wouldn’t have jobs, all the diet gurus wouldn’t sell books and products, and the media wouldn’t have titillating new information to report if people actually took charge of their own health instead of depending on the advice of total strangers.

“But I’m so busy!” you might say. Really? We all get to choose how to spend the same 24 hours each day. So we have to ask ourselves, “Busy doing exactly what?” The average American watches three hours of television a day and spends an hour on the computer. What if that total of four hours was cut to three and the hour gained was used to prepare a healthy, wholesome meal instead of hastily sticking a Lean Cuisine in the microwave so you don’t miss Modern Family? Or if that time was cut in half so a brisk walk could be taken as well?

“But for some people food is more than just food. It gives them comfort. They have a relationship with what they eat.” We’ve come to accept such notions as fact without much questioning as to why this has happened. You know, it wasn’t that long ago the main “issue” folks had with food was simply having enough of it. Perhaps it all started after World War II as more women began working outside the home and convenience foods were invented. Formula was deemed healthier for infants than breast milk. Those “modern” (and horrific) TV dinners were consumed while watching The Beverly Hillbillies and Bonanza.

Food production exploded with agricultural innovations, the fast food revolution began, and suddenly the public enjoyed a plethora of choices and with dual incomes extra money to spend. Somehow the shining future of increased leisure and happiness hasn’t worked out as predicted. People instead feel stressed and unhappy. What better and more basic way to ease the gnawing hunger of an empty life than to put something pleasurable in your mouth. Lots of it. Over and over.

But—but—but. Enough. Please, let’s stop BS’ing ourselves and get serious. Decide once and for all that your health is your responsibility. For God’s sake quit saying you “need to lose weight” and do it. Eat less and exercise more. Cut out prepared foods with high fructose corn syrup (the most prolific poison in modern diets) and excess sodium. For sure eliminate diet sodas containing aspartame (truly frightening stuff). None of this is rocket surgery, amigos. All it takes is an ironclad commitment to yourself.

Some of us are born with beautiful singing voices. Others can paint, cook, or work on cars. Each person, however, has a body, the “meat suit” which carries us through this life. If we are negligent in nurturing and caring for this most basic element of our existence, are we really worthy of our other blessings?


Nancy Watson said...

Edd, my dear, I agree with you that taking responsibility for one's self is the answer to a lot of our health issues.

I am overweight, my blood pressure and my cholesterol are controlled with medication. I do not exercise regularly. BUT, my friend, I do not agree with you that the blessings we receive are earned by the fact that we take care of our bodies.

You say, "If we are negligent in nurturing and caring for this most basic element of our existence, are we really worthy of our other blessings?"

Are you suggesting that Pavarotti, Mama Cass or Elvis were not deserving of their talented voices because they did not eat right and exercise?

I am glad that our creator does not share your views or I would be in big trouble!

Edd Staton said...

Oops, apparently I wasn't clear on the section you reference, amiga. The question is open-ended--yes, no, maybe, I don't know, I don't care are all perfectly acceptable answers. For you the response seems to be, "Yes, I think we deserve all our blessings, and you're comparing apples and oranges, Edd." A perfectly valid answer to a no-right-or-wrong question.

Palmer said...

This post was great! I totally agree with all you said and feel the same way. My wife and I both strive to make the "choice" to eat healthier foods, exercise and in general take care of ourselves. We work long days(up at 6am and home by 6pm) doing physical labor yet we still make the choice and effort to exercise and prepare meals. I have family member's working the same hours and are obese, on medications, just unhealthy eating at McDonalds every other day. This is their "choice" to be fat and unhealthy. It is simply a "choice" for people to be healthy or not, and no it is not your genetics which is everyone's cop-out or that they don't have time. It's an extremely small percentage with actual genetic and thyroid issues that make them overweight. You can chose to be lazy, eat crap and not take care of yourself risking all kinds of future health issues......or chose to do something to take care of your body and life.

Edd Staton said...

Good for you, dude. Side note to the first comment: Pavoratti died at 61, Cass Elliot at 32, and Elvis at 42. Is it possible if they'd taken better care of themselves we could still be enjoying their talent today?

And for what it's worth, my own answer to the question, "Are we really worthy of our other blessings?' is, "I don't know. So I'm not taking any chances-----."