When Healthy Eaters Cave

A piece from the Times the other day really did a great job at illustrating how for so many people, eating ‘healthy’ food is a constant battle, even for those who do so most of the time.

The article mainly focused on fast food restaurants attempting to offer healthier, lower calorie foods, yet seeing trends that show people tend to not order those items.  In fact, the studies they reference seem to prove that “including a healthy option did change people’s behavior — by making them eat more unhealthily.”

“…Mr. Fitzsimons, a professor who studies consumer psychology at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business called the phenomenon “vicarious goal fulfillment.” By seeing a healthy menu option at a restaurant, “it basically satisfies that goal to be healthy,” he said, and gives consumers leeway to order what they want.”

Ok.  So, if I understand correctly the 30% of Americans who are obese and additional 30% who are overweight are heading to their favorite fast food joints, seeing that there is a salad option on the menu, feeling placated and then smiling with a satisfied feeling that they’re doing something good for their body…and then going ahead and ordering the triple cheeseburger, the chili cheese fries and a jumbo milkshake?

Another study is cited in which 54% of participants polled in New York City noticed the calorie counts on food packaging or on menu listings but only less than one quarter allowed that to affect their choice and still proceeded to order the most nutritionally lacking items, which are, of course, those highest in sugar, salt and fat (bad fat, to clarify).

“It’s just easier to imagine what this is going to feel like now, and harder to think through what it feels like later,” said an assistant professor of population health and health policy at New York University’s School of Medicine.

OK, so customers are making poor choices.  This is not an opinion. It’s a fact.  But does the entire responsibility lie with the customer?  Does the vendor assume no culpability?

Perhaps Marion Nestle puts it best when she states in the piece, “The restaurants are not social service agencies — they’re places that are trying to make money by selling food. That’s their business…sugar, salt and fat sells.”

True.  A restaurant owner is trying to earn a living, just like the owner of any other business is doing.  And, here in the US, we can sell anything that’s legal to sell.  I know this sounds like a ridiculous statement, but read this out.   We cannot, however, sell anything legally that has proven harmful consequences to anyone, such as, gee, drugs, for example.  

If someone were to set up shop and sell cocaine under the premise that ‘it sells and I need to make a living and it’s on the consumer if they get ill/addicted or die’ they’d be shut down in a nano second.

But sugar?  That’s fine.  Don’t worry about the fact that its consumption leads to addiction in many, creating a situation where they must have more- for some in small, steady doses, and for others, in big mega hits.   Pay no attention to the fact that its presence is seen in nearly every processed or packaged food item we see (just a little bit to keep the craving present, which allows one to keep ingesting it).  Disregard the fact that even over the counter children’s medications contain corn syrup and ‘food’ marketed towards the little ones often list sugar as one of its top ingredients.

Yes, of course sugar sells.  Look at how many people are sugar addicts!

Here’s the good news.  One can decide to stop eating sugar and the withdrawal effects, while hard to deal with and possibly uncomfortable, are so short lived in comparison.   

It will be tough… but only for a little while.

Sugar is not something one can ‘taper off of’ or that is ‘ok in moderation’.  There is not a single reason why anyone can justify that eating sugar offers anything remotely beneficial on a nutritional front.

If we can get everyone off sugar, or at least reduce the demand, maybe, just maybe, we can start to see some changes.  

That’s the only thing that’s going to have an effect.

Sugar = dollars and until there are less dollars being raked in by fast food ‘restaurants’ (not really sure it’s appropriate to call them that”, these appalling pretend food items are going to continue to be prepared and gobbled up en masse.

And we will continue to poison ourselves, contaminate our bodies and create a slow and insidious path to a complete demise of our health.

Or, we can choose not to.

It’s up to each of us.

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