The Politics of FoodJune 3rd, 2010 by Chris Henry
People responded like crazy to my recent story on local chef Chris Plemmons, who was chosen to help promote First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity. Some resented the government’s taking a role in creating policy on what we should eat. Some applauded the effort to get America back on track, health-wise.
It’s been decades since most people worked hard enough on the farm — as my father-in-law did — to sit down to noonday meal full of starch, meat, cream and butter.
These days, we are leashed to our computers or other electronic devices nearly 24/7. No wonder the Kitsap County Health District reports that, like the rest of the state, 60 percent of us are overweight.
I was, to be honest, more than a little bummed that my article that ran on Sunday on employee wellness programs had zero, count them, zero, comments. In part because I had worked so long on the article that people I originally interviewed in March had given up hope it would ever be published. But especially since the article addressed the issue of exercise, which some of those who commented on the chef article had raised.
In part, I think it was a case of “what were they thinking?” running an article about the workplace on a Sunday of the three-day Memorial Day weekend. Probably the last thing readers wanted to think about was the workplace. But here we are, back behind our desks. Who shall we call on to keep our behinds from spreading ever wider? The government? Our employers? Or ourselves?
I am not suggesting there’s one answer here, folks. I do welcome your comments.
I read with interest the comment on the chef story from coffeetime, who wrote about his family’s regimen in regaining control over their food intake and exercise. He wrote, in part, “Four large stuffed green olives adds 32 calories. 2 tablespoons of Newman’s Own low-fat sesame dressing is 35 calories. A quarter of an avocado is about 73 calories.” He also wrote about how far he runs on the treadmill each week.
On one level, it makes sense to do the math, calories in minus energy expended equals either excess calories, which equals xyz pounds of fat, or a calorie deficit, which equals weight loss, or a balance, which equals maintenance of a healthy weight.
But, ay caramba, when did we slip into having to count everything that goes into our mouths or every ounce of sweat we produce? At the extreme end of the spectrum, that kind of obsession can be deadly.
I really have no answers — plenty of opinions, but they pay me not to express them — I’d just like to hear from you. How much of your day do you spend thinking about food, weight, exercise, appearance? How do we as a society get control of balancing our lives?
Again, whose responsibility is it? The government’s. Your employer’s? Your own? All of the above? How, when, where, at what cost?
Thanks for sharing. Chris Henry, reporter
P.S. I am right now reading a book my father-in-law found at a garage sale entitled, “Therapeutics, From the Primitives to the 20th Century,” which tracks the history of medicine from prehistoric time through the 20th Century, with a complete chapter devoted to the history of the human diet. Do you know at one time consumption of figs was thought to cause lice? The Greeks had “strong reservations against fish, fruit vegetables and meat.” These items formed the bulk of the lower class diet, as it was all they could afford, and so seemed inferior. A lot of the other observations of early nutritionists were much more reasonable, based on observation or by luck those based on superstition, religion or prejudice happened to hit the mark. The point is, what we eat is influenced by the times we live in and the social class we inhabit. Food for thought.