Thursday, September 06, 2007

Food For Thought

It's commonly known that as a country, the United States is seriously obese. What makes us obese has multiple causes, but it basically amount to eating poorly, eating too much, and inactivity.

Since beginning my struggle with my weight nearly two years ago, I've become aware of these things, as they affect me everyday, as part of the culture I live in. I sit at a desk for most of the day, staring at a computer. Certainly not moving doesn't help, but I try to compensate for this by taking the stairs when I come and go instead of the elevator, and taking walks on my lunch break. Eating is something else I struggle with. This campus is inundated with food, most of it unhealthy. There's the fast food pavilion, the many high-fat content food retailers across the street, free pizza, free cookies, leftover food from meetings, and so forth. It's so easy to be walking by and think, I'd like a chocolate bar, and before you know it, you've put away an entire chunk of fat and calories.

I was interested in learning about how schools are working to "healthify" their food offerings. This college claims to offer healthy food, but it's in the out-of-the-way dining hall, not in the student center which boasts a Taco Bell and a Wendy's. Additionally, it's much easier to visit a club meeting where there's free pizza and soda than to wait in line to pay extra for fresh fruit and skim milk. Certainly, good eating habits should be taught from the beginning, but really, college students are generally not going to pay attention to what they're eating; free food is the easiest to score. Or think of all the sodium they get from the cheap and all too common ramen noodles.

When I volunteered for Move In Day last week, I noticed most of the students were lugging packages from wholesale stores like BJ's and Sam's Club: crackers, ramen, sports drinks, cereals, instant soups, and the like. And now it comes to light that the artificial flavorings in such items, particularly microwave popcorn, can cause serious health problems, like lung damage. I'd hate to see in a month the student who lugged in a case of Yodels.

Convenient food is often the worst for the body. Packed full of preservatives and chemicals, and served in oversized portions, it's no wonder that college students put on the "freshman 15" (or maybe, looking at what I saw come in last week, it should be the "freshman 50").

Food is everywhere, you can't escape it. And our animal nature is to eat, in order to survive. But we don't need as much as is made available to us. Collectively, we need to develop the willpower to resist temptation, and to pay more attention to what we actually put in our mouths.

2 responses:

Constance Squared said...

You are so right and what I struggle with is that healthy food takes longer to prepare. As a new mom, it's really hard to find time to cook at all, much less do the prep work involved with eating something moderately healthy. I wind up making something frozen like Stouffer's dinners, which are very high in fat, but relatively quick and satisfying. The best news about that is that recently they have ditched the preservatives, so there is that, but still.

I worry about setting a healthy example for Bridget. I don't want her to be the kid who will only eat chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese but it has to start with us and therein lies the problem.

RayChung22 said...

Interesting piece. It's an escalating problem that is also plaguing many developing nations that is moving towards modernization.

Personally, I do most of my cooking on weekends and bring lunch in during the week.

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