Have you ever looked back and realized how much junk you’ve eaten in life?
We have a few terms that were coined based on the concept of eating junk; the term “junk food”, for example, was probably coined in 1972 – if Wikipedia is to be believed – and refers to foods that provide a lot of calories from fat and sugar with little payoff in terms of protein, vitamins, or minerals.
In a similar vein, but a bit less derisive, is the phrase “standard American diet“, abbreviated “SAD”. This is a diet characterized by too much fat and protein and too few healthy carbs – primarily meat and sweets, in other words. Where did we go wrong?
Well, here’s the “sad” thing – we demanded it; that’s part of why they sold us on the snack mentality. I still remember all the commercial slogans from my childhood: Jay Leno saying, “crunch all you want – we’ll make more.” Chester Cheetah saying “it’s not easy being cheesy”. Pringles told us that “once you pop, you can’t stop.” Is it interesting to reflect that it’s okay to use cartoon characters to sell junk food but not cigarettes?
Still, it’s hard to lay all the blame on the industry. We asked for it, they gave it to us. They marketed their products aggressively to be competitive and to meet increasing demand without having to take a hit from any overproduction. The laws of supply and demand may have worked a little too well, in this case.
So we can have our snacks, hoping that the FDA will protect us from the odd overzealous food manufacturer, but the responsibility of moderation and the onus of control rests squarely with us. We’ve come to that conclusion after a long, hard look at the typical American health profile – the rise of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Rampant obesity. (Shudder)
Our change of heart is evident in every school that replaces soda machines with water and juice, and stocks snack machines with healthy choices; I see a future of slow return to a more moderate personal health standard, but what of the present generation?
We could do more to take care of ourselves; I used to run into people from high school all the time when I was working at 7-Eleven and sometimes I would discover (sometimes with no small amount of pleasure) that someone had really let themselves go.
The shoe is on the other foot, right?
Not exactly – these people are victims of an automatic mentality. They thought they were impervious, unstoppable… then their metabolism changed. That happens, you know, and it requires adaptation.
I was watching Back to the Future one time, and at the end of the film Doc Brown returns from the future with The DeLorean / time machine retrofitted to take advantage of an alternative energy source: garbage. If you’re just watching the movie this becomes a real “gee whiz” moment; I mean, garbage in / nuclear-grade energy out – that’s so cool and futuristic, right?
But I realized that this is so contemporary, too – the world of 1985 really did have this invincible mentality of powering the human machine with offal. We didn’t see it that way – to us it was the future here and now: fast, cheap, convenient food. No need to cook means more time to work and play.
We’ve come a long way since then. We’ve learned that processed foods lose nutritional value, and that there is no magic pill for feeding or satisfying our hunger. But this knowledge does very little to assuage the fact that right now I could really go for a half pound burger and a half pound of fries.
I guess some things never change.
This post was prompted by today’s Daily Post prompt.
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