A little while back I was in the supermarket picking up some stuff. Ahead of me, on line, was young woman who was noticeably obese. There was no way of hiding the fact that she had a very serious weight problem. She was buying some makeup items that were laid out on the counter in front of her. As all of you know, when you get up near the cashier, the stores have racks of sundry items, including various forms of candy, and “newspapers” blaring forth the news of some movie star’s latest affair, or how aliens from outer-space are destroying the planet. ( I think these “aliens” have now come out into the open, and call themselves- Republicans.) Store owners hope that as people wait on line, some will impulsively add a few of these sundries to their shopping carts. In any event, the obese woman ahead me, as she waited for the guy in front of her to pay his bill, picked up a candy bar from from the rack behind her and put it on the counter. I think it was a Milky Way or something similar. She stared at it for awhile as if contemplating the wisdom of that decision, and then put the candy bar back on the rack. Then, she retrieved the candy bar a second time and laid it on the counter; and then, a second time thought better of it, and returned it to the rack. Finally, as it became her turn to pay, she grabbed the candy bar a third time, and kept it for good, as she included it among her other items; even though it was obvious that purchasing that candy bar was the last thing she should have done.
Of course, I don’t know what stresses, turmoil, or unhappinesses the young woman was experiencing that led her to conclude that the few moments of relief gained from devouring that sticky sweetness, was worth the resulting cost of adding to her obesity. However, she certainly isn’t alone. Everyone knows that a major problem in this country is the continual upward trend in rates of obesity. Multi-billion dollar industries devoted toward losing weight, or weight-loss supplements have continued to thrive. Yet, we as a people, continue to get fatter. Gyms with high membership fees, continue to proliferate so people can work off the extra calories that are consumed daily. And still we get fatter. In addition, obesity is considered by society to be a much more serious problem for women rather than men. I mean, men are dogs or slobs anyway; so it’s considered no big deal if they have a beer belly gut to go along with their general unsavoriness in the first place. Right? Women, on the other hand, are always more severely judged for any sign of overweight. And the advice often given to women, that even if they are overweight, they should learn to accept themselves and their bodies as they are, and not be self-judgemental. What a crock. I don’t believe that anyone that has ever been seriously obese, would ever be content living out their lives in that manner.
A big part of the obesity problem is that alongside all the gyms and the weight-loss centers, is, of course, the fast food industry. Nothing will put on the pounds faster than the fatty, sugary fare offered at such reasonable prices by all the fast-food restaurants located in virtually every neighborhood. And while it’s usually young people with higher rates of metabolism that frequent fast-food joints, their incidence of obesity is also rising. They are by no means, immune. Couple that with a growing culture of never having to experience self-denial, and the obesity trend marches on. Couple that with all the yummy fast food commercials we see on TV and elsewhere, and the fact that eating junk food is so much cheaper than eating healthy, and you have the perfect storm in creating a nation of over-eaters and obesity. Like everyone else, I used to eat my share of junk food and had weight problems all my life. Now, in my senior years I eat stuff like berries and red grapes, greek yogurt, fish and other seafood and various other types of fruits and vegetables. Not nearly as much fun as pepperoni pizza, or cheeseburgers and fries. And a lot more expensive. But, I figure, that if I want to continue observing the green side of the grass, I need to do this. And, also, go to the gym every day, which is obviously no fun at all.
I have always admired the small number of people in our society who ate only because they were hungry, and once fed, didn’t give food another thought. They were blessed in that they never had to deal with a weight problem. For most of the rest of us, however, food is a major issue. A major form of entertainment for many people is dining out. And we all know how hard it is to stick to a diet when eating in restaurants. Yes, some people can eat only a salad when in a restaurant, but for most, that’s not the case. The more we eat in restaurants the more overweight we tend to become. And for all too many people, food becomes a source of numbing the pain, stress, dysfunction, and general unhappiness that exists in their lives. Some people turn to alcohol or drugs in dealing with these conflicts. But many more people cope by overeating the wrong kinds of foods. Like drugs and alcohol, however, a continual pattern of bad eating habits will often lead to various diseases and shortened life-spans.
Our relationship with food often goes to the very heart of the human condition. Vast chunks of Africa, Asia, and Latin America suffer from hunger and malnutrition. In the Sudan, for example, large numbers of people die from starvation. Yet in this country, food is so abundant at such reasonable prices, that we experience the opposite malady of obesity. And we can’t figure out a way to even out the world’s food market so that both conditions could be alleviated. Life sure isn’t fair, is it?