Monday, February 4, 2008

Obesity, Fast Food, and Waste

"But why should these companies want to change? Their loyalty isn't to you, its to the stockholders. The bottom line: They're a business, no matter what they say. And by selling you unhealthy food, they make millions. And no company wants to stop doing that. If this ever-growing paradigm is going to shift, its up to you."


The problem of obesity is not new. The image we have of fat, jolly medieval monks is, in some cases, entirely accurate. In the thirteenth century monkish obesity was widespread in Europe. One Portuguese order even devised a test: Monks who were unable to squeeze through the doorway into their dining room had to fast until they could! Skeletal remains from monks who lived from 476 to 1450 show that most of them were significantly overweight and actually suffered from many ailments we associate with obesity, such as type II diabetes, arthritis, and back problems, according to a study by archaeologist Phillipa Patrick. Of course, obesity was unusual in medieval times, since all but the very wealthy were often undernourished. But many monasteries figured out ways to hoard food (some were accused of stealing the alms for the poor and using it for their gluttonous feasting habits). Typical monastic diets included plenty of fruits and nuts, and a few vegetables. But they also ate a lot of animal products, such as meats, milk, butter, eggs, and cheese. Because their diet was high in saturated fats and they lived such a sedentary lifestyle, it is not surprising that their illnesses mirror many of the health problems we now see in Western culture.

Diet Start

The ample proportions admired in the most respected and wealthy citizens in many African countries fall far short of obesity. There it is a sign of wealth, and to be encouraged in the wives of the wealthy to demonstrate the husband's bounty. However, explorers from the late 1800s discovered that the king of Buganda used to fatten up his wives, taking the most beautiful virgins and forcing them to consume vast day, 30 percent of American children ages four to nineteen eat fast foods.


People who start buying fast food or processed junk food because it is cheap and quick to prepare (sometimes you just need to open the package) soon come to rely on it— with disastrous results to their health. And unfortunately there are giant corporations that spend thousands of dollars on developing, packaging, and advertising fast foods and junk foods to the detriment of consumers but to the benefit of their shareholders.

The leading causes of death in the United States are chronic diseases associated with excessive (or unbalanced) intake of food and drink, according to Marion Nestle, chair of the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University, and author of a fantastic book called Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. She compares the fast food industry to the tobacco industry— both are highly profitable, have powerful allies in the government, and .show a blatant disregard for the harm that their products do to consumers.

... andjoyohoxing