Obesity-Promoting Attitudes

IMG_1149-1While the article touches on many important aspects of the obesity epidemic, little is mentioned about the supportive programs for the food insecure.  Programs like SNAP and WIC were created to help people gain access to food, healthy food included.  In addition to food insecurity, the article lists many excuses to explain why people are gaining excessive amounts of weight, including “fewer opportunities for physical activity,” “greater exposure to marketing of obesity-promoting products,” and “high levels of stress.”  The ‘I cannot afford healthy food, so I will just eat potato chips and soda because I saw them on TV’ attitude is what is causing people to become obese.  The article would more accurately list, “lack of personal motivation for physical activity,” “lack of nutrition knowledge and self-control when purchasing food,” and “high levels of stress.”  These things are excuses, not barriers to good health.

True, it takes a little more thought to budget out how one is going to use food stamps to purchase nutritious meals rather than calorie-dense “obesity-promoting products,” but it is not impossible as the article would have readers believe.  Ironically, the article’s publishing organization, FRAC, is funded by PepsiCo, Inc. and Mars Incorporated.  Talk about biting the hand that feeds you, though it is the behavior of excessively and repeatedly eating the “obesity-promoting products” that is promoting obesity, not the products themselves.  Many people are able to limit themselves to drinking one sugary beverage without compromising their health, it is not an impossibility.  The same is true for busy people with jobs, kids, and “stress” getting some physical activity in an urban setting.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

I have been living on a SNAP diet for the past seven days for another class.  I was allowed roughly $50 for food for the week.  I planned ahead.  I went to Aldi, the cheapest grocery store around and purchased lean protein, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, with $20 to spare.  I have been at a caloric deficit for the seven days and have lost ten pounds after coming home from my spring breaking diet.  I could have easily spent the extra $20 on more calorie dense foods to meet my daily caloric needs, but I was not interested in spending any more money on the project.  If someone has been eating an unhealthy diet due to food security restrictions, he or she can easily find some nutrition information, plan a diet favoring a caloric deficit, and lose weight.  With books and free internet access at libraries in addition to mobile internet access virtually everywhere, lack of nutrition knowledge is not a barrier, it is an excuse.  The lack of motivation to gain this knowledge is the barrier created by the individual.

From Walgreens, I purchased pasta, diced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, ground turkey, and peas.  All of this cost $10.05 and will make more than one meal.  Creating a breakfast would have been much easier; the store had eggs, turkey bacon, milk, and cereals.  There was no fresh produce in the store, but that is to be expected of a drugstore.  Just because a store is convenient, does not mean it is the best place to purchase food; prices at such stores may even be more expensive because of the convenience.  One should be able to weigh the pros and cons of the different stores nearby and the amount of effort he or she is willing to put into getting healthy food.  Someone may actually spend more money for convenient and unhealthy food, instead of walking a little further to get to a real grocery store for healthier food, often in larger quantities for low prices.  The nearest grocery store is 1.2 miles from my home.  It would take 30 minutes to walk each way, an excellent way to rack up 60 minutes of activity for someone who has “few opportunities for physical activity.”  Stores near my home definitely have plenty of opportunities for someone to eat healthily.  My community has five grocery stores, as well as two Super Targets and a Wal-Mart.  Demand and the community’s infrastructure determine what is available.  Some places do not have the demand for a large supermarket and such a store would not survive in the community.  Other places are so developed there is no room for a large market.  The challenge was easy for me because I have nutrition knowledge, transportation, money, and time.  If I did not have transportation, I would have walked to the actual grocery store before ever trying to purchase groceries at a drugstore or gas station.  These types of stores are not meant to be fresh produce providing, food is merely an addition to their main purposes.  I realize people do purchase groceries from such stores merely for convenience, but it is a little ridiculous.  The challenge is like trying to buy clothes at a grocery store.  Although the market may have some things that would suffice as clothes, clothing is not its main good and the store cannot be held accountable for providing such goods.  Again, attempting to take the convenient route and purchase groceries at a store other than a grocery store is only making matters worse.

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