Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Used To It (More Rambling About Eating Well)

I don't really care about calories. I mean, not usually. This is evidenced by the brunch I've treated myself to after sleeping in--three chocolate chip cookies (made with almond extract instead of vanilla since I was out of vanilla, and oh! a welcome change!) and two bottles of mocha frappuccino. I suppose in the big picture sense I care about calories--I care that there are so many packed into so much of what America eats, that so much of these calorie dense foods are placed on plates and in fast food packaging and called a normal portion size--but I don't care on a personal level. I don't want to care, at least, and I'm getting fairly successful at this. At the end of each day, I used to compulsively go over everything I'd eaten and about how many calories it was, and it was both exhausting and unproductive. Counting calories never kept me from eating what I wanted, and in fact, I think it made me so obsessive about food that I ate more than I would have if I'd just given myself the freedom to eat good food when I want to eat it. Which is not to say that bottles of frappuccino are good food, but the list of ingredients is short (just six, all recognizable and pronounceable), and I make allowances in some areas.

And yet I think one of the main reasons that Americans are getting ever larger is because we have accepted that what we are fed by corporations is appropriate. The pull of marketing is strong; how many people know what it really means to eat an Angus burger, yet are pulled in by the marketing of such a burger, assuming it's better because it's writ large on a sign outside McDonald's? Angus is just a breed of cow, still living its last days out in a CAFO, still slaughtered en masse and shaped by machine into perfect circles of ground meat. If you haven't watched Food, Inc. yet, I think you should. Add King Corn to that list, and you'll be on a roll. And then start feeding yourself food that hasn't been dominated by people who only want your money, who care little, if at all, for your health or well being.

I still forget how weird we are when it comes to our eating (and other) habits; every day I forget. When you do something long enough, it seems normal. We have some conventional items (see frappuccino above), but they conform to certain standards we have set for ourselves (pronounceable, recognizable ingredients, and not many of them, for one). I find myself surprised when I open cabinets and freezers at work and see all the items that most of America still consumes. I don't feel like I eat any better than anyone else when it comes to sugar level (in fact, that is probably higher than it should be, I'll admit) or amount of food, and yet it isn't hard for me to stay relatively slender. More and more, I don't think that my style of eating and the ease with which I stay at a steady weight are coincidence. There is a study that now shows that high fructose corn syrup really is worse for you than table sugar. That's a big one--because of our excess production of corn, it's been put into nearly every conventional food product available, and you'll be hard pressed to find sweet drinks without it.

Yet times are changing; I see it every day, and it makes me hopeful. I love what Jamie Oliver is doing with his Food Revolution. I love that so many people are reading Michael Pollan and taking to heart what he has to say. I love that there are more and more organic and locally farmed items available, and that more and more companies are taking note of what a growing number of us want our food to look like. The way of capitalism is to vote with your dollar. We might be strange for voting with more of our dollars toward food than most Americans find acceptable within their cable television, buy-a-bigger place, have-an-extra-car budgets, but we really don't mind. After all this time, we are used to being odd.

Really, I'm not sure I've ever been normal.

Right, Mom?

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