This is the longest I’ve gone without posting! I don’t like it. I have been so swamped the past few weeks, I can’t even tell you. College is hard. Fall break could not have come at a better time.
I encountered a really interesting controversy this week that I wanted to share. See I am fortunate enough to be in this really amazing research seminar where we just get to talk for three hours every week about why people think and behave the way they do toward food, and how we can test it. Well there’s a little more to the class than that, but it’s pretty great. Anyway, this week my instructor brought up that there is a movement to legislate what kind of foods can be served at fairs, like state and county fairs and carnivals, that kind of thing. You know, the places where you can buy funnel cake and deep friend oreos and all that really weird stuff you’d never eat anywhere else.
Apparently the proponents of this movement argue that by allowing these foods to be sold, the fairs are promoting unhealthy eating. The interesting thing is that the researchers in our lab observed that it was mostly healthy weight people that were buying the crazy foods, while overweight and obese people typically bought more everyday unhealthy foods like burgers and fried chicken.
My first thought on this is that this problem is essentially my main internal conflict with eating healthfully. I never want to deprive myself on special occasions from having the foods I know are terrible for me but that I enjoy immensely and know I won’t eat all the time. Coincidentally, the weekend prior to this class there was an apple festival in our town, where all kinds of novelty fall and apple themed foods, most of them too overwhelmed with sugar to be nutritious, were abundant (think candied apples, apple crisp, apple pie, apple pizza). Being obsessed with fall foods and flavors myself, I had to let myself try everything, and even eat a lot of something (the best kettle corn I’ve ever tasted). If I really save eating extravaganzas for special occasions like that, I don’t gain weight and I don’t feel guilty afterward. For me, my health isn’t defined by the exceptions to my eating pattern; rather, it’s defined by what and how I eat (and exercise and sleep, etc) every day. This has been found to be true for most people.
This brings me to my second thought. If you’re going to make a rule that you can’t sell funnel cake at a carnival that people only go to once a year, why allow KFC to sell the Double Down every day? Why let Burger King sell the Triple Whopper? Why let pizza hut sell that ridiculous pizza with the cheese-stuffed crust? The fairs encouraging you to indulge in a crazy-unhealthy-but-delicious food once a year aren’t the problem, my friends. It’s the chains that promote the idea that it’s acceptable to eat those foods all the time.
And like I said, evidently the overweight people aren’t even the ones eating the novelty foods. Would such a law do anything then but deprive people of their one-of-a-kind cultural food experience that is not a habit, but really a once in a while thing that probably won’t have a lasting effect on their health?
Why don’t we try changing the nutrition standards for the institutions where people eat every day? Namely schools; set good habits while they’re young and they’re much more likely grow up with healthy habits, truly only indulging on special occasions. Don’t let a different school club have a bake sale every day. Don’t sell sodas in the vending machines. I think you get it.
I feel like I might be contradicting myself here, and I often feel that way about this topic because I’m so torn. No, I don’t think it’s physically healthy to eat funnel cake. Ever. But I know that for me, my life would be so much bleaker if I couldn’t enjoy indulgent foods every now and then. And it’s not about the healthiness of each individual thing that you do; it really is about everything in combination. Sometimes I go overboard eating cheesecake, but most of the time I binge on broccoli, so I think I’m doing pretty well.
So, should we outlaw fried oreos?