This Just In from Temple University…

Many Americans see healthy foods as “bland” tasting and are less likely to pay extra money for them. Also in the news today from researchers at UNC Chapel Hill: married people often gain more weight than their single counterparts. Lastly this late-breaking bulletin from Glasgow Caledonian University: chewing gum may help curb appetites between meals. Incredible the discoveries that the scientific community can make given the time and research dollars, isn’t it?

Oh heck I don’t mean to make fun. However the extent to which the major dailies have been hyperventilating over the subject of obesity these last couple of weeks has been comic. Or rather I should say it’s been comic when it hasn’t been scary. Because where I haven’t found stories in which Ph.D’s are scratching their heads over the flippin’ obvious, I’ve found other stories in which local governments are scratching their heads over ways they can manipulate the public into consuming fewer calories. From New York’s revival of discriminatory calorie-labeling legislation to L.A.’s proposed moratorium on fast food franchises to the ongoing apoplexy over trans fats, it seems there is no shortage of governmental types out there, eager to legislate what sorts of foods we can and cannot eat.

Meantime, the food service industry is bending over backwards both to offer up healthier options and supply consumers with nutritional information. Yet here again the journalistic and scientific communities seem absoutely baffled that the message is not translating into action on the part of the dining public. They’re eating more than ever! What in God’s name is going on?!

Now this is just a guess on my part, but could it be that human beings simply tend to eat more when they’re presented with an abundance of good tasting, inexpensive food? This, after all is what fast food ultimately offers consumers. Not so much unhealthy food (though it can be that) but plentiful and pleasing food that’s very, very easy to get. This, I think, is ultimately the issue with food in our modern consumer society: it’s good and it’s everywhere. Try as the experts might to find a single boogeyman (like a fat molecule) that’s making everybody fat, the omnipresence of good, cheap food is the proverbial elephant in the living room.

So how to deal with the issue of obesity short of curtailing the rights of business owners to sell inexpensive food and consumers to eat it? A good question, one I’m not smart enough to answer. However I do know that no amount of either scientific studies or anti-fast food legislation will solve the problem. Not until individual people decide to take more responsibility for what they eat and how they eat. Precisely how we get there, er…I honestly can’t say as I know.

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