I was in the checkout line at the store a couple weeks ago, and the very large woman in front of me was buying two dozen Hostess honey buns. I probably wouldn’t have noticed except that she and her three obese daughters were complaining very loudly to the clerk that their brother, who was not with them, would not eat anything else. Just out of curiosity, I looked up the nutrition information on the ‘ol Hostess honey bun: 310 calories, 23% of your daily fat intake; 40% of your saturated fat; 1 gram of fiber; 3 grams of protein; 250 milligrams of calcium. I can only imagine what that poor child looks like and how he feels.
Whoever gave him that first honey bun should be sent to jail. And the family who continues to provide him with them should be sent there too. I bet if there were no honey buns in the house, he’d eat something else after a while. Maybe even a piece of fruit!
Everywhere I go, I see obese children, and it breaks my heart. It is not their fault. Americans are constantly being told that we are too heavy and that we are making our children fat, but for various reasons, most people aren’t hearing the messages. At least not the entire messages.
Take my parents, for example. When they were both diagnosed with Type II diabetes, they talked to a dietician. Now I was not with them, but I am sure she gave them lots of good advice. I don’t know. But I do know what they heard because they tell me all the time:
- Ice cream is not bad for you. (I bet the dietician said “in small quantities,” but my dad didn’t hear that part.)
- Cake is okay without the icing. (My mom will eat 2 icing-less pieces and then a third, smaller one, with the icing.)
- Fruit has too much sugar. (They avoid most of it like the plague.)
That’s it. That’s what they heard, and they repeat it like gospel any time I dare open my mouth to express concern about their choices. My best friend’s mother has been doing the same thing for years. She lost a toe last year.
So why do so many people hear the wrong pieces of information when they’re being bombarded with it daily? Well, in the case of my parents and my best friend’s mom, I think part of it is their generation. They’re Baby Boomers, and they are quite used to breaking the rules and getting what they want. If they want a chocolate chip cookie, by God, they’ll have one because their parents fought World War II to preserve their right to that chocolate chip cookie. Yeah, well, I have a right to Social Security and Medicare, but I’m not going to get them because the Baby Boomers will have spent it all on medication and treatments to alleviate all the diet-related ailments they’ve brought on themselves.
For other people, I believe obesity is an eating disorder brought on by various situations. But it seems to manifest itself a lot like bulimia, which is a disorder of equivalents. Bulimics believe that if they ingest 6 ounces of food, they must expel 6 ounces. So they weigh their feces or their vomit to make sure that what they’ve expelled equals what they have taken in. Many of the overweight people I know seem to make the same kind of “equivalents” mistake; they believe that 6 ounces of chocolate pudding is equivalent to 6 ounces of broccoli. They skip the salad at dinner and get cheesecake instead, and they are very honestly mystified by the fact that they are fat and the salad-eater next to them is not.
Another big part of the problem is the “weight loss” industry. Lots of companies are more than willing to take advantage of people who are confused, frustrated, and depressed. People who want to feed their addiction to fat are told that the low-carb diet will work for them. People who want to keep eating sugar are told that the low-fat diet is the way to go. People who are too busy or don’t like to cook or hate vegetables or don’t want to exercise are given all sorts of options and told they can lose weight. These companies don’t really care if anyone loses weight on their products, as long as people buy them. And they do. Because people have forgotten (or don’t want to face) one basic principle, the very simple principle by which absolutely anyone can lose weight: you must burn off more calories than you take in.
And a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. That’s the great thing about mathematical science. It does not engage in philosophy, psychology, or faith. It’s all about the numbers, baby. If you take in 500 calories, you better burn off 500. It doesn’t matter whether those calories came from 4 and a half bananas, one order of French fries or one piece of chocolate cheesecake. And it doesn’t matter whether you burn them off doing aerobics or yoga or tap-dancing. A calorie is a unit of energy. Period. Eat one, burn one. Very simple.
Of course, it’s not that simple for most people. I have been surrounded by overweight people my entire life. My mother and most of her friends have been obese for decades. My sister is overweight. Four of my best friends have weight problems.
And I’m certainly not the size 3 I was at 16, although I’m considered thin in most of my social circles. It’s relative. I’m actually about 20 pounds overweight for my 5’8″ frame and have been for years. But I do not have an eating disorder. I know exactly why I’m 20 pounds overweight; I’ve eaten 70,000 more calories than I’ve burned off. 70,000! That’s a lot. But my godmother was about 400 pounds overweight, and I know many people who are 200 or 300 pounds overweight. 100 pounds=350,000 calories. That’s a lot of honey buns. (1129, to be precise.)