Sitting at the dinner table as a child, my father used to force me to eat brussel sprouts. Each litttle green ball seemed to weigh 50 lbs., causing my hand to shake as I lifted it from my plate. It could have just been the fear of my parent’s wrath. Either way, I would eventually drop the round ball into my mouth and chew as if it was made of glue. Most of the time, I would save my milk so that I could flood my mouth to wash them down. Even today, brussel sprouts seem enormous, and I have yet to eat one as an adult.
I would have rather eaten Kraft Mac’n’Cheese and a 7-Up, or ordered some pizza from Pizza Hut. When I hit 13, that became more common. With my mother working a lot, convenience foods became the norm. I do remember the nights when she’d make pork-chops and apple sauce, or meatloaf, but more often were the evenings of Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup, or Oscar Meyer hot dogs with the little cheese bits inside. I don’t remember whole grains or fresh fruits and vegetables playing even a supporting role.
Even now, I occassionaly fall victim to foods that I know are terrible for me. On a road trip last week I actually had a Mountain Dew; it was the first in over a decade. The result of having been raised on these food-like options is that I’ve struggled with my weight for most of my life. I have never been outrageously obese, but I have been consistently 10-25 lbs. overweight.
According to my doctor, I should weigh around 190 lbs. for my size and lifestyle. Currently I weigh 199 lbs.
At this point in my life, I take full responsibility for my food choices, but I also recognize that my formative years were shaped by the strategies of food marketing experts, and my parent’s need for cheap and easy meal time solutions. For the first time, I am doing my best to unlearn what I know about food, and am working to unpack 20 years of food baggage.
I am not alone.
I read an interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal about some grocers in the Northeast who are trying to help customers do the same by labeling food items based on their healthfulness. My intial inclination is to assume that this is a positive thing. They seem to be following the government’s daily food recommendations, low in meat, dairy, sweets and fats, high in whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. But the skeptic in me wonders if this process could lead to the perversion of a well-intentioned idea.
I have included a video today from back in 2004. Many of you may have seen it, but Peter Jennings does a good job exploring food issues related to health in our country, and if you have the time I encourage you to watch the subsequent parts on YouTube; only then will you be able to make intelligent comments on his ivestigation.
Here’s to healthy eating.