What the Food? An American Evolution of Eatering

Walking under the sunny skies of Bisbee, Arizona, a tourist town that this time of year may be inhabited by more out-of-towners than locals, I passed one such tourist and her son. The woman was perhaps in her early forties and had the typically American figure for such an age, that is to say, she was quite large. Unfortunately, so was her son, who was maybe only 12 years of age. The boy was attempting to climb some old mining equipment turned decoration as his mother scolded, “Aaron, come here and drink your soda!”

I glanced over to surmise the situation and saw her opening the can of fizza orange-flavored drink. At first I though, well she wants him to finish his soda, but then I saw her cracking the can open. My summation is simple: a boy wanting to play was being told by his mother to instead drink 12 ounces of corn syrup.

How did we, as an American collective, get to the point where consuming a wholly unhealthy beverage is a prerequisite, if not a substitute, for some healthy and elusive play?

I believe I have the answer. There was a time when hard work was par for the course in our beautiful country. Images of Charles Ingalls and his girls out hard at work in the fields come to mind, a “do your chores, then if there’s time left you can go to school” mentality may have prevailed. Resources such as food were not a mere trip to your local grocer away, but a commodity that at times might prove exceptionally scarce. A poor day of hunting, too lean fish, or a drought that decimated an entire year’s crop.

It’s easy to imagine our pioneering ancestors devising such sayings as “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” Statements from mother to child such as “clean your plate” would come into fashion as there may not be another chance to have a plate, so make sure you get every last scrap. Indeed, we still hold true to the idea that a person should finish every last morsel of food given them, with no concern with — let alone ability to recognize — whether or not we are full.

In other countries, healthy ones that seem baffling to American nutritionists, such as France, it is considered rude to ask for seconds. Some peoples work on only eating until they are 80% full. Most Americans wouldn’t know how to tell if they are completely full, partly due to our ability to consume an entire pizza in 15 minutes or so. And as far as second helpings go, our desire to always be generous with dinner guests often has us forcing one another to larger plates. “Is that all you’re eating?” is a common saying around my extended family’s Thanksgiving dinings.

Over time, we have taken something that was a wonderfully morally just attitude — don’t waste your food, their are starving children in Africa after all — and adjusted it to something more along the lines of “Eat as much as you can, because even the poorest of us are rich in calories.

As a family, the small family of three that I am specifically part of at least, we have been making a serious effort to eat less. Much less. I’m not trying to be holier than thou, but I have noticed a definitive change in my life since a healthier eating style has been a major component of our lives. “Dieting” is not even a concept, we simply have a diet that sustains us. As any smoker will tell you, not smoking during the week so that you can binge on 2 packs a night over the weekends is a struggle that very few us win. No, the point of this post is not to exemplify my own grand achievements, which are still a work in progress for sure, but to hopefully put a bit of the idea out there as to why we might have such issue with obesity in this country, in the hopes that even if one person reads it, the time would have been well spent writing.

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