Is more always better?

by Dr. S. Russell Vester, MD 10. May 2013 10:48

I’m back from the One Lap of America race. To all my sponsors and donors, thank you on behalf of the American Heart Association. It was quite a week. We had some major car problems that took the first three days of the event to get ironed out. This cost us one DNF (did not finish) for the afternoon run at Road America. Despite this my hot shoe co-driver (the “real” Dr. Phil Munschauer) and I were able to climb back to second place in our class. We slept a bit less than four hours per night and ate “road food” for all but two meals. Being exposed to only fast food or pre-prepared food for the week of this event, it’s easy to see why it’s hard to control your calories when you’re away from home.

 

Not that it’s much of a secret, but our food culture is seriously out of whack. When did a small drink become a 16 ounce vat of soda and a large 24 ounces or more? Why would someone offer a “healthy” turkey Caesar wrap the size of my forearm as a single serving?

Even more disturbing, when you are in a fast food restaurant that advertises free drink refills, why would you buy anything but a small drink? Talk about a “duh” move. Help me here, people.

What is clear is that the value equation of our mainstream dining experiences is centered squarely on quantity. Is a good meal judged solely by how stuffed we feel at the end of it? Do we somehow think that eating enough is less desirable than eating until we can’t stomach another bite? I know it bugs me to throw out the portion of food I don’t eat. It’s wasteful. It would stand to reason that the less income a person has to spend on food, the less inclined they would be to throw out whatever is left once they are full. The unfortunate result of this reasoning is that the short term economic driver of value—getting the most for your money—overwhelms the long term goal of good health through maintenance of normal weight.

Our fast food industry has helped to turn us into a culture of quantity. If some is good, more is better.

If there is one thing we can do in America, we can feed ourselves. I don’t know anywhere else in the world where you can get more food for less money. At least no where I’ve been. What we haven’t learned is the necessary discipline to regulate what we eat when we are constantly tempted with all kinds of food we like whenever we like.

The solution to this seemingly simple problem is complex. It involves an entire segment of our economy, the food industry, focusing on providing portions that make sense with the needs of the human body. More difficult will be the consumer end. Teaching ourselves, and in particular our children, the impact of poor dietary choices on our health is the first order of business. If we as a society could grasp this, the decline in our nation’s healthcare expense would be enormous and long-lasting.

There is no substitute for personal responsibility.

 

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