Did you see Mark Bittman’s big piece about fast food not being cheaper than regular food, in the NYT yesterday? Notice this passage:
In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)
In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)
He’s right. I eat beans twice a week (no rice; carbs), and they’re so, so cheap to make. More:
Still, 93 percent of those with limited access to supermarkets do have access to vehicles, though it takes them 20 more minutes to travel to the store than the national average. And after a long day of work at one or even two jobs, 20 extra minutes — plus cooking time — must seem like an eternity.
Taking the long route to putting food on the table may not be easy, but for almost all Americans it remains a choice, and if you can drive to McDonald’s you can drive to Safeway. It’s cooking that’s the real challenge. (The real challenge is not “I’m too busy to cook.” In 2010 the average American, regardless of weekly earnings, watched no less than an hour and a half of television per day. The time is there.)
What this speaks to is a culture of excuse-making. I find all kinds of reasons for why I can’t exercise regularly, or why I have to eat that junk food. I have proved to myself that I can sustain exercise and healthy eating when I put my mind to it. It’s hard, but I can do it, because I’ve done it these last three months (but falling off the wagon for nine days down in Louisiana — man, it’s hard to get back on!). I am reminded of a comment Sam MacDonald, who wrote “The Urban Hermit,” a book about his own massive weight loss, left on my old Beliefnet blog:
My name is Sam MacDonald. I wrote the Urban Hermit. Thanks to all for the lively discussion. I am a bit late to it, but I’d like to point out a comment from Rod that really gets at what I hope the book is about: “I know there are people who struggle with their weight because of medical issues, glandular problems, and so forth. I get that. My weight problem is not the same as everybody else’s. But it simply cannot be true that every overweight person is helpless before his or her weight problem.”
Absolutely. Yes, some people really can’t seem to lose weight. I feel bad for those people. I think bariatric surgery and support groups and medications are great for them, and I wish them the best. But what struck me is that almost all the heavy people I know lay claim to the “I tried everything and it didn’t work” defense. To be blunt, this simply cannot be the case. It’s a matter of physics, really. Think about a show like Survivor. There have been at least 100 people on the show by now. They are on an island with no food for long periods of time. Go get the DVDs from the series and watch then. Can you find even ONE person who was on the show for a few weeks and either gained weight or stayed even? No. Because if you burn more calories than you eat, you lose weight. You just do. Metabolism makes that harder for some people, and that’s a raw deal for them. But in terms of raw deals, you could suffer a worse injustice. In my case, I believe I have some genetic inclination to fatness. But I am also a lazy guy who loves beer, and lots of it. Losing weight meant living on 800 calories a day for a long period. It meant basically abandoning my friends and a life that I loved. It meant being hungry, constantly. Unfair? I guess so. But some people had to study harder than I did to finish school. Some people had to overcome terrible families. Some people are blind or born to a wheelchair. They could not choose to overcome their adversities. I could. I think I should be thankful for that, not sit around and complain about it. If I want to be thin, it’s up to me to suffer whatever that takes. If I value the beer and the meatloaf more, I should eat it and suffer the fatness in silence. What I should not do is mope around carping about how unjust it is that some people can eat all the cream pie they want and still maintain rock hard abs. I could have made these claims, I guess, and earned some kind of victim status for it. But that wouldn’t be fair to people who really do suffer from some serious glandular problems. I also could have claimed to be an alcoholic. But that would not have been fair to real alcoholics. This is what i see as the crux of the issue: OK. So you think it’s cruel to attach a social stigma to things. But if you don’t, what you get is a whole bunch of fake victims laying claim to the special consideration. I think this is very likely WORSE for fat people.