Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pointless hyperbole won't do much for the nation's health

Last month, during the New York Fashion Week—not something that I make a point of following, I can assure you—Diet Pepsi unveiled their new packaging. It took the form of a "skinny" can, a taller, slimmer receptacle for the beverage.
Critics, of course, panned it, saying that it was pushing the agenda of size zero models and projecting the prejudicial message that thin is in. Whenever I see a roly-poly waddling up the street, someone I know for a fact is pushing up the cost of health premiums and placing strain on health services, God forbid that I think thin should be in. Do these fashion anti-heroes honestly have nothing better to bitch about?
These liberals, who feel that carrying 400 pounds on one's frame should count as freedom of expression, were squawking alright. One writer for Slate called the marketing "faux-empowerment" and offered the sarcastic thought, "If you're confident on the inside, you'll be skinny on the outside, or something. Huh?" Not to generalize, but I've pretty much found that to be true. Then again, I've never resembled the human equivalent of an SUV, so I suppose I couldn't say. But I would sure miss my skinny jeans, darrr-ling!
Let's get one thing straight. I'm not advocating the size zero ethos. I agree with the aim of defeating anorexia and bulimia. But doesn't it make some semblance of sense to offer a diet beverage with an admittedly subliminal message? I hate stupid gimmicks, which is exactly what this skinny can amounts to, but do we really need the fat brigade to politicize this?
Then you have the "don't tell us what to eat" crowd. I will never understand those conservatives who cry about the effort to ban transfats, presenting them as vital to our way of life. When our border control agents have to fire beanbags at narco-terrorists so we don't offend the sensibilities of Felipe Calderón, you have to wonder why Michelle Obama's healthy living campaign even appears as a blip on their radar. Mrs. Obama wants children to eat healthier and exercise more, and their parents to make better choices for them. Try as I might, I cannot see the problem with that.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Mississippi governor Haley Barbour back Mrs. Obama's campaign. So does Ted Nugent, and you don't get more right-wing than him. Sarah Palin, however, says that the choice should be left to parents. Well, that's worked brilliantly so far, hasn't it? Surely the rigid control that we are to believe the country's parents are exerting has nothing to do with the obesity crisis and why most kids couldn't run a mile if their lives depended on it?
No-one wants to munch on vegetables all the time, but could we just perhaps indulge the possibility that this is not what the First Lady is advocating? This is hardly a case of government overreach. Every First Lady has had a crusade. Why is the campaign to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation's children any more odious than the effort to increase their literacy?
This is one instance in which the pinkos' favorite expression—"it's for the children!"—is mostly believable. (It's also the only instance in which I could be persuaded to give even half an ant-sized shit about what's good for children.)
Furthermore, we are being persuaded to believe that the food industry will police itself and faze out harmful additives like the aforementioned transfats. Since when has big business ever opted for the protection of society in general over profit? Answer: Never, if you're talking about Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol—or Big Food. Transfats extend shelf life. Thusly, they extend profits. They also raise bad cholesterol while also lowering good cholesterol. They add nothing of any nutritional value whatsoever to human health. They didn't even exist before the 1930s, and didn't start appearing in junk food until the '50s. Yet somehow, in those dark pre-transfat days, Americans still enjoyed their desserts. And the great majority of them were able to move around without the aid of a motorized Wal-Mart cart. Golly gee.
Now we've got Palin (and Limbaugh and Beck) acting like McCarthyites: "Do you now support, or have you ever supported, the elimination of transfats from the nation's diet?" As they say, follow the money. And the money dictates that the disappearance of transfats from our precious junk food and microwave dinners somehow threatens our existence. America is only strong as our synthetic, shelf life-saving oils!
God bless us, everyone.
All this sensitivity over skinny cans, the right to be fat, and these supposedly excellent choices that parents are making which Mrs. Obama apparently wants to take away from them makes for very lively debate, and we've had plenty of that. Unfortunately, it's done nothing to get the nation's health back on track.
Could we please, at the very least, change the nature of the debate—that the existence of a skinny Diet Pepsi can is not advocating anyone's starvation, and that we should not discuss choices when we're at the mercy of food producers who care more about the life of a product than the person buying it? And how does it make sense to fret over anorexia or bulimia while excusing or ignoring that other eating disorder, known as EATING TOO DAMN MUCH?
You make informed choices about your food, you make time for exercise, you don't smoke and you treat alcohol with respect, and these virtues are what you pass on to your children. It really is as simple as that. Despite the shock, awe and flat-out horror that Mrs. Obama's campaign, or any subsequent minor regulation of the food industry, may provide to our lifestyle—which at the moment could adequately be summed up in three simple words: "While Rome Burned"—the choice to be a bad consumer will still be there. Hopefully, in future, very few will avail themselves of it.


goddessdivine said...

I'm fine with promoting good health and good eating. But don't take away my choices and force me to eat certain foods. If I want a can of Pepsi now and again, I'm going to enjoy it, dangit! Don't jack up the price of carbonated beverages in the name of "saving the children". It's about govt control. They need to stay out of our lives.

Nightdragon said...

I'm not looking to limit sugary or salty foods, and I may be naive in thinking that Mrs. Obama's crusade won't start the ball rolling in that direction -- because it might. All I'm really hoping for is the ceasation of use of a very harmful substance that never should have been added to some foods in the first place.