Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Who's to blame anyways?

If there’s anything we humans love, it’s playing the blame game. As soon as disaster strikes, fingers fly a-pointing in all directions. So it should come as no surprise that that’s pretty much how we’ve looked at North America’s obesity epidemic, with charges of responsibility blasting around and accusations blazing.

Just look at policy and public opinion. Shame on you, McDonald’s, for selling what’s profitable. And shame on you, school cafeterias, for trying to make money to keep your programs running.

Many of you might agree with the statements above but there are many of you that are equally guilty of joining in the fault-finding fun as well. And it’s not like we should necessarily take back anything we’ve said against junk food in schools, supermarkets, and fast food chains; one should still believe that North America’s food giants are, in some way, culpable for what’s going on. And it should still be a standard that no matter what a company is selling, it should let the consumer know exactly what he or she is buying. However, the search for someone to blame in the obesity crisis is turning into a witch hunt. Personal and parental accountability is being ignored compared to the flack that school districts and fast-food chains have faced recently.

It’s like our society assumes that choices just don’t exist anymore. Well, guess what…they do!

Granted, dishonest food company practices, such as “secret ingredients” and misleading labels, skew those choices. But choices still exist. No one’s holding you at gunpoint and forcing you to order a Big Mac. At the end of the day, the responsibility for the health effects of a liter of soda lies in the hands of whoever bought it. As we all know, there ample education & information telling us the risk, harmful affects, and long-term problems that will result in over consumption of these foods. The next step for us as individuals is actually listening to that advice. And while we understand not everyone can afford to get organic this-and-that, there’s still little reason to buy a pack of Oreos over a pack of carrots.

Yes, nutrition isn’t always easy. Many of us think we don’t always have time for it. But maybe it’s time to stop demanding Burger King to put an end to its high-fat ways and start putting a priority on our own health instead. Instead of blaming ‘time’ as an issue – we should make the time. We all seem to be forgetting – or ignoring – a simple feature of our economy: producers make what consumers buy. If people stopped purchasing sodas and french fries, they’d maybe start to go away. But right now, carbs, fat, and sugar sell. They stick around because we keep buying them.

Before you reach for the torches and pitchforks again, let’s remember that we’re not completely to blame for that either. We’re biologically programmed to crave the stuff. Our ancestors, deprived of supermarkets and fast-food chains, scoured for high-calorie foods to stay alive. So what are we victims of evolution to do? Sit helpless and gorge ourselves to death on donuts and hot dogs? No. We fight back and tell biology that we’re in charge now. We teach our children words like “balance” and “moderation.” We set a good example and purchase as we preach. To the extent that we should even be starting to advertise fruits and veggies like burgers and fries. And as tastes change, products will follow suit.

Our health, our children’s health, is way too important for us to fire accusations when we need to be taking positive action - let alone taking responsibility for our actions.

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