They Choose to Eat Crap

Monday, January 30, 2006
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In These Times runs a harebrained piece on diabetes and poverty. Of course, it’s hardly surprising that such a rag would expunge all personal responsibility in terms of choosing and eating food, but it is bizarre that the author would make a no-nonsense link between junk food and poverty.

Begin on the sixth floor, third room from the end, swathed in fluorescence: a 60-year-old woman was having two toes sawed off.” So opened the New York Times’ four-part series in early January, “Bad Blood,” about the Type 2 diabetes epidemic in New York City. Type 2 diabetes is caused by excess weight, lack of exercise and poor diet, and is directly related to poverty.

The series reminded one that poverty has a map. Indeed, even if you did not read every word of “Bad Blood”–each story started on the front page and took up two full pages inside–eye-catching illustrations showed the dividing line between poverty and wealth (96th Street on the Upper East Side) and the fast food gauntlet on the main streets in Flushing, which pulls in recent Asian immigrants who pick up diabetes along with the burger and fries.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure in the country; it often leads to amputation. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and costs us $132 billion a year. And it’s preventable, save for the enormous financial interests involved in its preservation. “Bad Blood” brought together three American scandals–poverty, our morally bankrupt for-profit health care system and the practices of our nation’s fast food joints.

Combined, they make up an illness-industrial complex, in which big players in the food industry, insurance industry and medical establishment profit wildly. But they need more raw materials to keep them going, more fodder for their assembly lines. Poor people of color are that fodder, and very few of the rest of America seems to care.

Diabetes is a near epidemic, and not just below the poverty line. Middle class and upper class America are awash with it. I know more people with diabetes than without it. Diabetes is not caused by junk food in and of itself. It is caused by poor eating habits, and that typically iis the habit of eating out often. This includes the 4-star meals as much–or more–than it does the burger and fries meals.

Diabetes is directly related to one’s ability to give a shit about his or her future health. In the here and now, that rich, carb-loaded meal at the local Italian joint sure tastes good, but tell me how good it was when you are 50 going on 65, having vision problems and taking insulin shots. The American diet–far more than anywhere else–is a rich bath of carbs that are mere simple sugars, saturated fat, and empty calories. Those who eat out consistently–whether they become obese or not–are setting themselves up for a diabetic future.

Watch how parents start shoving the sugar into their kids as early as possible, then they proceed to have them diagnosed with one hyperactive disorder after another. Give e’m sugar all day, and pump ‘em with ridlin so they sit still in school. And we wonder why kids have one crazy disorder after another? Apple juice, grape juice, fruit juice, pop–any of it is a recipe for disaster for children, and lazy parents–alas, who are too lazy to take care of themselves–instill the same convenience food logic in their kids. So it proceeds from one generation to the next. Kids are hyper enough naturally, so why the hideous mentality when it comes to feeding that hyperactivity?

Lastly, it is stunning that eating fast food can ever be linked to poverty, ever. If you are so goddamn poor, you sure as hell can’t afford to eat out day after day after day. Any fast food meal is extremely expensive as compared to homecooked food. Any burger joint is a minimum $5 a shot, or more, depending on the amount of food one consumes. Try that 5 days a week x 4 weeks, and you are telling me that people of poverty are spending $100/month eating out less than once a day? So a family of four can afford a $400/month McDonald’s habit? More often, the bill is $6-7 for these “meal packages,” and I’ll tell ya–I can’t afford that. Yet a “poor” person can? No. Poor people who eat like that are lazy. Just damn lazy, and mostly, they don’t care about their state of health or affairs, which is probably why they are “poor” in the first place. Their time preferences are high, and their concern for the future is zero. I cook all the time, and eat for prices that are nowhere near what I’d pay at an overpriced fast food joint.

Fast food is a middle class to upper middle class paradox. The white collar world is loaded with lazy people who can’t get their asses off the couch long enough to learn how to cook and shop. They eat from vending machines and fast food joints. “I don’t have time,” they’ll tell you. But hey have time to keep the average American tv-watching habit at 4.9 hours per day.

Choosing to eat crap is an individual choice, an action taken to satisy an immediate need. When future needs cease to be of concern, you slowly destroy yourself. Except for those that have absolutely blessed metabolism and health, you look like what you eat.

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