Thursday, April 29, 2010

Food, Sex, and Self Control

In a survey I asked a bunch of former drug addicts which they believe more difficult to give up; drugs or sex. Female respondents largely said drugs. Male respondents overwhelmingly said sex.

I wish I’d asked the same question about giving up drugs vs giving up high calorie diets.

Obesity is a major problem in our society and is only getting worse. It is one of the key factors in increased healthcare costs. It is becoming a significant issue for airline flyers who find the rolls of fat of the person next to them flowing over in to their already tight space. The Army recently noted that recruitment efforts are becoming more difficult because many who want to join are too obese to even start training and the numbers who begin training and then are kicked out because they can’t attain a minimum level of fitness is increasing.

A doctor I heard speak once said something to the effect of this: It used to be that we couldn’t avoid physical labor and that calories were difficult to come by. Today we can’t avoid calories but physical labor is difficult to come by.

I understand where he’s coming from, and agree that things have changed, but not to the extent that he espouses. Stop by any major construction site and you’ll see a number of obese people doing physical labor. It’s not just a lack of labor among the general population. Exercise is critical to good health, but almost no amount of exercise can overcome a high calorie diet. A 490 calorie scone from Panera Bread will require about 3 hours of brisk walking (8 miles in 2 hours, 35 minutes) to work off.

Calories are certainly more prevalent today than in the past, but just because they’re available doesn’t mean we have to partake. We can choose to eat healthier. We don’t have to eat Big Mac’s or Alice Springs Chicken (a menu item at Outback Steakhouse that alone has as many calories as many people need in an entire day.)

I’ve done it so I know how difficult it is. Over about a 10 or 15 year period I’d very slowly put on 3 or 4 extra pounds a year until I was noticeably pudgy. I reduced my calorie intake to about 1,800/day to lose the extra 35 lbs and now generally stick to about 2,100 to maintain it. I eat out over 90% of my meals, travel a good bit, and eat at formal dinners and other events. It’s not even remotely impossible to choose to do it and then do so.

This does pose a question. Is every person capable of the self-control and self-discipline necessary to limit their diet to something appropriate like 1,600 – 2,200 calories per day?
How many of the obese people around us are or are not capable of controlling what they eat. Is it different for men and women?

How would you rank sex, drugs, and high calorie food on the self-discipline scale?

2 comments:

Professor Hale said...

You'll get my Big Mac when you pry it from my cold, dead, pudgy fingers.

Seriously. This is just one more problem with nationalized health care. With the payment of public money for health maintenance, the "public" get the idea that they now have a say in how other people live, including how much they eat and what they eat.

Oddly enough, I haven't heard anyone mention that homosexuality should be outlawed for the same reason.

Crusty said...

My fingers will be full with french fries so I won't even try :-)

So let me ask you this. Should someone who is too fat to fit in an airline seat pay for 2? Should someone too fat to fit in between tables at a cafe to get to an available seat file a lawsuit for discrimination?