Thursday, March 25, 2010

in which i get all opinionated. pull up a chair.

so, i commented on a friend's facebook status yesterday.

i shouldn't have done that, because it wasn't one of those breezy "me too!" or supportive "yay!" kinds of comments. it was the kind of comment that came from DEEPWITHINMYSOUL.  i.e. i actually have an opinion about it.

for the record, i do not actually have Opinions (capital letter, you know, for emphasis) about everything. the health care bill? i'm on the fence. i'm waiting to see. i'm actually waiting to see if i should expend energy i don't have on a bill i don't really believe will make it very far.  when and if i need to decide, i will educate myself (more than the "5 Things You Should Know About Health Care Reform" article i skimmed on, you know, but less than reading the 2000 page bill itself) and then i will form an Opinion.  other things? breastfeeding? cloth diapers? jillian michaels? lady gaga? the tabloid phenomenon that is kate gosselin?  these things, i can talk about. but i do not have Opinions on them (yet. give me time and an expanded cable tv selection, and i'll give you an Opinion.).

but this topic? oh boy. i have an opinion.

my friend was railing at lawmakers in CA, who have outlawed toys in kids meals.  her point was that the toy does not make the kid want to eat 15 pounds of lard and sugar.  and parents should exercise self-control and teach their kids to as well, instead of leaving it in the lawmakers' hands to do something stupid and ineffectual like taking the toy out of the meal.

i said this:

sometimes, people just don't get it.

like, hey. if healthy food were, i don't know, CHEAPER, then maybe it would be easier for people to feed it to their children. maybe if it ever went on sale, or if it was easier to make, or if it was a whole host of other things that legitimately exhausted, overworked, underpaid parents could use, it would be easier.

or maybe, you know, if people were properly educated about portion sizes (and sufficiently appalled at how few restaurants actually offer a portion of normal size to any patron anywhere) then maybe they could do a better job educating their children.

but instead, let's take the toy away. that'll get 'em.

good grief. 

a few moms of small children, one of whom was the friend to whom the status belonged, commented and agreed with me. we began to talk about how we wished there were more healthy options in the drive-thru world, with the young moms wishing it so that they didn't have to deal with crying/sleeping/yaddayaddayadda kids when they have to physically walk into a restaurant. it was a good point, i thought, and related to the topic of fast food and healthy eating.

enter joe idiot. this is not his real name, but he was a man and this is my blog and that is my assessment.  this is what he said:

First, the idea of personal responsibility and integrity are becoming words on a paper and not in the heart of Americans. It has become acceptable to let the government decide for us and take responsibilty for us.

Video games and tv are perpetuating obesity. Kids should play outside and in parks. Adults need to throw out the remote and take a walk.

Yes, good food is expensive but isn't it worth it? And with research and planning it doesn't have to cost a lot.

And if you want to save money just make your own laundry detergent. $10 will last for months and months. Team up with another family or 2 and buy wholesale. Cut coupons too. Be creative about saving money. Ask others at church how they save money.

In short, yes, it is ridiculous to ban toys and not the unhealthy food. 

okay.  so at first, i was like...yeah, but who has time for all of these grand and OBVIOUS solutions? not the people about whom i was talking.  lower middle class families are poor not only on resources but on TIME.  this is why we live in a world where children watch TV nine hours a day (it's a babysitter) and eat crappy food that comes out of a box (that they can feed themselves or that an exhausted parent can manage to scrape together in the 20 minutes they have before they either have to collapse and die or before they go off to do another job (like, i don't know, cleaning? kids' homework? life?)).  

so here's what i said:

not to be obnoxious, but do you know how much time it takes to do the couponing thing in order to actually do damage to a food budget? Right now, when i'm working three jobs, it's more time than I have. Of course i would love to do it. Of course i would like to be creative and amazing and get out of the grocery store with a cart full of food and having only spent $10. that would be wonderful. but for most americans, it's not that simple. It's easy to say, and yes, of course it is better in the long run to spend money on fruits and vegetables, but when you are faced with the reality of an unyielding food budget and children to feed, perhaps it is easier (and in the long run cheaper) to feed them crap.

and most coupons are for crap or baby items. i'm just sayin'. nobody really needs to buy poptarts. ever. but what are coupons for? a whole bunch of stuff that has too many calories and not enough nutritional value.

i want coupons on apples and salad and broccoli. i want coupons on boneless chicken breasts (sam's has the best deals, btw.) i want coupons on graham crackers and whole grain bread.

until that happens, we're still where we're at.

this is seriously probably one of the injustices of the world that i think nobody really gets. this is why we should all have gardens.

measured, thoughtful response, right?  one that identifies the complexities of the problem and realizes that simplistic solutions (couponing? really? like poor families don't THINK of that?) don't address one heck of a beast of a problem.

this is joe's response.

What about 5 dollars off an oil change? I'm not limiting money saving to just food. And I'm serious about making your own laundry detergent. Really. Also, try finding a local farm and buy your vegetables from them directly. Or do one of those vegetable wholesale subscription.

Now this may sound rude, but it's not intended to be so: it's not usually the budget that's unyielding. It's the budgeter.

With respect to restaurants: I'm cheap. I very rarely eat fast food. I have twice in the last month or so. Once because I got excited when I saw a Carl's Jr when I went to Logan, UT (Hardee's, never had it, and my dad is a Carl Jr.)

"Holy generalization, Batman" is right, Ashlee. Sister K., I don't like rap, but I don't see how they have caused our obesity and "poverty" problems.

at this point, i just wanted to lose my mind.  now, i may be jumping to conclusions, but i felt like he was calling me a frivolous spender with a victim complex. AND I WASN'T EVEN TALKING ABOUT MYSELF. i was talking about a generation of families that can't manage to figure out how to feed their kids and how to keep them active and healthy. i'm talking about a problem that is not as simple as finding a farm. i'm talking about a very real disparity between what the upper middle class suburbanites have access to that the urban poor and the lower middle class don't.  i'm talking about an issue that should be the very heart of what we are discussing when we are discussing nutrition and our children, not whether or not ketchup should be considered a vegetable in our school lunch program.

i'm talking about a revolution, here, where we start shifting our focus onto providing the things that are necessary for life to the people who need them most.

i am talking about something for which i have an Opinion.

i stewed on this for like an hour, drafting and redrafting somewhat snarky responses to this guy who clearly doesn't have a clue.  ultimately, my desire to be Christian overwhelmed my desire to be right and get the last word, which i ultimately didn't get by the way, and i responded with this:

apparently this is a much more simple topic than i thought it was. we should all just do the easy things, that lots of people do all of the time, and all will be well.

good thing just a seemingly complex problem has such easy solutions.

in the meantime, they should definitely put mini beanie babies in happy meals so that we can start collecting them again. that was cool.

i was annoyed and done with people who think that successful families who have 5 kids and work and cook healthy meals prove that people can just do it and it is easy. i'm done with people who look at complex problems and see the black and white of it instead of the shades of gray that are the reason that it is still a problem.

sure, the reality might be that people systematically make bad choices.  that's often the reason why bad things happen to otherwise well-meaning people.  but if that's the reality, don't we have a responsibility to figure out WHY? i can't really believe that a mother wants to fill her children with pizza rolls and pop tarts when she knows that they are steadily gaining weight, when they are beginning to have health problems, when they are heading down a path she knows is wrong.

i have to believe that she just doesn't know how to do it differently.

and i know that telling her it's easy and people have been doing it for years, or that the key to all mythologies lies in a 10 pound bag of homemade detergent, does nothing to help the situation.

perhaps being morbidly obese for most of my life makes me very sensitive to this subject. perhaps having had to relearn how to think about food and what to put into my body has made me feel like i know a little bit more about what's going on at the heart of this issue than people who are looking at it from the outside.  perhaps having lost 120 pounds has made me think about this a lot more. 

maybe learning lessons that i want to pass on to my children has made me very firm in my Opinion.

regardless of how or why i've gotten there, the reality is that i've gotten there.  and i sure wish other people would too. 

complex problems are complex. the sooner we realize this, the sooner we can begin to identify how to help.  understanding people, and meeting them where they're at, is where it begins.

not judging them.


  1. Hey. I love this post. Love it.

    1. 120? You. Are. Awesome.

    2. Most people don't know about the food deserts in urban areas. In the community where I work, there are ZERO grocery stores. Coupons? Where will they use them? At 7-11?

  2. Ugh, I hate people who think they have it down. Having participated in a handful of the most retarded facebook flame wars, I've just had to resign myself to not posting on anything I know will be a cause of contention. Those people who think they know it all will only walk away feeling smugly satisfied and superior. It's beyond not worth it.

    Honestly it's all so interrelated that it's ridiculous...And people who can't see THAT, are genuinely idiots. The sheer chemistry related to finding comfort in a pack of oreos or a bottle of whiskey or a pack of cigarettes, or even a line of cocaine, the escape for a family living in a shelter to just get out and go down the street to McDonalds for crying out loud, where their kids can get a new toy that really costs like two cents to make but is new and thus interesting. And how they usually really don't know better, because their parents did it, or didn't try at all, or in the worst case were abusive on every level...

    Ugh. Poverty is where I have an opinion. Because really it relates to all these societal issues and is so deeply rooted in so many different problems, but people still really DON'T. GET. IT. And that is truly a fact to mourn.

    Also I just noticed at the 'Things I Love' at the bottom of the page with the church's site, and that made me happy.