Put down that calorie before you hurt someone l Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | May 16, 2018

I’m going to write a bit about my friend Jack, and I’m going to be a little disingenuous. This is for privacy and professional reasons, although the odds of Jack reading this run from slim to skinny. Just to be on the safe side.

I admire Jack, although we’re not particularly close. He’s in his mid-60s, and has been working in his chosen profession for nearly 50 years. He discovered his passion as a child, and when he graduated from high school he immediately got a job in the field, some luck and mostly talent and determination setting him on a path of success and satisfaction.

He’s also the kind of person other people just like. He’s generous, open-minded, pleasant, very funny, and compassionate. He’s articulate, occasionally eloquent, and a guy you’d like to have in your corner if things go south. He’s very intelligent and well-read, and like a lot of smart, successful people, he knows what he doesn’t know.

Except, maybe, this: I don’t think Jack knows how to feed himself.

This is a curious thing for me to say, besides just being awfully judgmental and self-righteous, and, of course, I’m being facetious. I don’t follow Jack around and watch him eat.

But he likes to talk about food a lot, and the food he talks about is not what you might think. In a foodie culture that’s exploded over the past 20 years, helped along by cable cooking shows and online recipe databases at our fingertips, Jack can go on and on about frozen food he buys in bulk at Costco.

New fast-food restaurants get detailed reviews. If you like french fries, this guy can tell you about french fries.

His tastes tend to run toward the ordinary, then, and it’s not like there’s anything wrong with that. He doesn’t seem to spend his days eating snack food. He’s surely intelligent enough to know that he can’t just sit around eating ice cream all day long, although some of us would be willing to test that theory.

He’s also overweight, which just makes him a red-blooded American. The average man or woman in the United States is about 20 pounds overweight, which always makes me think I don’t really know what the word “average” means, but this isn’t a surprise to anyone with decent vision and a tendency to go the mall.

A few years ago, he was in worse shape.

He’d already zoomed past the 300-pound mark and was heading into new territory, and his joints were starting to rebel. Jack had bariatric surgery, after lots of research and counseling, and it worked out well. He lost a bunch of weight and he appears to have kept it off.

As with other people I know who’ve had this surgery (all of them, actually), he never got close to what we might call a normal or ideal weight, but he’s in much better shape. He’s also got some new joints.

None of this is any of my business. As I say, I admire Jack. I wish him well. He doesn’t really appear to need my good wishes, either, or my opinion on his eating habits.

I just think Jack is representative, with his taste for processed and often just crummy food. I think he grew up in roughly the same era I did, when mothers (and they were mostly mothers at that time) were indoctrinated by technology, innovation and commerce to believe that saving time and sweat (and money) was an appropriate goal when it came to dinner time.

I don’t blame them, either.

I’m sure I would have done the same thing, and I’m also sure I did a fair amount of it as a parent. Look, food comes in a box. How convenient. Let’s eat it.

Last week, FDA regulations went into effect mandating that calorie counts be listed on the menus of certain restaurant chains and vending machines. A lot of this has already been implemented voluntarily. If you’re interested in calorie counts, you can usually find that information now. It’s sometimes hidden, and often in small print, but it’s there.

I just don’t think most of us know what it is. I don’t think my buddy Jack has a clue.

To someone like me, and to be fair I’m really talking about me, a calorie count is equivalent to a price. It has a relative value but it’s mostly neutral. It’s a measurement, not an ingredient.

I don’t know what’s driving the global obesity epidemic, other than the obvious, that many of us are exposed to way too much food. Human biology hasn’t caught up to the feast – we still want to stuff our faces in case of famine.

People go hungry all the time, but starvation isn’t on the horizon for most of us.

So it strikes me that more information is useful, although judging from some articles I read when this new regulation went into effect, opinion is mixed. Some seemed to think this was a downer, putting up calorie counts, as if we should just be left alone to gorge ourselves in ignorance.

Maybe.

And maybe I should mind my own business, and stop judging other lives, although it’s really so much fun. Better than looking at my own life, definitely, considering that my breakfast this morning was an ice cream sandwich.

It was 210 calories, and I enjoyed every one of them, so maybe I don’t know Jack.

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