I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I agree with the common wisdom, which states that all such promises made under seasonal duress are doomed to fail before they are even uttered. I think that promises to myself need to be made freely, for good reason and without real or perceived outside pressure. I mention all of this because this post’s title might imply I was making just such a doomed resolution. But junk food and its implications have been on my mind for a while, and it therefore does not fall under the resolution heading. This is more me coming to a conclusion and taking action based on it.
So, junk food. It’s no secret that I am over-weight. It is something that I have worked to fix, off and on, for the better part of three years now. While I have been successful to a point (although I am still 100lbs or so heavier than I want to be, I was once 100lbs heavier than this), I have remained plateaued for a while. In the last few weeks I have resumed my workout routines, and I am bringing my eating habits back in to a healthier line. Doing this has had me thinking a great deal about the foods I eat, specifically my, “I’m too lazy to cook” go-to foods. And I’ve realized that 80%+ of that list is comprised of junk food.
Let me be clear about what I consider junk-food. Yes, things like potato chips and tortilla chips are on that list. Chocolate bars, check. Anything that is by name or definition considered candy, also on the list. Sodas, you bet. But I also consider things like Kraft Mac n’ Cheese and most canned pastas/stews junk food. Basically, any food that goes through a high level of processing before I can eat it, that falls in my definition of junk food.
My issues with junk food are many, but I can boil it down to two main points. The first point is personal: junk food is just no good for me! High in the unhealthy fats, loaded with carbs, salt and preservatives, often with added sugar…nope, none of it is even remotely healthy. Damn tasty, no question. But I pay a high health cost for that taste, with no real dividends, as my “washing machine abs” can attest. And now that I am back on my work-out routines I can’t afford to eat foods that don’t pay out for me. I need food that helps me with little luxuries like repairing muscle tissue, lowering bad cholesterol and maintaining a healthy metabolism. And junk food, for all of its delicious taste, does none of those things. It in fact does the opposite of those things in many cases.
So obviously the personal reason would be enough to make kicking junk food to the curb a good idea. But what I’ve been considering lately is the broader social issue of junk food and its production. And I’ve come around to the idea that overly processed foods are bad for us on a societal level, not just the personal health level. I haven’t found hard numbers to back this up (and if you do, or find numbers to refute, please drop a link to that info in the comments section), but I am willing to make the sweeping statement that North America consumes more processed food than any other part of the world. My issue goes a little something like this:
– between fast food restaurants and processed foods available in stores, North America has massive quantities of processed foods available at all times.
– in order to maintain those massive quantities, North America first has to acquire even more massive quantities of raw materials for processing, or what we might call “real food”. For instance, if you want a bag of tortilla chips you first need large amounts of corn to render down.
– this quantity of raw material is in addition to the large amount of “real food” North America consumes outside of processing.
– So we are basically double-dipping into the world’s food supply. Not only do we demand enough regular real food for everyone, but we also demand enough real food for processing.
And this is why I have an issue. There are 7 billion+ of us kicking around this planet now, and there were food shortages well before we reached that worrying milestone. What kind of sense does it make to allow companies like Frito Lay to buy up massive amounts of corn and potatoes to turn into chips, when there are parts of the world where people would sometimes literally kill to get their hands on those “raw materials”? Because if it makes any kind of sense at all I’m not seeing it.
Before you start to worry this is turning into a “F%@& the Man!” rallying cry, let me be clear. I’m not here to make you do anything. These two points, one personal and one broader, were points I pondered to choose my path, not yours. I am the only thing in my life over which I have complete control and responsibility; I have no interest in trying to control anyone else. Frankly, that would likely prove boring and frustrating and it doesn’t excite me.
So based on my conclusions, for weal or woe, let me tell you what I am doing. I am giving up junk food. Starting immediately, no more chips, sodas, chocolate bars, KD, pizza pockets and so on. No more fast food of any kind; sorry, Pizza 73 driver, we can’t see each other anymore. Basically, if it has an ingredient list longer than “egg” or “tomato”, I’m not buying it.
What do I hope to achieve? Well I hope it helps to reduce my circumference at the equator, for one. Second, I hope it results in me spending more time in my kitchen, cooking. A lot of the processed foods I bought up to this point (salsa, hummus, tortillas and so on) can be made quite easily at home, and with healthier ingredients. And cooking is just fun for me, so the more I get to do the better. Third, I’m hoping to see an effect on my finances, as money that would have been spent acquiring pizza or wings stays a little longer in my bank account. And given that 2012 is also my Year of the Con, extra money in the bank is not a bad thing.
Obviously I can’t tell you what to do. You’ll eat junk food or not as you will. But I do hope that my non-resolution resolution will make you think a bit about junk food, and whether it really deserves a place in your life. Maybe ask yourself what its done for you lately…
Comments? Questions? Rebuttal? Fire them off below!