“Why Eat and Drink?” by Mark Erik Meijer, MD
First published in Aynor Journal, vol. 12, #44 (August 24, 2000) Aynor, South Carolina.
Republished as Chapter 15 in TEN STEPS to Control Diabetes [Tampa, Fla.]: MeMend Books, 2004. ISBN: 0-9761572-0-9
Americans do like to eat and drink. More than half are overweight. That makes being overweight “normal” in the U.S. We are now the fattest country in the world.
A hundred years ago, Coke and Pepsi didn’t exist. Neither did fast food. Currently, America drinks twice as much soda than milk. We spend more on alcohol than on milk or juices.
There is no question that American businesses would not advertise if it weren’t effective. America spends more on beverage advertising than on all education (including college) combined. Look whose logo is on your local high school signs. We consume more pounds of sugar than either beef or chicken. The effect mass media advertising has on American culture is quite evident. The result is a health care disaster.
When a human being becomes part of society, they learn from other people about all aspects of daily living. This includes eating and drinking. In this country, few Americans are Native Americans. We are all immigrants from other nations. Many past traditions and diets from these other countries have disappeared as our ancestors became “Americanized.” Even Native Americans have become “Americanized!” Recent immigrants tend to rapidly change the way they eat, too.
The forces that make so many people eat like “Americans” are very strong (whatever they may be).
We are what we eat (and drink). What America eats and how much we eat is not good. In spite of the fact that America spends more on health care than any other country, there are many nations whose citizens live longer than we do. Worse yet, many are countries (e.g., Europe) from which we immigrated. We have their genes but not their diet.
America eats too much sugar, fat and meat. At least half of all cancers in America are diet related. A high protein diet makes kidney stones more likely. We pass more kidney stones than any other country in the world. Our diets usually lack fiber (fruit, vegetables, and high-fiber breads). This causes constipation. The U.S. buys more laxatives than the whole world combined. (Some things just aren’t coming out right.)
Both the number of Americans that are overweight and the rate at which this is occurring are rapidly increasing. This problem goes hand-in-hand with diabetes (we’re #1 there, too).
Whatever the reasons that Americans eat (quantity and quality), the concern on health is low on the list.
Even though the majority of Americans are overweight, the majority doesn’t want to be. If it were easy to lose weight, there would be a lot fewer overweight people. The failure for most Americans to control weight is a reflection of how difficult it is to change eating habits. Again, whatever forces there are that influence our decisions about food and drink, they are very strong.
Members of any society tend to resist ending life-long habits (no matter how desperately change is needed). Sooner or later, dieters forget how badly most Americans eat. Instead they continue to yearn for traditions as “American as apple pie.” The hatred for dietary change and our love for “apple pie” are what make most diet programs tiptoe around the need to abandon old eating habits.
For example, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) literature on the diabetic diet reassures American diabetics by stating, “diabetes doesn’t change the kinds of foods you eat.” This is true — “diabetes doesn’t,” but new diabetics need to. One reason that diabetes is so common is because most diabetics have eaten like “normal” Americans. The truth is that most American diabetics must dramatically “change” the way they eat.
A concerned diabetic’s primary purpose for eating is to maintain blood glucose (sugar) control and good health. It’s not normal for most Americans to eat a nutritious diet in moderation or to eat small meals frequently. A healthy new diet for a diabetic will certainly contradict many American traditions, including “apple pie.”
Clearly most Americans choose food for other reasons (e.g., because it tastes good, etc.). A diabetic can tell you that trying to stay on a healthy diet can make you feel like a social outcast. There are very strong social pressures in America (e.g., Thanksgiving) that make a healthy diet very hard to maintain. Most obese dieters fail. A million Americans lose weight every year. A thousand keep it off.
Attitudes that resist needed change include: “I want to eat like everyone else;” “they should make a diet pill so I can eat any way I want;” “it’s unfair that I have this illness (e.g., diabetes, obesity, etc.);” “diet is another form of punishment;” “I’ll just die if I don’t eat something that simply tastes good” (i.e. not necessarily good for you); “I just want to relax and have fun eating;” “I hate having to figure out how to eat healthier in contrast to everyone else;” and “I can’t do this forever so I plan to stop dieting once I achieve my goal.”
If a person is going to be successful in dieting, one has to recognize that most people’s reasons for eating are bad. Why you eat can affect what you eat. You can choose to either “eat to live” or “live to eat.” Do you eat because it tastes good or do you eat because it’s good for you? There is a difference.
It helps to develop a real hatred for how America eats. The American diet is killing you, your friends, and your family. If you eat like a normal American, you will probably suffer and die like one.
Whose funeral do you want to go to — yours or theirs? Food and drink are not worth dying for. From a health care point of view, it’s stupid to eat like a “normal” American. America has a big need for a new diet; it just hasn’t started yet. But this should not prevent you from changing your diet.
You can be smarter than the rest of the country. If you have a brain, why not use it before you put something in your mouth?
It is very important to remember that for whatever reasons Americans eat, it’s not because Americans are trying to stay alive and well.©