Thursday, June 18, 2009

Junk Food in Hard Economic Times?

Twice this week I have seen, both on-line and in my local newspaper, an article discussing the behavior of buying and eating junk food during this stressful economic time. You can read it here: Lean Times Mean Tighter Pants for Stress Eaters. I can't completely get my mind around this.

Now don't get me wrong. The first cold, dreary, overcast day we have this fall I will automatically want to curl up in my flannel PJs in front of the TV with a big Jethro-bowl of macaroni and cheese and a fire in the fireplace. It's a phenomenon I can't explain. I have just learned not to give in to it.

A few classic junk food items are mentioned by the folks who were interviewed. They explained that they turn to these items due to stress. One person said she eats them "because it makes me feel better." Another shares her story of ending up 100 pounds overweight following a 6 month period of being unemployed due to eating comfort food out of boredom and frustration.

What are we doing to ourselves? I understand the concept of comfort food, but basically what we're saying, out loud, in an interview, is when faced with stress, we indulge in self-destructive behavior, disguised as comfort. I'm afraid there are a lot of people under tremendous pressure turning to food.

An especially disturbing statement from the article was this: "Such food is also cheaper per calorie than fruits and vegetables." This really sent my mind reeling. Does anyone ever calculate cost per calorie? If I go to the grocery, I don't take my calculator and deliberately buy Double-Stuf Oreos instead of blueberries because they give me more calorie bang for my buck.

I believe the person in the article was actually trying to make a point that is understandable. That is, sit-down restaurants are suffering while the value menu has benefited. If I have $3 in my pocket to feed myself, I can't eat in a sit down restaurant, but I could eat at a fast food restaurant off the dollar menu. But even better I could go home and fix a meal like my husband eats practically every day for under $3. This is true, we calculated it.

tilapia cooked in olive oil with tomatoes and steamed, peppered squash

I remember a particularly stressful job and having to work with a difficult person. Every time I talked with this person on the phone I was eating something by the time the call was over. It was a strange reaction. During this time I was working hard to change my eating habits. I first graduated from candy to string cheese while dealing with this person and eventually broke the habit. One of the ladies in the article shared a horrific amount of stress she'd been under. My stress can't even compare to hers right now. My heart goes out to her. It's no wonder she needs some comfort. But somehow we've gotten to the point where we're reaching for an inanimate object that is destructive to our bodies to try to find it. There must be a better way.

Surely we can reach out and support each other in changing our behaviors to those that support physical and mental health during a time of crisis in our homes and nation.


Roundballnz said...

Good one .....

its all about doing the simple stuff right eh - ie having plenty of healthy but tasty stuff around.

Kelley Moore said...

That is so true. The last time I was rummaging around because I wanted to eat something I shouldn't I couldn't even find anything. Guess that's good! My favorite treat right now is an apple. Far from where I used to be!