Things to Read: Scandals That Aren’t

This bit on Fast Food Restaurants Not Single-Handedly Ending Child Obesity is hysterical.   Yes, some fast food restaurants pledged to make “healthier” choices available, and yes, they make some “healthier” choices available.  Is it really a surprise that you might have to, gasp, order the milk and apple slices instead of pop and fries?

Hey, here’s another one: Instead of whining about TV ads, why not minimize watching them?  Unlike the world of 1984, televisions can be turned off; commercials can be muted, programs can be recorded and commercials fast-forwarded.   Teach the kids to help you make dinner or with the dishes — that’s teaching the kid an important life skill AND spending quality time together.   Or play a board game or read with the kids or watch a DVD or mute/fast-forward through commercials or, heck, let the kid watch the commercials and tell them “No” if that’s what you’ve decided.  I realize it’s radical to pretend you’re the one raising your own kid, but I won’t turn you in, I promise.

(Not that I think that turning off the TV or passing up a Happy Meal will automagically turn a fat kid into a slender one.  But it’s a lot easier to start learning to cook or do the dishes or handle “No” or amuse oneself without TV before you’re 25 or 30, so why not do your child a favor and teach them?)

Also in the “this is a surprise?” is  that the US Dept of Agriculture is promoting American-made cheese.  The Dept of Agriculture was founded with the aim of promoting US agriculture and has maintained multiple roles through its history — it regulates and markets US food, it promotes good nutrition and runs the Forestry Service.  It isn’t, in fact it really can’t, be a monolith.  Maybe I worked too long in a large (50,000+ employees) company, but it’s reasonable that people in the group that works to market the US dairy industry is not necessarily going to be worried about limiting dairy intake.  It’s also reasonable that the people who are worrying about ideal nutrition are in a different group from the ones marketing various types of food.   Yes, they have a point that the USDA is talking out of both sides of its mouth with “eat more cheese” and “eat less saturated fat, including less cheese” as messages, but — hello — the USDA didn’t stop subsidizing tobacco production until 2005 (and is still paying tobacco farmers to help them transition to a free market).   There is big money encouraging Congress to help market US agriculture, and don’t you forget it.

Now, if the NYT is looking for a scandal, the fact that the Dairy Marketing group continued their “dairy helps you lose weight” campaign despite the research they funded disproving it is a better target, I’d think.  Especially since the Federal Trade Commission got involved.  Or maybe it’s just that nobody really expects diet ads to have any basis in fact?

11 thoughts on “Things to Read: Scandals That Aren’t

  1. People are encouraged to feel helpless in the face of their children’s demands, as if saying no is going to stifle them somehow, or that they’re being mean and authoritarian if they don’t let little Knothead “explore hismself.” (Whatever that means.)

    I’m a mean, strict Mama. I’m here to say it works better. I confess I don’t spend a lot of time necessarily controlling the boy’s food, other than actually, you know, COOKING MEALS from real ingredients and refusing to buy sugar cereal for his breakfast. It seems to work for us.

    • People are encouraged to feel helpless in the face of their children’s demands, as if saying no is going to stifle them somehow, or that they’re being mean and authoritarian if they don’t let little Knothead “explore himself.” (Whatever that means.)

      I don’t get that, but then I’m not a parent. One thing I do sometimes see in my acquaintances with kids is parents who are tired and wanting their kids to be on “their side”, so they give the kids what they want to avoid conflict and be “happy”. Trouble is that if you’re leaning on your underage kids for support, that makes it hard to be a parent.

      I confess I don’t spend a lot of time necessarily controlling the boy’s food, other than actually, you know, COOKING MEALS from real ingredients and refusing to buy sugar cereal for his breakfast.

      I would probably have fewer food issues if my mom had done that instead of alternating between criticizing me for “wasting food” and “not appreciating her effort” (aka eating too little) and eating too much. Or, y’know, if the definition of too little / too much had stayed static. I realize NOW that it probably had a lot more to do with what was going on in her head than anything I actually did, but at the time it really screwed me up. The suggestions that I should skip breakfast and lunch to lose weight in high school didn’t help either.

  2. Not to mention that from what I’ve read, there are only like two combinations at McDonalds that fall afoul of that silly law in San Francisco anyway.

    I really can’t get on board with the whole “this is why we’re fat” thing… honestly, it simply DOES NOT MATTER why we’re fat. The obesity rate quit climbing five to ten years ago, people are NOT routinely dropping dead at 30 from obesity, and most of the negative health outcomes blamed on fat could just as easily be caused by the stress of being fat in a culture where even people who are against fat discrimination still refer to it as a bad thing. They just shift the blame from the individual to the institutional.

    But going on about how bad being fat is is still going to be enormously stressful, possibly even more stressful when the combined message is “but it’s not your fault and there is nothing you can do about it anyway”.

    • The government is full of conflicts of interest. Of course, so are very large companies. It’s part of being a very large organization – different parts have competing or conflicting interests. ;)

  3. I was going to do a post on this article as well, mostly because that bit at the end with the whole “drink milk, lose weight!” thing. When I was doing WW, a popular explanation for weight lost plateaus was “you must not be getting in all your milk points! Have a WW shake!”

    Just one more example of the diet industry’s predatory nature.

  4. I like your nuanced approach to the dairy issue. Government agencies and departments are notorious for working in “silos” – they don’t necessarily communicate with each other or coordinate their work. And, dairy is neither a dietary superhero or a villain.

    As someone who’s mildly lactose intolerant, I have to watch what types of dairy I eat. On the other hand, nothing matches it for easily absorbed calcium, and it’s very high in protein. It’s not light, but it’s far from nutritionally empty. It’s not unusual for me to substitute cheese for meat in a meal.

    And let’s face it. Cheese is one of the most delicious foods on the planet. (I am not marketing for the dairy industry; just stating my opinion.)

    • I like your nuanced approach to the dairy issue. Government agencies and departments are notorious for working in “silos” – they don’t necessarily communicate with each other or coordinate their work.

      I spent 10 years at a really large software company near Seattle whose name starts with “M”. Believe me, I understand the “silos” thing All Too Well. ;)

  5. I thank the stars every day that we got a DVR! No more awful commercials! And this time of year (elections & holidays) those ads are at their worst! I am all about ending censorship and just allowing people to make choices. No one forcing anyone to watch or listen to something they don’t want to. It’s so silly really and I feel it’s just another way to control the masses. Thanks goodness for the internet, too! <3

  6. Your sense of wry humor in this writing is great.

    We are loosing our sense of our personal choices and responsibilities. To blame overweight on any one point is over simplistic. I agree with so many of the posters comments.

  7. “it’s a lot easier to start learning to cook or do the dishes or handle “No” or amuse oneself without TV before you’re 25 or 30, so why not do your child a favor and teach them?”

    LOVE. THIS.

    Hell, I had a pretty decent childhood and even I wish sometimes my parents had been a little more pushy about making me do things- like the dishes. They were pretty good about saying “NO!” but I can’t help but wonder if I’d been forced to do dishes more often as a child if I might not have the horrible hate for doing dishes that I do now XD Thank god for Dishwashers ;)

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