Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's the Economy, Stupid . . .

One of my favorite podcasts, More Fair Game with Faith Salie (my new intellectual crush) had Economist writer and author Eric Finkelstein on the show yesterday to discuss his new book The Fattening of America: How the Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What to Do About It.

The book, which looks at the economic factors that impact obesity, seems very interesting to me. Some of it is obvious - like that people buy more fast and cheap food when they have less money and fast and cheap food are not as healthy as "other" foods. Some of it is riveting - that obese people "know" they will not live as long and are more likely to develop diseases but many of us justify one with the other (you only live once, do it your way?). MOST of it is just good thought process around why we are getting fatter as a nation.

As I have always said - I am WHOLY responsible for my weight (always was, always will be) and I would not ever pretend that economic factors somehow drove my obesity. I come from a strong middle class household and I lived a middle class life in DC, Baltimore, Connecticut and now Kansas. I don't think there was ever a time that I stood in the line at McDonald's (before surgery - to be clear) and thought "Well, the Dow is down 300 points in the last five days . . . I should just order off the dollar menu!" I also don't think I ever stood at the butcher's counter at Dillon's and said "Hmmmmm, my shares in IBM are way up year-to-date so let's go with the filet mignon!"

BUT that might be the point. I am just one random person. One random fat guy. My decisions and actions are just one little tiny part of the American fabric (an IMPORTANT part (according to my ego) but just one little part). I can't say that because the economy didn't influence my obesity it is not to blame for our national epidemic.

Frankly . . . I'd like to blame the Bush administration for us being fat. Long gone are the days of aerobic excercise, fat free milk and reduced calorie honey that marked the Clinton years? But that is just my personal political spin (an important spin but just my personal spin). My politics aside though - it does make you wonder just how many social, political and economic pressures really do drive obesity in this country and just how each one of us (as individuals, families or population segments) might react to each of those pressures to drive obesity in this country. Why are we getting fatter? Who IS to blame?

Regardless, Finkelstein seems like a smart, smart man and he clearly did his homework so I will add his book to my growing "to read" list. For some reason the only book I get to read lately is Ava's copy of "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" (which gets read over and over and over and over again lately)! I will read the book and I will learn and I will be better equipped to make decisions on where to put our retirement funds - or at least what we should be eating in these uncertain economic times.

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