Friday, July 16, 2010

Ramen Noodled Out: Fat and Poverty

Fat people are poorer and poorer people are fatter in American society. There has been many studies on this. One article with a very unfortunate and troublesome title asks in it's subtitle "Does Poverty Make People Obese Or Is It the Other Way Around?"
My own life experiences, have shown me poverty and obesity have served a symbiotic relationship, endocrine problems aside. More money means better food, and better nutrition means a better working body. Thinking on days of poverty knowing one can approach kind friends and family only so often, being relegated to pre-diabetic one meal a day eating years ago, and discount grocery stores, I know why personally poverty and fat go together.

Food insecurity means finding out you only have a carton of eggs and a package of bread to eat, the highest carbohydrate-packing foods from your local food pantry where you are far more likely to be given a box of pop tarts then a container of hummus, it means too many cheap packages of ramen noodles, cans of tuna, higher fat hamburger and facing the reality that the more greasy, unhealthy and fatty a meat or other product is, the cheaper it is. Food insecurity means making odd meals such as egg salad spaghetti, and hot dog omelettes [don't ask].
There are a few cheap win-win foods such as dry beans, broccoli, and carrots but overall your poor American isn't making salads with 6 different sliced vegetables on them and a good vinaigrette, they are down at McDonald's buying the dollar meal for themselves and their kids because to buy the makings for the salad, would set them back at least 20 bucks for one meal.
Whole Foods and stores like it, can almost be like a dream world to the poor gazing upon the aisles of healthy food, drooling, knowing eating it would make them feel better, rather then bloated and hungry for more, from the low quality stuff, but then who has 300-400 bucks a week for groceries? Looking at their "meal of the week" page; and the requirements to make those foods, there's a few on there that would set you back 30 bucks per meal.
Rich people have more leisure time to take walks, go on vacations where physical exercise is fun and not a boring chore and to put thousands of dollars into busy activities, sports equipment, team and gym memberships. Joe Six-Pack or a "Plugger" [see the cartoon above], after a day of sitting at the drill press [or now in our economy sloughing depressed through the want ads at employment agencies] comes home to eat, rest and watch television before another day of drudgery, and is too tired to feel the enthusiasm to exercise. Sometimes the only pleasure he can afford outside of cable TV is what he will have for dinner that night.
But that said, fat discrimination is a new weapon in both sides of the divide class warfare. Many a fat person can attest to the endless job discrimination even an extra 40lbs can bring. Studies have found just being fat can knock off thousands of dollars off your salary. Social class is already visible according to body weight. The rich are becoming lean aristocrats with the financial and other resources to control obesity. An upper middle class or richer person can grill some salmon, vegetables and make watercress salad. The poor is relegated far too often to cheap processed foods, that barely resemble the real thing. Healthwise in America, the rich and poor live in different worlds.
Add to this that food processers abuse the human system of hunger to make money. They add sugar, which has an addictive quality and makes people inclined to eat more. Grease and hydrogenated fats add more taste but also leads to more obesity. Salt is literally poured into food as well to cover the fact it has little taste. In addiction add in the higher stress of trying to make ends meet, and the feeling of feast or famine as a person lives paycheck to paycheck, and the outcome is not good.
Now we have this new "war on obesity" and these factors are ignored. They repeat the same answers over and over, but no one addresses the food and money connection. No one addresses the fact that too many Americans live a life where they are like gerbils on a hamster wheel spinning around, where high stress and bad food, comingle into a one bad formula. America is getting fatter. The usual overused answers are failing. Greed is ruining intellectual honesty. Greed is making us fat with adulterated food.


  1. One of the Crueler aspects of being fat and poor is the assumption that poverty would lead to weight loss if it were real poverty. But I gained so much when down to 1 meal a was crappy carby food of course and cheap. $1 on a bell pepper and cucumber or $1 for a bag of rice that lasts one should have to make these choices

  2. Most of my weight gain went crazy the poorer I was, and I don't think the stress helped. I actually spend way too much money on food, and I guess I got to the point where I thought if I can get a hold of it, Im going to get it, some of digestive allergies kind of forced the issues and keeping the diabetes straight. Yeah I used to jump for the bag of rice, I almost live more for the moment now in the way I buy food now because my body wants the proteins and meats. [Yeah I do get food insecure and hate when I'm lower on food, but at least there is some decent stuff going in some of the time] I even bought a water melon I can barely afford that I plan to eat later and some dairy free pesto which I really could not afford but figured it would flavor a few meals.

  3. correction above, wants the vegetables and proteins.