Banks County Opinions...

SEPTEMBER 4, 2002


Column

By: Jana Adams
The Banks County News
September 4, 2002

Nothing if not contradictory
Obesity, obesity, Americans are increasingly obese. It’s the cry of the media these days, with sidebars on related health problems such as diabetes and heart disease and how children and adults today are more overweight than they’ve ever been. Add that to the ongoing cries that we are “busier and more hurried than ever” (and eat out more often) and the unhealthy cycle is perpetuated over and over.
Well, our society is nothing if not contradictory.
Stick-thin models and super-buff bodies are on display to show girls and boys (and men and women) what they should be — TV commercials, music videos, print ads and (don’t get me started) women’s magazines featuring “perfect” people are intermingled with “you gotta eat” flashes of giant burgers, fried chicken and, yes, the ever-addictive french fries. Immediate gratification and everything in a hurry even as we are encouraged to “learn to relax” and “manage our time” are the generalizations.
Be thin! “society” clamors, in one way or another, surely having little to do with health concerns, even as soft drink sales soar, fast food is a way of life and “biggie size” is to be had for an extra handful of change. A tub of coke, too big to lift in one hand, a slab of meat, no, make that three...What is the point in this? Is the fast food industry in cahoots with the producers of fat-burning miracle pills that you take at night so you can wake up in a new body?
“Studies show”....that’s so cliché, but there it is. Studies show a direct correlation between soft drinks and obesity in children, for example (and that’s not to mention the increasing cuts in physical education time at school). In the past couple of weeks, some California schools have elected to do away with their soft drink vending machines in an effort to reduce student obesity. They will lose a lot of money, no doubt, as will the soft drink industry, if that is a trend that continues and becomes more widespread. Yet the study results are not comforting. One report from a Boston, Mass., hospital showed that the average teen consumes an added 15 to 20 teaspoons of sugar a day from soft drinks. It’s a nauseating thought, all those spoons of sugar lined up for you to eat, one at a time.
Maybe more isn’t always the best thing.
There is something to be said about personal responsibility, of being aware of what you are being sold and what you are consuming, as best you can. Wasn’t there a proposed lawsuit by a man who wanted to sue McDonald’s because the food makes people overweight? Are the food and drink industries really going to be concerned with your health, rather than with sales? They might like for us to think they are, and might, in fact, be misleading from time to time, and that’s where the lawsuits come in.
Most people know fast food is bad for us — we know it is loaded with fat and calories, but maybe we just don’t think about how much and maybe we just don’t want to. But maybe we really didn’t know french fries were cooked in beef fat, rather than the vegetable oil touted by some food chains. Why would that be advertised? If you think of it in terms of the number of spoons of sugar, or worse, spoons of greasy fat, it becomes infinitely less palatable. We eat it and drink it. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s relatively cheap and, face it, a lot of times it tastes good and satisfies a craving.
I’m not pointing fingers at anyone here for their eating habits. I love french fries and other unfortunately unhealthy foods as much as the next person — they are a guilty pleasure, a comfort food, a craving satisfied and a convenience.
But it’s still good to try to be aware, to not be sucked in by either end of the contradictory social spectrum, if possible, from the too-thin “should be’s” to the too-heavy “could be’s.”A difficult prospect, perhaps.
So, you know a burger and fries aren’t good for you (although you may choose to indulge from time to time), but what about the “healthier” offerings?
I like to eat out, more than I should, maybe, since I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t really count on being able to “eat healthy” eating out very often. From the giant portions that can be as much as three times a “normal serving” to the hidden pitfalls of excess sugar and fat where you didn’t expect it, the trapdoors are there. Sometimes you just don’t want to know, you just want to enjoy. But if you are trying to “eat better,” it’s better to be informed.
On a recent work day, when I didn’t bring my lunch, I thought I’d try a salad. Something somewhat green for a change, right? Instead of the hamburger and fries I craved. I went to a local fast food restaurant drive-thru and ordered a “spring mix” salad. Out of curiosity, to see if I really was being healthy, I looked at the (lack of) nutrition information on the back of the dressing package. Oh...20 grams of fat. I should’ve just eaten a couple of candy bars and been done with it. I felt gypped, for me, and for all those other people who think “Salad, that must be good for me, if I’m going to eat out.”
I laughed listening to the radio the other day to some sort of spoof on salad eaters. I don’t remember the exact context, but the premise was making fun of the idealistic “I am so healthy, I eat a salad when I go out,” going on to describe the taco salad with the ground beef, olives, sour cream, cheese, chips and so forth atop three pieces of lettuce. Sad, but true. Wash it down with a tub of soft drink, and there you go.
We’d all be better off packing something light and nutritious for lunch every day, but some french fries and a coke sure would taste good about now, wouldn’t they?
Should we sue because we were lured in for a grease and sugar fix? Could we?
Maybe we’ll stop off for some fries, a salad and a soft drink on our way to purchase the latest midriff-baring fashions, a bottle of overnight miracle pills and a magazine to guide us on how we should be perfect without any real effort.
Jana Adams is features editor of The Jackson Herald and a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.

Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
T
he Banks County News
September 4, 2002

Wives’ Tales abound even in 2002
Any pregnant woman can attest that everyone has an old wives’ tale to impart about how best to tell the sex of the baby they’re carrying. Yet you’ll never hear: “if the ultrasound technician sees a penis, then it’s a boy” or “if the 23rd chromosome is an X X, then it’s a girl.” After all that would be too technical to be imparted from generation to generation and it lacks the aura of a good story (though if the ultrasound is wrong it does make for a good story). So I thought I’d take a moment to do a little old wives’ say vs. modern technology.
So-If there’s extra weight out front, it’s a girl and if all the weight is around the hips and bottom, it’s a boy. Not true. Shorter people carry babies out front and a wide belly usually indicates the baby is sideways.
And another one-If the baby is carrying low, then it’s a boy and if the baby is carrying high, then it’s a girl. Still not a spec of truth. First-time pregnancies often carry higher because the muscles have not been stretched as yet by a nine pound bundle of joy.
My favorite one-Hold a ring above your belly—if it swings from side to side, it’s a girl, in a circle, it’s a boy. Do you think perhaps God has to hold his sides from laughing so hard as he watches us do this?
But there are old wives tales not related to pregnancy. You may even have heard them and not realized they were created by an overactive imagination and superstition.
For instance, feed a cold, starve a fever. Completely false. Both fevers and colds cause fluid loss and depriving your body of nutrients will only make you sicker.
Here’s another good one I completely believed (Mom, I hope you’re reading this one): Wait an hour after eating to go swimming. This is false. I know, it’s hard for me to swallow, too. I had bought and framed this little superstition as fact. I was convinced that if I got out of the water, ate a Cheese It and jumped back into the water, my body would have cramps and I would drown. The truth is the American Red Cross says it is not necessary for you to wait to swim after eating UNLESS you eat a large meal and plan on rigorously swimming, you know like the 500 meter dash.
Some more wives’ tales moms everywhere should take note of are: Caffeine will stunt your growth. It won’t. It’s not good for you, but it won’t do anything to your growth. Not drinking your milk on the other hand—well, that you must do. And the green vegetables are not a wives’ tale, they really are good for you. But carrots won’t really improve your eyesight. The origins of the carrot eating wives’ tale may be WWII when British intelligence spread a rumor that their pilots had remarkable night vision because they ate lots of carrots. They didn’t want the Germans to know they were using radar. (Isn’t that a riot? Now I’m holding my sides because I’m laughing so hard.) Carrots will maintain healthy eyesight, but eating carrots all day long won’t help you get rid of the glasses.
Some foods have gotten a bad reputation thanks to old wives’ tales. For instance, chocolate will not cause acne and spicy foods will not cause ulcers though they will aggravate an existing ulcer. Ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection or an overuse of pain medications like Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
And have you heard this one? “If you go outside with that wet head, you’ll catch a cold.” Next time you hear it, nicely tell your grandmother that cold weather, wet hair and chills don’t cause colds, viruses do. People tend to catch colds more often in the winter because that is when they are most likely to be indoors in dry air (which is good for the viruses and bad for you).
Here’s another one both my parents need to hear—Reading in dim light will not damage your eyes. So I do not wear glasses because I read under the covers with a flashlight when you called lights out. So there. Dim lighting will only cause eye fatigue. And sitting too close to the TV also didn’t do anything to my eyes. Watching too much TV or sitting too close to the TV doesn’t have any effect on your eyesight. But watching too much TV can cause obesity, aggressive behavior and a tendency to learn slower in school.
Another false supposition is that knuckle cracking leads to arthritis. It doesn’t though it can lead to hand swelling, decreased grip strength and can result in functional hand impairment. Now that’s a mouthful. Say it three times fast. Can you see why someone just said it leads to arthritis?
And the #1 old wives’ tale that is not true: “If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way.” They won’t.
Oh, but the loud music, it really can cause you to go deaf. So turn it down like your mother asked.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.

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