Speaking as an overweight poor American, I’ve had enough of unknowledgeable right-wing BS on this point. So let’s look at a few realities, shall we?
(UPDATE 3 October 2008 with another possible reason.)
- Americans are overweight. What is it now, two-thirds of all adults? So all the reasons that apply to the non-poor also apply to us, and some even more to us, such as advertising, cheap and convenient bad food, the corporate-owned USDA “nutrition” guidelines all these years, little else available all these years what with overrefined grains and vegetables, an increasingly-sedentary workstyle and lifestyle, TV-watching, computer-watching like you and I are doing right now, no time for exercise, the automotive lifestyle, etc etc etc. But more specifically:
- Many of us poor have health problems that cause weight gain or interfere with weight loss, directly or indirectly; in my case, IBS and “nonspecific ambulatory painful foot syndrome” – an uncompensated work injury.
- Many of us poor are from cultures / races / ethnicities especially sensitive to the traditional Northern European diet of the U.S.
- Supermarkets and grocery stores move out of poor neighborhoods; “convenience” stores and liquor stores move in.
- Sometimes when you’re down on your luck, you just say, “Screw it,” and indulge.
- Even if you’re not so unlucky, we too have holidays, barbeques, birthdays, graduations, where we don’t wanna eat just broccoli like those Puritans would have us do!
- We disabled or unemployed get more TV advertising thrown at us at home, including for bad food.
- For those of us working two or three jobs to stay afloat, Whole Foods and PCC aren’t open 24/7, while 7-11 is.
- And even if they were, who can afford them?! Health food is more expensive than the crap.
- As the Salon article points out, high fructose corn syrup and other bad things are federally subsidized, holding down their cost. (Talk about gummint programs!)
- Every time my SSI Disability goes up, my Food Stamps go down, robbing me of some of my “cost of living adjustment.” The poor get poorer….
- Some of us can’t stand at a kitchen counter long enough to prepare a “home-cooked meal,” like because of my feet problem, so we have to “outsource” some of that to convenience and microwave foods.
- For us Indians, cows vs. bison!
- Government butter and cheese and cow’s milk and peanut butter programs: Are they intentionally fattening us up?!!! And then complaining about it?!!!
- Of course they aren’t. Fats are calorie-dense and thus tax-dollar-efficient; it takes fewer of them to provide basic energy than carbohydrates or proteins. They also help you feel satisfied sooner when eating them. Sounds like a hunger panacea, right? WRONG!
- This one from my own IBS-Diarrhea perspective: When health foods push “high fiber,” usually it means insoluble fiber, the kind that goes right through you, rather than soluble fiber, the kind that absorbs intestinal fluid and bulks-up, passing more slowly and humanely. Perhaps when some had a bad experience with the former, they said, “Forget this!” (NB: Everybody needs both. The traditional US diet – starches and proteins, aka meat-n-potatoes – hugely lacks both. The average “healthy diet” here probably contains too much insoluble and not enough soluble fiber. Some packages are starting to list these separately. Thank you!)
- This one may date me, but for many perhaps health foods are associated with different people, such as health-food freaks, Fundamentalists, liberals, suburbanites, the rich, Protestants, the anal-retentive, perfectionists, Californians, the educated, etc.: an image problem.
- If you’ve got a family, the cost goes even higher than for an individual like me.
- How many health-clubs get built in poor neighborhoods? And who can afford them anyway?! And are they 24/7?!
- City parks cutbacks.
- A short-term or temporary mistake or bad luck, you can pay for the rest of your life: diabetes, overdrinking, overeating, blowing-off exercise, depression-eating, etc. It’s harder to lose it than to put it on. Maybe you weren’t poor when you started out, became poor, and now can’t get out so easily as someone with more money can.
- Historically speaking, before the Enclosure of the Commons forced many of the poor to work for wages in the cities’ industries (owned or invested-in by their rural landlords!), they had family farms they worked, with all that physical exertion and relative self-sufficiency to boot. Here in America we never even had a chance!
- It’s possible many of us aren’t aware of what would be better for us, or aren’t used to caring about it. That’s certainly the kind of lower-working-class eating atmosphere I grew up in, and I’m middle-aged. Not everybody’s as ‘plugged-in’ to food/health media or information as I happen to be right now, disabled with time on my hands, or having worked as a journalist for a while, or spent much of the ’90s as a vegan.
There’s probably lots more I haven’t thought of.