Friday, February 22, 2013

Lead Us Not Into (Yummy) Temptation

On Sunday, the first in Lent, we heard about Jesus in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. I did address temptations in my message trying to look at the big picture of what draws us into compromised spiritual health.

What about the temptations for our bodies, including what we have all learned to call junk food? I don't think that the term "junk food" existed when I was a young 'un. Oh sure, there were potato chips and Wonder bread (although only whole grains in our household.) Pizza places were virtually non-existent, Macdonalds and its spawn didn't start sprouting up until I was almost a teen, and we just didn't purchase soft drinks except on special occasions. It meant that if we were going to supersize ourselves we would have to do it the old fashioned way.

Jesus was offered three temptations, and so are we according to a New York Times article: salt, sugar, and fat. The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food by Michael Moss looks at the craving industry, which has become a finely tuned "eat me, eat me" enterprise. In the article Moss recounts listening to a vice-president of Kraft foods:

Mudd then did the unthinkable. He drew a connection to the last thing in the world the C.E.O.’s wanted linked to their products: cigarettes. First came a quote from a Yale University professor of psychology and public health, Kelly Brownell, who was an especially vocal proponent of the view that the processed-food industry should be seen as a public health menace: “As a culture, we’ve become upset by the tobacco companies advertising to children, but we sit idly by while the food companies do the very same thing. And we could make a claim that the toll taken on the public health by a poor diet rivals that taken by tobacco."

We now have high levels of the three temptations in virtually everything, including "good" foods. General Mills' Yoplait yoghurt has more sugar than its Lucky Charms cereal.  When I succumb to a fast food craving I'm thirsty forever and ever. Amen. Saaallllttt! Yuummmyyy!

Speaking of the Lord's Prayer, I don't really consider that when I pray "lead us not into temptation" I might be referring to what I put in my mouth. When we had a parish nurse we made more of an effort to emphasize healthy living and eating as an aspect of our faith. Maybe we should find a way to revive that focus.

Or not. Should we just leave this one be? Should we all have been encouraged to give up the Big Three food temptations for Lent?  Or is this each individual's business?


IanD said...

I just finished reading this piece yesterday, and despite its length (fourteen pages) it's absolutely riveting. The senses of repentance each of these men (who helped 'optimize' many junk foods so as to maximize sales) is palpable. It also explains, to a large degree, how the obesity epidemic founds its legs back in '80s.

Insofar as personal choice goes, I think everyone is free to make their own nutritional choices. That said, there comes a point where the question must be asked, "at what point could your personal choices adversely affect the collective?"

If I choose to start smoking now, and not stop for 30 years, I will most likely compromise my respiratory health. Treatment for my emphysema or lung cancer (or whatever) would then tax the health care system more, say, than a person who made a better choice in this respect.

Are the consequences of my questionable health choice to then be assumed by the rest of us? Is that fair, or right, given that the choice I've made (smoking, in this case) and its consequences are known to be negative?

Could this same logic be applied to issues of diet and exercise as applied to the health fallout brought on by bad choices in this area?

roger said...

So much for pizza friday!

I echo Ian's thoughts about how our choices impact society in general.

Of course people have the right to choose what they eat, or whether or not they smoke. Nobody can claim to be perfect. I have to admit, it frustrates me to see so many people lighting up, especially younger people, who have had tons of education about the dangers of smoking.

Anonymous said...

In regards to the personal choice aspect of this debate, I think it is worth asking ourselves why people chose to eat so poorly. I know several people who eat poorly because it is what they can afford. The sad fact is that unhealthy choices are often made based on poor financial health, it is a downward spiral. In some respects the collective have agreed to a divide - those who can afford to make wise food choices, and those who cannot. Food for thought.

Anonymous said...

I didn't quite finish that thought. I think the collective must be responsible for the health costs incured by poor nutrition. Just as we fell asleep about the ways in which our lifestyle has affected the environment, we fell asleep here as well. We made unconscious agreements along the way. Our planet and our bodies have suffered.If we don't take responsiblity for the problems we created en masse, we are victimizing many people twice. Although not everyone making poor choices can't afford not to, it would be impossible to quantify who could have escaped and who was virtually trapped. Put another way, it sucks to be poor.