food status

Food as Status

Stop buying stupid things.

A common form of objection when it comes to eating healthy food is cost. Recently, eating quality food has been referred to as a form of elitism because it costs more than it does to eat comparable amounts of junk food. Does food as status really make sense?

I must clarify here that when I refer to healthy food I mean unprocessed food. Yes, there are hundreds of products and significant shelf space at the Whole Paycheck store dedicated to providing consumers with well-marketed crap like organic toaster pastries and cheesy poofs. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about meat and vegetables. Food.

Even in this context, I frequently hear “That kind of stuff is too expensive. I can’t afford to eat like that.”

“Expensive compared to what?” is my favorite response. It comes down to a matter of priorities.

From the viewpoint of a calorie to calorie comparison it does cost more to eat healthily than it does to suck down a 49 cent Big Gulp while eating something off the value menu at a drive through. Many people theorize that this is the reason why the best predictor of obesity is income level.

A dollar spent in the aisle in the middle of the grocery store can purchase 1,200 calories worth of cookies, soda and miscellaneous junk, while that same dollar will only purchase 250 calories worth of carrots.

Three points must be considered here.

One: The cookies are going to worsen your physical and eventually emotional health while the carrots would improve it.

Two: We live in a country in which two thirds of adults are overweight, and the children are rapidly catching up. We also have one of the most sedentary populations on the planet. Is under-consumption of calories ever really a problem here?

Three: Cigarette smoking also statistically increases at lower income levels. Obviously this is not for reasons of economically driven logic.

Using a strict calorie comparison to determine the value of a food is nonsensical and a terribly short-term perspective at best. Have you ever stopped to consider the long-term implications of a low-quality diet? How much is diabetes treatment going to cost you in the future? What about buying bigger pants every couple of years? How much would it be worth it to you to be able to play basketball with your future kids without risking a heart attack because your body is so feeble?

It has been estimated that if no one in America were overweight the savings on fuel, medical, food and other combined expenses would be enough to give every U.S. household $4,000.

A recent study demonstrated that obese Americans cost their employers approximately 45 billion dollars per year due to increased medical costs, diminished productivity and increased absenteeism.

Health economists from the Milken Institute estimate that if nobody in this country were obese, the gains in added output from workers would provide a 257 billion dollar boost to the economy.

The national and global economies are fairly abstract, though. Nobody is really going to be motivated by the thought of doing something small to benefit a whole bunch of people that they will never meet unless it’s in a traffic jam.

How will your food choices eventually impact you, personally?

The psychological principle of the “Halo Effect” has documented that individuals thought to be more physically attractive are also automatically assumed to be more intelligent, honest and dependable. Often, the first and most prominent trait assessed about a person colors the manner in which all other traits are perceived. Physical appearance is one of the easiest things to quickly perceive in a person, and that perception will affect the way all subsequent perceptions are made. First impressions matter.

Research has shown that people who are not obese are paid higher salaries, are more likely to be married, sleep better, are promoted more often and have better sex lives. That’s right; it actually costs you money and a lot more to be fat.

Next time you’re at the grocery store debating between the broccoli and the Doritos, apply some long-term thinking to the puzzle. The only way the junk option is cheaper is if you only consider how it will affect you for the next five minutes.

Does this mean that you’re “elitist” because you spend more money up-front for quality food because the long term benefits are greater? No more so than would making sound financial investments or any other form of planning. “Intelligent” is probably a better term.


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