We Are What We Eat

            Eating delicious food is perhaps an activity that is enjoyed by many. The majority of people believe that it is okay to gorge oneself and be a glutton during special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas with dishes drenched with gravy and many sweets and desserts. This can rack up the calories including an increase of salt and sugar intake. However, it is certainly not right for a person to have bad eating habits regularly, such as eating instant ramen every day, as it is considered unhealthy. There is a common saying that some people like to throw in a conversation when it comes to the eating habits of others: You are what you eat.

We tend to condemn others for their bad eating habits by categorizing them as people who have no control, repulsive, slobs, lazy, or getting what they deserve when their health deteriorates with conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. We may stereotype and blame those people without truly comprehending the reasons as to why they might have made harmful decisions. However, I believe that we should try not to blame the individual solely, and instead examine the factors that influence the individual to create a habit of unhealthy eating. Within the United States, there exist many reasons that drive people to choose unhealthy eating. These reasons are what anthropologists call structures.

Perhaps one of the main reasons as to why people choose to eat foods rich in calories but lacking in nutrition is because we are just too busy to bother with a healthy and nutritious meal. Anthropologist Charles N. Darrah, along with his cohorts, has studied the relationships between busyness and the societal structures in his book Busier Than Ever! With the costs of living rising and the bills still piling up, families and individuals are scrambling to put together enough money in order to survive another day. It has become the norm for both the father and mother to be working in order to bring enough bread back home, while the existence of a stay-at-home mother is dwindling. In this kind of situation we must sometimes prioritize what is more important: paying the bills so we won’t lose our house, the electricity, and water, versus having a healthy meal. Of course having a healthy meal may not always mean a long and arduous process of slaving in the kitchen, but it can sometimes make the difference in money.

Eating healthy at times can be expensive in both time and money and this influences our agency, or choices. Take for example a meal at a fast food restaurant such as McDonald’s versus buying a Caesar salad. Fast food restaurants are not only fast, but also cheap as they may have dollar menus. In comparison, a salad can cost up to six dollars. Although a salad is healthier and better in the long run, the dollar menu is cheaper and allows people to save money while also relieving their hunger right now. This is probably why instant ramen has become so popular in the world today. Instant ramen is consumed within groups but perhaps the heaviest users are those who are poor and those who have a limited option. The noodles are quick to make, satisfy hunger, and taste decent. . In addition, sometimes we are just so tired that we do not want to invest our energy in cooking a meal at home.

Mothers are cornered when it comes to being both a mother and an employee. In the United States, we don’t always expect men and fathers to be able to cook, and we justify the ability to make something inedible to the male population. However, a mother has to work a double shift of child care and as an employee at a work place. Of course, we can argue that some men have taken on a share of the burden of child care, however, we still expect women to be the primary caregiver. It’s no surprise that some families are eating unhealthier when mothers are busier yet we still expect them to make time in order to cook a homemade meal.

Eating unhealthy foods like instant ramen noodles and canned food such as Ravioli and Campbell soup are eaten for different reasons across different social classes. Perhaps one may consume these products for pleasure or taste, however, there are those who rely on these products out of necessity. As a child with a working mother and father, easy meals for a kid to cook included instant ramen and heating canned foods in the microwave. However, these foods are not limited to children as adults also consume them. Being a college student, I tend to rely more and more on unhealthy eating habits. Although I realize that in the future I may be in danger of getting high blood pressure by consuming many instant ramen noodles, it has become a choice in order to save money and time. Eating lunch at a university every single day can become expensive if one spends about five dollars a day. This can rack up to one hundred dollars a month for lunch only. In comparison, instant noodles can be less than a dollar for one cup, being only twenty dollars in a month for lunch. I can also use it as a quick snack during my breaks while studying for my tests or writing papers as they can be cooked in a minute.

Let’s try not to blame others and be so quick to be judgmental when they practice bad eating habits. For all we know they might have good reasons why. We should consider ourselves fortunate if we can afford the time and money to eat healthy while others cannot because they are just too busy to have time or because they cannot afford to due to money constraints. We really are what we eat as the types of food we consume can be used to define who we are and what we go through.

by Pao Yang

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