Christmas Cigarettes

December 17, 2005 | 75 comments
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Imagine that universally-respected researchers had determined that most of the people in your community eat far more sugar and fat than they should, and are at serious risk of developing diabetes, hardened arteries, and other ailments associated with poor diet and inadequate exercise. If you were to live in such a community, how much sugar-filled and fat-laden goodies would you give your neighbors at Christmastime?

Much of the food we eat has negative utility — the world would be better off if it were packed into trash cans instead of our arteries and derriers. For that reason I now throw away junk food. For example, after a party, when the cake and ice cream have served their purpose (drawing people together to celebrate) I believe the best end for the remaining half of the delicious cake is to wallow in a landfill. (I suppose that it would make decent compost for a garden, but I have neither garden nor compost pile.)

We are complicit in each other’s poor eating habits; it’s not coincidental that oversized pants aren’t randomly distributed across families or across nations. It seems we must take responsibility for the ways we make our neighbors less healthy, just as we must begin to recognize the impact we have on each other’s consumption habits (excessive debt and bankruptcies aren’t randomly distributed, either, but that’s a topic for another day.)

At least this is the dilemma I’m chewing as I consider what to give to our neighbors along with copies of Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.

75 Responses to Christmas Cigarettes

  1. Julie M. Smith on December 17, 2005 at 10:26 am

    Very interesting, Matt. I know people who avoid social activities–including church ones–because they don’t want to face down a groaning dessert buffet. I know people who work through mental agony (“Should? Shouldn’t I? Would one be OK?”) while they attend these things instead of enjoying the event.

    It seems to me that the overriding problem is that social occassions are pretty much defined by food. (I had similar thoughts on my Gentile wedding thread–but there the issue was cost, not health.) I wonder if we could have social events where the food was no bigger deal than the collection of coats and the emphasis and activity was on something else. What would that even look like?

  2. greenfrog on December 17, 2005 at 10:53 am

    Nice post; good point.

  3. Heather Oman on December 17, 2005 at 11:56 am

    What’s wrong with a social occasion being defined by food? Everybody likes food! And who says you have to serve yucky, bad for you food at any given social occasion? People like to get together, and if you want to have a social gathering that lasts any longer than 3 hours, you should have some kind of food. But you don’t have to have a groaning dessert buffet—you can have different kinds of bread, or cheeses, or fruit, or a veggie tray, or hummus and Pita chips, etc, etc, etc. There are lots of ways to have munchies that don’t have to offend your waistline, or the diabetics at the party. Unless there is a dinner promised, most people are not that picky about what food they eat at a party–they just want lots of it.

    FYI- Matt, ice cream and cake would not make good compost. Baked goods are a no-no in a compost pile–they attract rats.

  4. Heather Oman on December 17, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    Still, Matt, just to clarify, I DO understand your point :), and I think it is a good one to consider this time of year when we contemplate what gifts to give others. I had a teacher tell me that if she got one more cannister full of candy from her students for Christmas, she was going to throw up. I quietly put away the cannister of candy I had planned for her, and gave her a nice poinsettia, instead.

    But the hard part is that there is so much holiday tradition that involves elaborate treats, so getting rid of tasty and not so good for you snacks may also entail changing major family traditions as well as basic eating habits. That’s a little tougher, I think.

  5. Wilfried on December 17, 2005 at 1:30 pm

    Very useful post, Matt. Not that it will change much to culturally and commercially pushed traditions, but we need to be reminded and it might help trigger something for the better here and there. I would like to see the Church more involved in the problem, which is basically tied to the Word of Wisdom (is it not hypocrisy to make a fuss about a cup of tea while swallowing for years junkfood and soft drinks…). A problem is also that the Church is exporting these gift & eating traditions surreptitiously abroad through its programs and missionaries. Oh, and allow me to refer to my post Sweet spirit… Do you have candy?

  6. Tatiana on December 17, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    I have this problem myself, being diabetic, and yet, I don’t think I’d want others to give up their treats and traditions to spare me temptation. I like to think of it as an opportunity for me to grow in strength and purpose to do what I know is right. I’m making goodies for the whole family for Christmas. Am I strong enough to eat only an appropriate amount? (I can healthily consume about one bite a day of most any treat, be it ever so carb-loaded.) We shall see. :-)

    I remember when my nieces were young, how much joy we would get from going on trips to the toy store to buy whatever we dreamed of, (usually Barbies or something pink and glittery for them, and some kind of building toy for me). One time when we went, one of my nieces (whose family is well-off) could not find a single thing in all of Toys R Us that she wanted that she didn’t already have. I remember thinking how sad it was to become just a little too privileged in that way.

    As regards food, I’m in that same position that I’m a bit too privileged. So my challenge is to deny myself willingly often enough that an occasional treat can come as a blessing and a joy. I will do my best to give that food to someone else, to whom it will be a welcome delight, and retain enough lack myself to rekindle the goodness that occasional treats can bring.

  7. Kaimi Wenger on December 17, 2005 at 7:05 pm

    Matt,

    I’m getting together a few bucks from everyone for a group gift for you. We’re going to get you a pack of Marlboros for Christmas. Or, if you prefer, Camels. (Maybe that Turkish Gold stuff — let me know your preferences.)

  8. Bookslinger on December 17, 2005 at 7:22 pm

    Most of the time I’m good and don’t eat sweets or sugary desserts at home, restaurants, church dinners, firesides, family-home-evenings, etc. Maybe 85% of the time I am able to exert the will-power and abstain. But sometimes I cave and buy Doritos (high calorie, high fat chips) or microwave popcorn at the store.

    I am disgusted at the bad eating habits of Mormons in general. I decided quite some time ago to not worry about offending those who offer me foods with excess calories. “No thanks” is an acceptable answer when people offer you unhealthy food. Though I have to admit that I eat too much healthy food in terms of quantity, and am almost 40 pounds above my ideal weight of 180..

    I see nothing wrong with having food at church events. But why does it always have to be such unhealthy food? Don’t parents realize that while most kids can burn off all those calories, they are addicting them to sugar and fat and to a lifetime of obesity when they get older and continue eating sugar and fat in the same proportions?

    We have a morbidly obese primary teacher who feeds her class microwave popcorn which is extremely high in saturated fat. Her morbidly obese mother’s contribution to every pot-luck dinner is a dessert that is almost entirely sugar and syrup. What frosts me is not what they do to their own bodies, they’re adults and have agency, but they are passing along their “eating lifestyle” and sugar/fat addiction not only to their own children, but also to the primary children.

    Thank the Lord I don’t have any children, because I’d forbid them in a primary class where they were fed high calorie foods.

    We have a morbidly obese member who throws candy and high-calorie junk food at her morbidly obese children as their after-church snack to tide them over until they get home. Her 12 year old son, though tall, looks like he weighs at least 300 pounds, and her 9 year old son looks like he weighs at least 200. I think it’s a form of abuse because she has made them physically ill with what she feeds them and has addicted them to.

    In the book of Daniel “sweet meats,” which were portrayed as evil and ungodly, were not sugar-coated beef, pork, lamb, goat, or chicken. It was candy, pies, cakes, sweets, desserts. “Meat” in the KJV translation does not specifically mean flesh, but usually meant flour-based foods (ie, meat offering of the Mosaic law) or just food in general.

    If I’m ever assigned to talk about the Word of Wisdom, I’ll barely mention coffee/tea, tobacco, and alcohol. I’ll spend most of my time preaching against “sweet meats” and fat.

    Heather, good point about having munchies that don’t offend waistlines or diabetics. Veggie and fruit trays can be cheap if you buy the unprepared items and cut them up yourself as opposed to ready-made party trays.

  9. Pam W. on December 17, 2005 at 7:56 pm

    Excellent point — this is something I’ve ruminated on as well. I like to give edible gifts at Christmastime, but I figure there’s no reason to give them in mass quantities. I’m making frozen cinnamon roll dough this year as “neighbor gifts,” but just giving about one cinnamon roll per person in decorative little bags. That way I’m not responsible for too many extra calories.

  10. Susan M on December 17, 2005 at 8:43 pm

    I’m diabetic too, and I was raised on sugar and junk food. I consider myself a recovering sugar addict, and I will not allow much sugar in the house. Cookies and cake are the hardest things for me to resist. I can do it now, much better than I used to, but if it’s left lying around too long I have to get rid of it.

    I feel bad about how deprived my kids are–my oldest doesn’t even like cake. If I get a box of donuts as a treat (which is very rare) I have to make sure there’s an even number for every kid or something we refer to as Donut Wars breaks out.

    The last ward we lived in was the WORST for handing out candy. Every Sunday but Fast Sunday, the kids got candy from their primary classes. And every Sunday but Fast Sunday, the Gospel Doctrine teacher passed around a basket of candy for the adults. (He was a sales rep for Hershey.) It was insane how much sugar was in that building every weekend. But when the RS Presidency realized I was diabetic, they started including things like pretzels and nuts in the basket of (full-sized) candybars that got passed around in RS.

  11. Tyler on December 17, 2005 at 8:54 pm

    Here, here, Matt! This actually became a point of some contention in our ward a few years back when a recent bypass-surgery survivor showed up at a ward activity to find only hearty steaks were being served for dinner and only sumptuous cake after that. He was furious, and with good reason. Sometimes I wonder how much good we undue by our mass sugar/fat consumption. Many of us stringently follow the WoW’s guidelines concerning alcohol/tobacco etc., but pretend it says nothing about grains and meat. I am as guilty as the rest, but I wish we could change this. Imagine if all members worked together to exert peer pressure on one another to encourage carrots and wheat bread instead of fudge and brownies.

    We already do a good job in so many things, we ought to add this to the list.

    Incidentally, a Sister in our ward once sent out a flyer about a month before Christmas explaining that her family had decided to forego the giving or “treats” that season. Instead, they were going to send out cars and use the saved money to buy gifts for a needy family; she invited those interested to join in her crusade. Many in the ward did so and our waists were thinner and our spirits grander that season than ever before. Perhaps we could all put this suggestion to use. In any case, and Richard Johnson has pointed out, it is tragic and perhaps sinful to gorge ourselves when others starve.

  12. Tyler on December 17, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    Sorry to post this question here, but I’m new to blogging and don’t know where else to ask it. If I have an idea I would like to see discussed in this forum, can I propose it? Can I submit it? Can I start a discussion? If someone could answer these questions or at least tell me where to find the answers, I would appreciate it.

  13. Julie M. Smith on December 17, 2005 at 9:11 pm

    Tyler, you can email any permablogger at (first name) @ timesandseasons.org, but we can’t promise that we will post on it. M* (http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2005/02/03/new_feature_guest_posts) is the only blog that I know that actively solicits guest posts.

  14. Tyler on December 17, 2005 at 9:17 pm

    and who are the permabloggers?

  15. Julie M. Smith on December 17, 2005 at 9:24 pm

    Sorry. You can email me at julie at timesandseasons dot org (replace the word at with the @ and the word dot with a period) or you can go to the right column, click on author profiles, and see if anyone else looks better to you (grin).

  16. Jay S on December 17, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    Ok
    Lets all get off our high horses and reflect on the realities of the situation. For much of human history food has been scarce. It is hardwired into our bodies and minds to find food pleasurable. This has been compounded by thousands of years of tradition. The problem in our society is that we have too much abundance. This century, specifically the last half of this century, has presented a situation in America in which calories are cheap, and food abundant. I think we can all agree on this.

    Is overconsumption a problem? Yes. Is it the sole problem? No, overconsumption, combined with a lack of physical activity has presented a problem.

    But at least at social times, the food you described as having “negative utility” gains significant utility as a social facilitator. It is these fat and sugar laden foods, so tasty but so unhealthy, that have a long tradition as a social lubricant and gathering focus. If we are to use these foods, it is best to use them in times of celebration. The problem with these foods is not that they are eaten a few times at christmas, but consumed in greater and greater quantities throughout the year.

    Take dim sum. In Chinese culture these little “delights of the heart” are much loved. Delicious little delicacies that are eaten at special times. They provide much joy and reinforce the feeling of celebration. But in Hong Kong, as incomes have risen, people have taken to eating these treats every day. It has caused such a problem that the government has provided warnings about this.

    My point is this. If there is anytime to eat steak and cheese cake and fried twinkies and chao sui bao it is when we are surrounded by friends and family at special times. Now you may take issue, saying the joy of being together should be enough, but I don’t buy this argument. You go all out for special occasions (just as the temple is the best built, with the best materials and best furnishings).

    If we really are concerned about our neighbors and ward members, instead of eliminating the foods, simply provide smaller portions. When having a potluck, get the 8 inch plate instead of the 10. etc.

    A diet of icing isn’t advisable, but exclude it entirely and you only get toast.

  17. Sarah on December 17, 2005 at 11:37 pm

    What Jay S. said. I don’t give my Primary kids popcorn or other treats most of the year, but I didn’t think it was objectionable to have pumpkin pie at our November activty day, either. My dad taught me to be afraid of eating “bad” food — at least that’s what he thought he did — but all I got out of it was a solid case of “good grief, now he’s out of my way, I can finally have whatever I want to eat!” as soon as I was out of his house. It took two years to realize that I didn’t actually want chocolate milk at every meal (the dorm dining halls always had it, and it was more reliable in taste than the soda fountain.) And nearly that long to notice that cake tastes better when you don’t have it four days a week. His “one dessert a week” rule and screaming matches with my grandmother (whose major sin in life was letting me have a few Oreo cookies after school) also prompted a lot of silly dishonesty: I’d skip lunch two days in a row to spend the money on Tootsie Roll Pops and bubble gum after school, while he was still at work.

    Anyway, it’s not Christmas, Easter, Halloween or Mother’s Day feasts that worry me; it’s the eating at McDonald’s and Taco Bell every other day of the year. Feeding the missionaries proper healthy meals when you have them over will do more good than worrying about whether or not to give someone a plate of cookies next week.

  18. Kaimi Wenger on December 18, 2005 at 12:44 am

    Julie,

    Those crazy feminists at FMH also actively solicit guest posts. See http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?page_id=197 . Per their policy, one doesn’t need to be a feminist or a housewife to submit guest posts. (Though I suspect it wouldn’t hurt).

    I’ve considered submitting guest posts to both M* and FMH. It could be fun.

  19. jp in lv nv on December 18, 2005 at 12:49 am

    Kaimi, where do I send donations? But seriously, I think the problem with the whole “sweet thing” is that what else can Mormons eat at functions?,and Mormon women are some of the few remaining females that can and will cook. We don’t serve coffee, commonly low-cal, after Mass, we don’t drink wine and for crying out loud who doesn’t like a sugar cookie covered with frosting shaped like a Christmas Tree? The problem is recognizing an addiction/destructive behavior for what it is–a possible food addiction. Mormons have no outlet for addictions like smoking, drinking, etc. so I think often, Mormons use food as a substitute. I don’t really have an answer, but my choice for the potluck is always low-cal or fruit related.

  20. D-Train on December 18, 2005 at 4:34 am

    Tyler,

    I’d also suggest maybe hopping over to Blogger or another site and starting your own blog, if you’re into regularly posting stuff. Let people know your site (especially the folks at ldsblogs.org) and you’ll get a surprising number of readers.

  21. Dan in Baghdad on December 18, 2005 at 5:49 am

    JP (#19),

    There are plenty of healthy foods that are great to eat. Vegetable trays, spinach/artichoke dip, breadsticks… a lot of those things can be really good and healthy at the same time.

  22. Tyler on December 18, 2005 at 9:50 am

    D-Train,

    I started a blog. Where I do announce it on ldsblog.org? Thanks.

    P.S. If anyone is interested, I hope to use the blog to explore issues facing LDS medical students, nurses, doctors, etc. Please visit at mormondoctor.blogspot.com.

  23. Tatiana on December 18, 2005 at 10:10 am

    “and Mormon women are some of the few remaining females that can and will cook.” I’ve actually eaten plenty of delicious food cooked by men. Are women the only ones who are expected to cook? Statements like this don’t really send me running to the kitchen to whip up something tasty for the menfolk.

  24. queuno on December 18, 2005 at 10:39 am

    22 – Best way to get yourself noticed is to hire a bunch of people who invent their own identies and pick fights and post interesting fiction on your blog. Believe me … you’ll get noticed.

    I’m just waiting for someone to create a blog dedicated to Mormon computer science PhD students…

  25. Kaimi Wenger on December 18, 2005 at 11:22 am

    Dan in B.,

    “spinach-artichoke dip . . .”

    Well, sort of. You see, if you add enough cheese to your spinach-artichoke dip, it makes the leap from healthy to non-healthy pretty quickly.

    Alas, that’s how I like to make mine. :P

  26. cooper on December 18, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    It is unfortunate that overwieght people’s, smoker’s and drinkers’ sins are obvious to the eye and to those people who sit in judgement of them. Rarely, if ever, are they as bad as those sins that cannot be seen.

  27. Matt Evans on December 18, 2005 at 6:05 pm

    Jay and Sarah,

    I share your thought that it makes sense to spend more of our calorie budget during social celebrations like Christmas, and the corollary that we spend less on other days, but that ideal doesn’t really help me know what to give to my neighbors, most of whom haven’t, according to researchers, saved their calories for Christmas. Or to make the comparison to a financial budget explicit, even if you and I agree that we should budget our money so we can go on a fun vacation with our extended family, when it’s our turn to plan the family reunion and we know that most of our family members haven’t saved up, and are actually steeped in debt, how expensive of a trip should we plan? Lamenting that the rest of the family should have been more frugal the rest of the year isn’t really a plan.

    I’ve been leaning towards giving a goody, but a small portion, like Jay recommended, but that leads to the problem of Heather’s teacher — if everyone gives a small portion of unhealthy food, we’ll all end up with a lot of unhealthy food.

    Cooper,

    You raise a very important point, one worthy of a separate post: how do we address over-eating and under-activity (and their attendant effects) without stigmatizing those who overeat or underact, and without fueling the mindset of those struggling with bulemia and anorexia? In the grand scheme of things the health risks of being overweight aren’t too bad and must be placed in perspective. Lots of overweight people live long, happy lives, and maintaining a healthy weight certainly doesn’t ensure health. Maintaining the proper perspective in different settings is what I’m trying to figure out — and this week I’m trying to figure out whether I should give unhealthy food to my neighbors.

  28. Bookslinger on December 18, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    Cooper, I agree with your first point, that it is unfortunate. And, for the time being at least, over-eating/obesity does not keep one out of the temple.

    But eating disorders, and the resulting obesity, most often do cause much misery. Though I would view it one step further back, and say there is a root cause to most eating disorders.

    Huge medical costs such as diabetic care, cholesterol, blood pressure, hip/knee replacements, bariatric surgery, diabetic ulcers, amputations, blindness; and shortened life span are directly attributable to over-eating.

    Then there is the non-tangible emotional misery of strained and broken relationships due to the self-esteem issue. And the misery of many obese people having no relationships due to the low self-esteem that causes and is a result of over-eating/obesity.

    It’s a vicious cycle of “No one likes me because I’m fat, so I’ll just eat some more.”

    The Lord is merciful towards us in regard to our weaknesses when we’re humble before him and admit our weaknesses. Though what amazes me in the church is that so many people think obesity is not a big deal and is not a problem. I continue to be amazed when morbidly obese unmarried women in the church wonder why they aren’t attracting suitors.

    Maybe morbid obesity is not such a big problem to you folks on the coasts. But here in the midwest, obesity and morbid obesity are extremely common. It’s a serious problem, and I was glad to read somewhere that The Brethren have it on their radar.

  29. Julie M. Smith on December 18, 2005 at 6:29 pm

    Matt, could you give your neighbors flowers? What about a small Christmas decoration? What about something that would encourage healthy eating–exotic spice blends for vegetables or dry soup mixes?

  30. Matt Evans on December 18, 2005 at 7:00 pm

    Bookslinger,

    If heavy people are more likely to have inferior self-images, it is principally caused by social causes, and not by effects instrinsic to being overweight. God loves us despite our variation from ideals of physical perfection, and the blame for people not feeling perfectly accepted despite their imperfections lies completely with society and not at all on the person. No one can choose to be accepted wholly for who they are. Being accepted and loved is completely dependent on the persons doing the accepting and loving.

    The Lord is indeed merciful towards us in regard to our weaknesses when we’re humble before him and admit our weaknesses. We must recognize our failures to make people feel completely loved and appreciated for who they are, for our failure to see each other as God sees us, and ask his forgiveness. Then we must turn and ensure that everyone knows we love them completely.

  31. jp in lv nv on December 18, 2005 at 7:10 pm

    #23, I know, faulty generalization, as a matter of fact my husband’s cookies are responsible for a few calories at our house! Thanks for pointing out my general statement…:)

  32. Kristy on December 18, 2005 at 7:14 pm

    I gave my neighbors a small christmas tree ornament this year. A neigbor gave me some paperwhite bulbs in a pot, already several weeks along.

    I am all for healthy snacks for enrichment, and other primarily adult functions, but I am the one guilty pushing for yummy treats for cub scout pack meeting. Veggie plates and pita bread are for grownups. I figure that if 50 kids have sat through an hour of pack meeting awards, they want something small and tasty. I do worry about training them to overeat sweets though, so here’s what we try to do: each meeting there is only one kind of dessert (brownies or cookies, or even gum), and we assign only enough families to give everyone one serving. I don’t mind serving dessert that runs out after everyone’s had one piece, and with only one type of goodie people don’t feel like they need to sample every item (like they would if you served cookies and brownies and creampuffs and fudge and punch.) I think you could argue that this trains kids to see desserts as fine in small, reasonable amounts.

    I agree with the treats in primary, but I will say my husband usually bribes his class very effectively. He also hands out riddiculously small amounts of candy- like 3 or 4 M&Ms at the end of class, *if* they’ve been really good. Or 3 or 4 gummy bears. Surprisingly, it still works.

  33. Melissa Proctor on December 18, 2005 at 8:46 pm

    Matt, I admit to giving chocolates this year to neighbors because I’ve just discovered this wonderful little chocolatier in Princeton that I want to share with everyone I know, but in the past I’ve given homemade whole wheat bread with jam (made from berries I pick myself in the Fall that are sweet enough for jam even without much sugar). I’ve also had years where I’ve given cute jars full of potpurri, poinsettas, candles, mulled cider mix, cheese assortments, nuts, and christmas tree ornaments.

    However, these alternatives can be costly. It’s usually much cheaper to whip up four or five different kinds of cookies and make plates of sweets for the neighbors than it is to shell out the bucks for these pricier items.

  34. Eddie Bishop on December 18, 2005 at 9:08 pm

    In response to Heather Oman, who said that we should just put up tables of veggies, hummas, pitas, etc.etc.. Those are wonderful ideas. Veggie trays are actually considered by most people as acceptable party food. Healthly chips can be obtained and served with raw salsa. There are plenty of healthy foods that can be served at parties if you have the creativity and the money. (Healthy food, after all, usually costs more!)

    But there is a good reason why many people don’t just offer healthy foods at parties… the reason is that blasted thing called social pressure. Lots of party-goers, when confronted with an entirely healthy snack table, will chide the host and make jokes about there not being any “normal” food. The main thing keeping junk food on the table is the attitudes of the party-goers. I ate a vegetarian diet for a while and believe me, I got TONS of flak for it. Eating and serving healthy foods is NOT cool. Socially, it’s EXTREMELY tough to keep eating healthily!

    To mitigate the wisecracks and jokes, people (myself included) will often serve up junk food and nutrition-free food at parties, but eat healthily when with family and close friends.

    The best thing we can do to change this is to stop making wisecracks or jokes about healthy food or eating healthy. I beg you all to stop pulling people down for their healthy diet; don’t even do it jokingly!

  35. Julie M. Smith on December 18, 2005 at 9:34 pm

    “However, these alternatives can be costly. It’s usually much cheaper to whip up four or five different kinds of cookies and make plates of sweets for the neighbors than it is to shell out the bucks for these pricier items.”

    True, so true, and, of course, this is the bigger issue behind the obesity epidemic: a vat of fries for 99 cents or 5$ for a salad at a fast food restaurant–what do you think most people will pick? I wonder if govt subsidies for healthy foods would be useful?

  36. Kaimi Wenger on December 18, 2005 at 9:56 pm

    Melissa,

    And don’t forget that you have neighbors in San Diego, too! ;)

  37. Matt Evans on December 18, 2005 at 10:04 pm

    Kristy, I like your idea of giving reasonable amounts to train the kids to see treats as something that’s appropriate in small doses.

    Wow, Melissa, I never pegged you as a Martha clone! Four or five kinds of cookies, or homemade bread with homemade jam from handpicked berries?! Now if only you pressed your own paper and brewed your own ink . . .

    Julie, I’ve read that people are eating healthier (less fat and cholestorol, and more fiber, whole grains and fresh fruits) but we still eat too much. And that problem can’t be solved with food subsidies. Maybe we should subsidize sports leagues more than we do. (With a video game or — perish the thought — Internet tax!)

  38. Audrey Stone on December 18, 2005 at 10:29 pm

    I agree that sugar/food addiction is a serious problem in the American diet, but I think that the problem of obesity in society is much more complex than than the amount of unhealthy food available at church functions.

    I feel that poor diet is more directly linked to the changing role of parents, and specifically how food preparation has changed in these modern times. We take less time in the day to prepare food, and in the age of processed foods, things are faster and much less healthy. We also live in a day and age where few of us actually have to sweat to earn our daily bread, so the body isn’t burning the bad food we’re eating. There are so many sweet and delightful easy treats to feed ourselves and our children. Giving them healthy stuff takes more time and preparation.

    I agree with the concept that giving excess calories to your fat neighbor may contribute to their obesity, but don’t think that you will solve their problem by denying them a plate of cookies at Christmastime. The problem is much bigger than that–no pun intended. And, we also have this crazy thing called “free agency”. Even if there is a chocolate buffet at Enrichment night, I still have the choice of whether or not to partake. We can’t change other people, we can only change ourselves.

  39. Paul on December 18, 2005 at 11:28 pm

    Yes, let’s stop eating desserts and giving gifts on special occasions because we are fat and rich. Good grief, people, where do your obsessions end?!

  40. Bookslinger on December 18, 2005 at 11:52 pm

    Matt,
    We may be talking about different groups of people. There are generally three categories of being overweight: overweight-but-not-obese, obese, and morbidly obese. You’ll find various definitions based on percentage overweight, or body mass index.

    You wrote: the blame for people not feeling perfectly accepted despite their imperfections lies completely with society and not at all on the person

    I think your statement applies to the overweight-but-not-obese category, and maybe 1/2 of the obese, and only 10% of the morbidly-obese.

    At least 50% of obese women, and 90% of morbidly-obese women had self-esteem issues before most of their weight-gain. The causes of obesity in men are much more varied, so I’m limiting my remarks to obesity in women.

    From what I’ve read and from what I’ve observed, those women who find themselves in the morbidly-obese category have psychological issues, usually related to self-esteem, that drive their eating disorder. Again, from what I’ve read, and from the people I’ve met, at least 90% of morbidly-obese women had at least one event of sexual abuse or severe trauma in their childhood. Show me 10 morbidly obese women, and I’ll show you 9 victims of childhood sexual abuse.

    Granted, once someone has crossed the line into obesity, society does tend to marginalize them. One would hope that such marginalization is rare in the church where we’re not supposed to exclude people from our fellowship.

    But I’d like to point out that the egalitarianism that we owe our fellow saints in fellowshipping them does not cross over into the personal area of dating, courtship and marriage. We cannot righteously withhold our fellowship from anyone because they are male or female, tall or short, ugly or handsome, old or young, white or black, obese or slender, etc. But in areas of dating and romance, discrimination (in the true sense of the word, ie. studying the options and then making a choice) based on personal preferences is the rule.

    In dating/romance/marriage, everyone has the right to discriminate. No one has the right to dictate the preferences of our mind and heart in terms of romance. No one has the right to constrain someone else’s conscience or affections.

    A church member does have the right to expect, maybe even demand, fellowship from his/her fellow saints. No one is to be excluded from sacrament meeting, quorums, RS, or the ward dinner. But no one has the right to demand that someone date or marry them.

    A paradox that I’ve seen almost since the day I joined church is that some women with both obvious psychological problems and obvious health problems have essentially demanded dates, suitors and husbands.

    So far I can only come up with two possible reasons:

    1) Maybe they don’t view their psychological or health conditions as impediments to romance. There are many women who don’t understand that the majority of men consider obesity to be a sexual turnoff, they don’t understand that it is an issue for most men who are not overweight.

    and 2) maybe because of the fact that we fellowship and accept people in an egalitarian manner in the church they (the women with the health problems) think potential suitors must be equally egalitarian in the realm of romantic interest. They don’t understand that a different set of rules applies to romantic interests versus fellowshipping members in the faith.

    It’s really sad to see at a singles family home evening, or a singles fireside, a sister who is 50% to 100% or more overweight, gorging herself on cake or brownies, and at the same time complaining that no one asks her out on dates. And I have to ask myself “Is she that ignorant, or is she that crazy?”

  41. John H on December 19, 2005 at 3:18 am

    “True, so true, and, of course, this is the bigger issue behind the obesity epidemic: a vat of fries for 99 cents or 5$ for a salad at a fast food restaurant–what do you think most people will pick? I wonder if govt subsidies for healthy foods would be useful?”

    Bingo. It’s why poor people are far more obese in America. They don’t have acess to exclusive gyms or fitenss clubs, and they can afford 5 bucks at McDonalds but struggle to buy $200 worth of groceries at a pop.

  42. gst on December 19, 2005 at 5:14 am

    I can’t tell if John H is joking. The poor are fat because they can’t join the LA Athletic Club?

    Would it be completely out of line to ask if some of America’s poor might be fat for the same reason that they’re poor (by American standards), that is, they’re indolent people in a land of plenty? Just askin’.

  43. gst on December 19, 2005 at 5:26 am

    Julie M. Smith (#35): I suggest an experiment to see if your subsidy would be worthwhile. Go stand at the cash register at McDonald’s. Every time someone orders a side order of french fries, offer to pay the difference between the fries and the side salad if they will change their order to the salad. What percentage of the poor chubby bastards do you think would take you up on the offer?

    My guess is that most diners, “poor” or not, would still buy the fries even if you paid not only the difference between the two sides, but the entire cost of the salad.

    There must be an enterprising undergraduate somewhere who wants to go out and conduct this experiment for us.

  44. Beijing on December 19, 2005 at 9:34 am

    #43: Wendy’s has changed their “combo” system so that you can choose to have a side salad or caesar salad along with your sandwich, instead of fries, for the same price. I spend an inordinate amount of time standing in line at Wendy’s, and I see about one in ten combo orderers choose the salad option. I think the experiment would get more interesting if the salads were actually *cheaper* than the fries.

  45. Space Chick on December 19, 2005 at 9:52 am

    Matt, may I suggest giving everyone a bag of clementines? It’s not uncommon for our family to go through a box in 2 days–the little things practically peel themselves and jump into your mouth. Yes, they have sugar in them but they’re much better for you than cookies. And they look pretty!

  46. lyle on December 19, 2005 at 10:22 am

    Bah humbug.

  47. John H on December 19, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    “I can’t tell if John H is joking. The poor are fat because they can’t join the LA Athletic Club?”

    Err…I’m not joking at all. But I am genuinely surprised at the shocking amount of ignorance you displayed with this comment:

    “Would it be completely out of line to ask if some of America’s poor might be fat for the same reason that they’re poor (by American standards), that is, they’re indolent people in a land of plenty? Just askin’. ”

    The majority of poor people aren’t indolent at all. Quite the opposite, they work two or three jobs. Their time is spent traveling to work on public transportation, living paycheck to paycheck, trying to scrape by on minimum wage jobs. They were born into a world that people like yourself apparently don’t even know exists, where there is almost no hope and no opportunity for something better.

    This was my experience on my mission in upstate New York. These are the folks we spent our time with, and it taught me many valuable lessons, again, sadly lost on an astonishing number of other missionaries, about what it really means to be below the poverty line in America. I’ll be forever grateful for the interactions I had with these children of God, and for how much I learned. That those of us with high speed internet connections and time to burn, come to a blog and judge them because of their weight, or their productivity, will never cease to amaze me.

  48. Jay S on December 19, 2005 at 12:35 pm

    Matt,

    My response to gift giving would be to do what you have done. I can’t imagine that we should try to control the gustatory habits of other people at a time like christmas.

    Gifts should be gifts, a token from the heart meant to convey affection and bring joy. Not to jump start someone in a new healthy lifestyle.

    Regarding the healthy lifestyles of others, a heavy handed judgmental approach is less than helpful. Case in point. My family is largely heavyset, due to bad genes and habits. A certain family member,who has largely escaped this curse (due in no small part to a severe illness recieved in peru), feels the need to constantly mention this to everyone at family gatherings. I am glad he is at a healthy weight, which he goes to fair extremes to maintain (powdered diet, hour or two of exercise a day). But it gets a bit much, when he feels the need to do jumping jacks and pushups in the living room as we are visiting after dinner, to encourage us to be “more active”. I have noticed this problem with many “skinny mormons” who feel they are more righteous than their heavy neighbor. Ignoring the discussion of choice in this matter, is this judgmental attitude appropriate?

    GST, your comments are severely belittling and have no basis in fact. Poverty does have a significant impact on food choice. Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy proteins are significantly more expensive than more unhealthy choices. Your dollar goes a lot further on heavily starched, sugared and fatted food than it does on fresh fruits and vegetables.

    Also, as far as salads go, they can have significantly more calories and fat than even fries do (say with ranch dressing on the top!)

    I think Matt’s original post was not on the ultimate causes of obesity, but the presence of unhealthy foods at holiday celebrations and the gifts we give neighbors. Should we eliminate these treats? No, and we shouldn’t force them on people like the recent bypass survivor either (BTW, why was this person upset, didn’t they know what to expect at a Mormon function?). But completely restricting treats leads to overindulgence (take my wife’s neighbor, whose parents forbade sugar at home, who would completely make themselves sick at other children’s birthday parties).

    Coming down on fat people to make yourself feel better is a cheap trick. Diet is only one component of a person’s weight, and there are several factors that play into a person’s diet as well. Poverty has been linked to increased obesity, due to poor education regarding food preparation (ie you don’t know how to cook anything else), and limited choices.

  49. Jay S on December 19, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    John H

    Thanks for your comment. I spent a lot of time with people in semi-rural Oregon. I spent many hours over meals of greasy fried potatoes, processed meat and kool aid, teaching the gospel to people who had just gotten home from their job at the paper mill before going to their second job.

    I will never forget giving a baptismal interview to a little girl whose home had no running water or electricity. Or the family whose donated Christmas tree was decorated with Soda cans and tin can lids.

    I don’t think they made any poorer decisions that I, but the position they started from was a lot different, and their available options were severely limited.

  50. D-Train on December 19, 2005 at 12:54 pm

    Tyler,

    Email info@ldsblogs.org and let them know a bit about what you’re planning on doing with your blog. Also, most blogs offer a space for your URL when you’re making a comment (such as T&S does here). Some of the interesting blogs I’ve found have been through this – someone makes a comment that interests me, I click on their name, and see their blog.

  51. gst on December 19, 2005 at 12:54 pm

    I don’t believe that the poor generally are indolent. But might not some of the fat poor be indolent, and their indolence be a cause of their dual condition?

    We must be the only nation in the history of nations with fat poor. To me, this means that we actually don’t have poor people by any meaningful standard. John, I too had some experience with poverty in my mission, in a country that actually knew poverty.

  52. Dustin on December 19, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    Let them eat cake! :)

    Seriously though, I would think it weird if a neighbor brought by some christmas carrots rather than cookies.

  53. C Jones on December 19, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    This might interest those commenting on what the poor may be able to afford to eat:
    http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/40dollarmenu.htm

  54. Bookslinger on December 19, 2005 at 2:28 pm

    Your dollar goes a lot further on heavily starched, sugared and fatted food than it does on fresh fruits and vegetables.

    Only if you shop at the high-priced grocery stores, and avoid sales , avoid canned and frozen vegetables, and avoid beans/rice.

    Kroger in Indianapolis has frozen vegetables (near as good as fresh) for $1/pound on sale about 1 week of the month. $1.25 to $1.50/pound otherwise. Choose: a pound of frozen veggies, or a medium size order of fries.

    Canned vegetables can be had on sale for 50 cents for a 1 pound can, and even assuming it’s 1/2 water, that’s still $1/pound. Choose: a pound of canned veggies, or a medium size order of fries.

    Carrots are about 70 cents/pound. Choose: a pound of carrots, or a medium size order of fries.

    If you shop the sales, by rotating between 2 or 3 stores, you can always have fresh apples for $1/pound. Choose: a pound of apples, or a medium size order of fries.

    Chicken breasts (with bone and skin) can be had $1/pound on sale.

    Chicken breast filets, (without bone, and without skin) can be had for $2/pound on sale. Choose: a 1/2 pound of lean chicken breast filets, or a medium size order of fries.

    Cheap sirloin steak can be had on sale from $1.99 to $2.19/pound. Cut off the fat marbling, and the price effectively becomes $2.30 to $2.40/pound. Choose: 1/3 pound of lean steak, or a medium size order of fries.

    Dried beans can be had for 69 cents to $1.29/pound depending on variety and size of bag. White Rice can be had for 35 cents/pound, or the much healthier brown rice for 70 to 80 cents/pound. Rice + beans = a complete protein.

    One can buy the store brand orange juice when it’s on sale instead of the national brand. Or one could buy frozen concentrate.

    Once children are past the toddler stage, milk is not necessary. (And some argue that the cut-off should be even earlier) One can use powdered milk for recipes that call for milk. And there is “full cream” powdered milk available, “Nido” brand from Nestle, available in many ethnic grocery stores, if a recipe needs whole milk.

    “Eating healthy costs more” is not true when you know how to shop right and cook right.

    Yes, poverty is often linked with lack of education. But I don’t think it’s poverty per-se that limits people’s eating choices, it’s lack of nutritional knowledge.

    The above link to Hillybilly Housewife is great!

  55. Jay S on December 19, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    Bookslinger.

    You said “Choose: a pound of frozen veggies, or a medium size order of fries.” Not a true comparison, as you are comparing dining out to dining in. While I agree with you that healthy dining need not necessarily cost more, your comparison obfuscates the true situation.

    Also regarding shopping around, this isn’t always an option. The person may be limited as to what stores are within walking distance. Also, a little known fact, that many grocery stores in urban or poor communities charge more for the same items as their suburban counterparts. Also, if you don’t have a car it is tough to get bulk discounts. This is the case in large cities, and small. (While I live in Longview wa, the smaller grocery store in the southern poorer part of town routinely charged 10-50% more for the same items than the same chain a few miles away).

  56. Matt Evans on December 19, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    Jay,

    Having compared the girths of America’s poor with the poor in impoverished countries, the “it costs too much too be thin” argument strikes me as thin gruel. Several billion people prove that one can remain thin on a steady diet of earth’s cheapest foods: white rice, grains, beans, potatoes.

    I saw an interview with a man, I believe he was from Ecuador or Bolivia, who was trying to emigrate to the United States. When asked why he wanted so badly to live in America, he answered, “I want to live where the poor people are fat.” That is something we must never forget. We are unfathomably fortunate to have “problems” like an excess of easy calories. Billions of people from the creation of man have dreamt of our land of milk and honey.

  57. Andermom on December 19, 2005 at 5:14 pm

    I had a friend whose dad was a Doctor. He was very down on processed sugar and would often share with others how his family ate no sugar, and used very little sugar in canning etc etc and were so healthy because of it. One day he came home from work early and found his entire family in the pantry eating a box of twinkies as fast as they could. I’m not quite sure what went down, but I do remember my friend having candy at his birthday parties and stuff after that.

    As far as what to give the neighbors, nothing says “I think you’re fat” quite like a veggie tray where cookies are expected. I’d give them something non-edible if you’re worried about it.

  58. Jay S on December 19, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    Andermom, That story is hilarious. I can just picture it now. I remember growing up, that some of my friends had locks on the refrigerators. My thoughts on that have changed and I am still conflicted on that (unique circumstances).

    Matt, you said
    “Having compared the girths of America’s poor with the poor in impoverished countries, the “it costs too much too be thinâ€? argument strikes me as thin gruel. Several billion people prove that one can remain thin on a steady diet of earth’s cheapest foods: white rice, grains, beans, potatoes.”

    First of all, those in impoverished countries have 2 things that keep them from developing waistlines. 1) A scarcity of food and/or basic foods are expensive 2) a prevalence of physical activities. I believe that immigrants to the US do not stay as skinny as those in their home countries.

    I agree that the problem we have is one that some desire to have. My point is that the system in the United States conspires to make it more likely for poor people to eat unhealthily. It doesn’t compel them to, but certainly points them on that downward slope. We should consider this before we judge them by an unreasonably high standard.

    It’s tough to really evaluate someone unless you fully understand their circumstances. (BTW Morgan Spurlocks’ 30 Days had an interesting take on the working poor in america)

  59. Sue on December 19, 2005 at 11:24 pm

    Ha! We had locks on our fridge when I was growing up too. Fast forward 20 years to a family where four out of five daughters have had serious eating disorders and issues. There are other issues of course, but in general – locks on fridges = probably not a good idea ; >

  60. JKS on December 20, 2005 at 12:08 am

    I gave out pretty, clear bag tied with ribbon of 5 satsumas each to the school receptionist, librarian, principal & teacher’s aides. They all seemed thrilled. I hope to buy another box and do the neighbors….if I get around to it.
    I also organized the winter parties in my kids’ classes on the last day of school before break. I handed out satsumas to the 2nd graders instead of a dessert treat. (The Kindergarteners, however, decorated gingerbread man shaped sugar cookies with frosting and candy….they had a blast, of course.)

  61. Kristy on December 20, 2005 at 2:56 am

    JKS- What’s a satsumas? And hey, looks like you are up late too!

  62. JKS on December 20, 2005 at 4:12 am

    Kristy
    Satsumas are like Clementines (they might be two names for the exact same thing). You know, those little oranges that are SO easy to peel. My kids love them. We can usually get a 5lb box for three to six dollars.
    And LOL, no, I wasn’t up late before, but now I am.

  63. Matt Evans on December 20, 2005 at 8:47 am

    Thanks everyone for all of the advice. The appeal of making something with my kids was overriding, and there’s something intimate about giving handmade food that I wanted to convey to our neighbors, so I decided to make Chex mix and simply limit the sizes. It also mattered that the particular friends and neighbors we’re giving too are pretty thin.

    Last night was the first time I’d made Chex mix. We used to receive Chex mix every year from Virginia Kizerian, a childless neighbor of my childhood home who we adopted as Grandma K and who passed away a few years ago. When I saw the Chex display at the supermarket I wasn’t sure I’d had Chex mix since, and it seemed like an easy thing to do with kids. Last night my girls and I measured the ingredients and baked it together (I reduced the butter by a third — these cigarettes are filtered!) while listening to Christmas music. We had fun.

    The irony (and perhaps the moral) is that *I* have now already eaten far more than I should!

  64. Rosalynde Welch on December 20, 2005 at 9:16 am

    After failing a diabetes screening recently and believing for a few days that I may be diabetic, I have a new and immense respect for those who are able, for medical or personal reasons, to severely limit their refined sugar and carbohydrate intake. Although the food I take home from the farmer’s market is, in general, healthy and whole, I realized very quickly that sugars (natural and refined) and carbohydrates are an important and much-cherished part of my diet nonetheless. I don’t have a weight problem, and that’s a blessed thing, because, given the conditions of my life right now, sweet and loved foods are one of its chief pleasures. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    And now, after having passed the diagnostic test and learned that I am not diabetic after all, I am enthusiastically indulging in seasonal foods. In the past I’ve done gourmet homemade granola, or dried fruits and cheeses, or almonds—things without too much refined sugar—but not this year. And I’ll admit that while I welcome a few treats from friends and neighbors that aren’t sugary or fatty, I’d be disappointed if they were ALL that way! This year I’ve done: fudge for missionary siblings and teachers; lemon bread for home and visiting teachees; gingerbread cookies for family activity; cookie plates for friends including pumpkin chocolate chip, cranberry orange, molasses, and macaroon varieties. I’ll also do cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, and we’ll make our traditional trek to Trader Joe’s for the dried fruits, cheeses, breads, nuts, citrus fruits, juices, chocolate, and these wonderful German Christmas cookies that make our Christmas dinner. Yum!

  65. Russell Arben Fox on December 20, 2005 at 10:06 am

    Rosalynde, what do you all have for Christmas dinner? You refer to “dried fruits, cheeses, breads, nuts, citrus fruits,” which got me thinking that you have a “meager meal” on Christmas eve the way we do (a little bread, some cheese, and some fruit and water, before heading out to Christmas eve services at whatever church we choose to attend). But then you mention chocolate and “wonderful German Christmas cookies,” so I suppose you may be shooting for something a little bit different.

    This has been an interesting thread. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned though (and forgive me if I missed it) is an emphasis on Christmas cooking. Melissa and the girls and I make a fair number of sweets at Christmas time–mint bars, Lisner cookies, rosettes, etc.–that we never make at any other time of the year. We make boxes of this stuff, and then give it away to friends and family. Do they want it? Well, when we know for a fact that someone in the family is diabetic, or lactose-intolerant or something, then we’ll come up with alternatives (cranberry bread, maybe). But otherwise, we throw around the candy with abandon. There is, quite properly, a humble and meek and plain side of Christmas (witness our meager meal above); but there is, and ought to be, a luxurious and celebratory and, yes, “fat” part of Christmas as well. If someone whom we shared part of our enthusiasm for that latter aspect of Christmas would rather not, and just throws our goodies away, well, good for them: at least we got to make something for them as a family, and that’s what really matters.

  66. Bookslinger on December 20, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    Jay S: You [Bookslinger] said “Choose: a pound of frozen veggies, or a medium size order of fries.� Not a true comparison, as you are comparing dining out to dining in. While I agree with you that healthy dining need not necessarily cost more, your comparison obfuscates the true situation.

    It illustrates very well this situation: In order eat healthily and cheaply, DON’T EAT OUT !

    I also want to mention that crock-pots are a good way to conveniently prepare beans and inexpensive cuts of beef and chicken.

    For lunch, soak the beans overnight, and cook them in the crockpot (on medium to high) from breakfast to lunch.

    For supper, option 1: start out with dry beans, then cook them in the crockpot from breakfast to supper.

    For supper, option 2: soak beans from breakfast to lunch, then cook them in crockpot (medium to high) from lunch to supper.

    I found a hard and short-grain brown rice that you can cook with the beans and it doesn’t get too mushy by the time the beans are done.

    I have a friend who is totally blind. I’m sighted. When I saw that he ate better than I did, I learned his recipes and shortcuts, especially the George Foreman grill and the crock-pot.

    His chicken recipe: before leaving for work he put 1/2 uncooked chicken and emptied a 16 fluid ounce bottle of Italian salad dressing (not the fat free) in a crockpot and set it at medium heat. By the time he got home from work at 5:30, it was ready. The vinegar/water had boiled off, and he fished out the pieces of chicken meat from the grease and oil.

    I HEARTILY recommend Asian, Middle Eastern and Mexican grocery stores for a wide variety of inexpensive foods in small packages and in bulk. I love the brown rice, Basmati rice, Jasmine rice, and the many varieties of noodles (made of wheat, rice, bean, buckwheat, arrowroot) in the Asian stores.

    Middle Eastern and Mexican grocery stores have a wide variety of beans and spices.

    I learned that you can make almost anything taste good with the right seasoning and spices. I was known as “Mr. Spice Rack” in the mission, and left a supply of spices in every apartment I was in.

    The great variety of beans, rice, noodles and spices allows you to prepare meals with the basics without getting boring.

    Even those urban poor area high-priced groceries (the high prices are usually to make up for the shoplifting) occasionally have a sale on beef or chicken.

    Even SPAM can be made less unhealthy by cubing it, boiling it, letting it cool, then skimming off the fat. Use the de-fatted cubes to season bean dishes or soup.

  67. Gabrielle Turner on December 20, 2005 at 11:38 pm

    One other problem is that cooking meals from scratch (like on the hillbillyhousewife website) requires someone actually being *home* to take the time to make these meals. I think a lot of poorer familis don’t actually have anyone at home during the day to prepare meals. Instead mom is picking up the kids from daycare at 6:00 PM and has to go home and feed her kids before bedtime. It *is* more expensive to buy healthy quick-prep foods than non-healthy foods. I’m sure it can be made less expensive with menu-planning and sale and coupon shopping, but the reality of life when you are working 2 jobs and trying to also parent your children in the meantime becomes so hectic and rushed that this type of advance planning just doesn’t happen.
    I am a housewife and have been trying to cook healthier, and even though I’m not afraid of preparing a meal that takes an hour or so, I still find it more expensive to shop healthily than not. It is very frustrating.

  68. Kaimi Wenger on December 21, 2005 at 12:11 am

    I think gingerbread presents special difficulty. We’ve got a longstanding family tradition of putting together fun gingerbread houses. They inevitably involve lots of frosting and candy decorations. They make the whole house smell great; they’re a lot of fun to assemble (it’s a blast sitting down with a six year old and constructing a pretzel woodpile, or assembling a shingled roof out of necco wafers). They’re also not particularly good on the waistline.

  69. Jay S on December 21, 2005 at 2:03 am

    Bookslinger, your post illustrated the problem with many working poor. While some poor people stay home, many working poor are not able to spend a significant amount of time cooking. I am not saying it is not a possibility, just that the choices are limited. Many working class jobs do not have lunch rooms to keep foods for lunch, making it difficult to avoid eating out.

    Also, one of your asides bothers me. You said regarding urban stores that “the high prices are usually to make up for the shoplifting”. Do you have any proof to support this? I don’t think this is the case at all. While some shoplifting might occur, higher prices at urban location are the result of several factors, including 1) limited alternative choices: If your only alternative is to take a 1 hour bus ride each way, you can charge a bit more for your watermelons. 2) food is more expensive if you don’t buy in bulk, but buying in bulk is difficult if you a) don’t have a car and have to haul your own groceries (yeah, my shopping habits varied a ton on my mission depending on whether I had to haul my groceries home on the handlebars) b) don’t have the money to upfront the cost of the larger items.

    I don’t think anyone can say that the working poor cannot eat healthily in the united states. My point is that the options and the situation of the working poor conspires to put them in a position where it is much more difficult to do so (or at least a lot easier to eat unhealthily).

    But this all came out of the judgmental attidtude that many latter day saints have towards heavy set people. We should not try to control other peoples decisions. Set an example yes, inform yes, berate, demean or condemn, no. Thus gifts should be reflections from our heart. Also we should not be so quick to judge the righteousness of a person based upon their waist.

  70. Matt Evans on December 21, 2005 at 9:25 am

    Jay,

    I completely agree that we shouldn’t judge people on their weight, but I think you place way too much emphasis on the cost of eating healthily. Cost is not the problem. Nor are lunchrooms the solution; the working poor in Honduras stay skinny without lunchrooms. The working poor here would have better physical and financial health if they took a couple peanut butter sandwiches and carrot sticks to work, rather than spend $4 on a slice of pizza and a soda. I almost never buy soda from restaurants because they’re so expensive, but on several occasions I’ve looked around Wendy’s, or wherever, and noticed that I’m the *only* customer there who thought the sodas were too expensive, even though I’m probably the person in the room with the most money. The problems of people making unwise eating and purchasing decisions are very similar (I’d guess there’s academic research comparing them) and both of them seem intractable. If only common sense were, and delaying gratification easier . . .

  71. Rosalynde Welch on December 21, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    Russell, thanks for asking! My parents originated a “shepherd’s dinner” Christmas night tradition that John and I have carried on: we eat vaguely middle-easternish foods (hence the flatbread, nuts, dried fruits, cheeses—although last night at TJ’s we got Danish havarti and Dublin cheddar, not exactly Palestinian!–and generally a roast chicken) on a blanket on the floor in front of the fireplace, the little kids dress up like shepherds, and we talk and relax on the floor eating. It’s a fun, memorable and low-prep Christmas dinner. But we also must have a variety of sweets—German pfeffernusse, chocolate raspberry sticks, fruit gems—so our Christmas is decidedly plump.

    Gabrielle, that’s a really good point. And I’m awed and amazed that you spend an hour on dinner! Fortunately my kids love “everything soup” which can be thrown together in a few minutes, yielding cheap and healthy results. I’m not sure I’m capable of an hour in the kitchen for dinner… !

  72. Bookslinger on December 21, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    Jay S: My assertion that shoplifting is the main factor making prices higher in groceries in poor inner-city areas is based on talking with the management of said groceries. I used to live in a poor inner-city area, and got friendly with not only the store managers, but their bosses in the home office. I was a “community activist” trying to help improve the neighborhood before I decided I couldn’t and I finally abandoned the ‘hood and moved out.

    From what I learned the profitability of groceries in poor inner-city areas is much less than in more affluent areas. And according to the owners, that seems true nationwide.

    I suggested to the local managers and home-office people that they put surveillance cameras in their parking lot to discourage the mugging and drug dealing going on out there, and that it would encourage more people to shop there, or shop more often, due to increased safety, as opposed to them taking the bus, or driving to a safer neighborhood. There were plenty of car-owning and home-owning people in that neighborhood, for which that store was the most convenient. But the “riff-raff” who lived in the surrounding 3 apartment complexes (not saying all were riff-raff, but there were enough to cause trouble) drove away the more decent people to shop in better areas.

    So there were less “good paying customers” to offset the cost of the shoplifters, who drove up the prices disproportionately in comparison to the nicer neighborhoods, where the cost of shoplifting could be spread out over more customers.

  73. Bookslinger on December 21, 2005 at 2:52 pm

    Jay S: While some poor people stay home, many working poor are not able to spend a significant amount of time cooking.

    That’s why I mention soaking beans overnight, then using crockpots to cook beans and/or inexpensive meat while at work. People can prepare things the night before (maybe instead of watching Survivor), leave it in the fridge (or let the beans soak), then in the morning, combine it all in the crockpots before going to work, and have it ready when they get home.

    Pressure cookers are also good for quick cooking, reducing cooking times by 50% or more.

    Stop ordering in pizza and eating at fast-food joints for 4 weeks, and you’ve saved enough money to buy two crockpots and an aluminum pressure cooker.

    Many stoves now have timers where you can schedule the oven to come on at a certain time.

    In the cold weather, I love cooking foil-packs, Boy-Scout style, in the oven. Prepare them at night, freeze them overnight. In the morning put them in the oven, and set oven to cook from 4:00pm to 5:30pm. They will defrost during the day, and be done cooking by the time you get home.

    There are lots of options instead of stopping at fast food restaurants, or having pizza delivered.

  74. FullnessOfTimes.com on December 22, 2005 at 7:31 pm

    I don’t know that it occurs in all wards and branches, but I’ve often wondered about the recent trend that seems to believe that you can’t hold a ward social event without food involved–or the thought that “if there’s food, they will come”. Seems rediculous to me. Why can’t people just get together to socialize for sociability any more? Anyway–that’s my random 2-cents worth.

  75. Jeanne on February 27, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    Food is a celebration it always has been. It can just as easily be a heathy celebration. Its my dream to have a ward party where everyone bought something healthy that started with their last names initial and we had a amazing array of cheese crackers fruits and vegetables. So for now I bring one healthy dish and have 3 bites of some dessert. We need to establish eternal relationships with these bodies of ours.