"You think government can help stop obesity," he wrote. "Funny stuff."
So I e-mailed back and told him to shut up and eat his celery. Perhaps that helps explain why I have fewer good friends.
Anyway, it got me to rereading the editorial.
We didn't say the bloated bureaucracy of federal government could make us all thinner. What we did say is that a Farm Bill doles out billions of dollars in commodity programs, and not necessarily for food products that foster healthy eating. The proposed Farm Bill takes small steps to encourage growers to raise fruits and veggies, and get fresh produce into our school lunchrooms — but it doesn't do much.
So before we shell out billions in farm programs, shouldn't we think about whether these payments subsidize the foods that exacerbate our national obesity problem — and the resulting public health costs that come attached? Seems like a no-brainer.
Now I understand high-fat, high-sugar junk food and fast foods aren't the sole cause of our obesity problems. And I understand there are a lot of reasons Americans reach for junk foods — the stuff is easily accessible, tirelessly marketed and, I'll be the first to admit, pretty darned tasty.
But let's admit this too: Cost is a factor.
I learned from experience. In 2004, I went on a serious diet. Big Government didn't tell me to do it (thank goodness). My body told me to. I had high blood pressure and was starting to show what the doctors call pre-diabetic conditions. Diabetes certainly contributed to my father's passing a few years earlier, so I knew it was time to get busy.
I was mentally prepared to fight the cravings for junk food. I wasn't prepared for the sticker shock at the supermarket. Fresh fruits and vegetables cost more than many prepared foods, often considerably more. So it took will power to stay on a diet, and a willingness to pay more at the checkout stand. I stuck with it and lost about 50 pounds, most of which remains missing (heading into the temptations of Christmas season).
It wasn't easy. It wasn't cheap. And now, when I go to the grocery store and see other shoppers with carts loaded with cheap and unhealthy junk foods and prepared foods, I can't help wonder why folks are buying what they buy. Cravings? Force of habit? Or sticking to a budget? It's none of my business. It's not government's business either. But it's troubling nonetheless.
I'm really trying not to sound like one of those annoying healthy lifestyle zealots. Sometimes I eat a cheeseburger — and if Uncle Sam has a problem with that, he can pry it from my cold, dead greasy hands. But I try to make as many good dietary choices, despite the temptations. And the cost.
That's my point. So pass the celery and give me your feedback.