…is not the answer for us or our children. We’ve got a problem that lay squarely on the shoulders of us parents that began when we were kids.
When I was a kid we were lucky to get to go through the Taco Bell drive-thru maybe 1-2 times per month. And that wasn’t getting all the fancy stuff they have on the menus these days. Fancy back then was the Burrito Supreme. I always wanted that, but always rolled away with a regular old burrito, and if mom was feeling spendy I was lucky enough to get sourcream on it for an extra 25 cents. And McDonald’s? That was for special occasions like your birthday and maybe a handful of other times throughout the year.
Growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s were fun for me. Lots of good times and not a lot to worry about. Mom was a stay-at-home mom that always had our meals prepared for us to find waiting for us on schedule. Of course, we would always bug mom and dad when we were out shopping, asking if we could stop at Taco Bell or McDonald’s, but the usual response was that we were eating at Mom’s Place. Of course, there were always some processed foods thrown in the mix but not at the level we see people eating today. The microwave oven was a new invention when I was a kid and the idea of being able to make a single hotdog in a bun wrapped in a paper towel nuked for 30 seconds was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Occasionally, we would have something processed like Tater-tot’s added into the mix with all of the other foods that mom was making from scratch, but it was the exception, not the rule. But then came the turn that changed everything. And it came when I was put in a position to choose on my own. It likely began in jr. high or what they now call middle school when I started going to school with money in my pocket and no oversight into what I was buying at break or lunchtime. And by the time I was in high school I was well on my way to paving the new road to a new age of culinary misgivings.
In high school, I was given $22.50 per week in allowance and lunch money which really gave me the freedom to start eating more the way that I wanted to eat. And frankly, I didn’t waste any time joining the workforce. I was making my own money beginning somewhere around age 14 which really didn’t help me in my own dietary decision-making process. I could now afford to eat whatever I wanted when mom and dad weren’t around. And then after I graduated from high school, all bets were off on my ever eating the way I had been raised to eat, at mom’s table.
When high school came to an end I was in no hurry to do anything quickly. I just wanted to take that first summer off and do a whole lot of nothing, which is exactly what I did. That fall I began working full time at Circuit City in Lakewood as a car stereo installer. Boy, that full-time income sure did bring a lot more freedom in life and that meant that I was expanding my eating window to include more good stuff from places like Jack in the Box, Little Caesars, McDonald’s, and the like, and I had no interest in looking back to what mom was making for dinner.
I met my first wife Tanya in the early months of 1992 and by that time we were literally bathing ourselves in junk food by the pound. We had almost no constraint. The following year we were married and out living on our own doing what we knew best, which was not cooking our dinners at home and what little foods we did stock our refrigerator and cabinets with were not health foods by any means. Just more flavorful junk. Clearly, we had little idea just how bad this was going to come back to haunt us. And then we became parents ourselves and our children began eating what we were eating. All junk, all the time.
We knew that this was not the way we were raised to eat. We had been told such, but there was a disconnect to the reality that I believe would ultimately pave the way for my having an advanced metabolic disease that would come to roost some 25 years later. It didn’t happen quickly but was a long slow process that was deceptively progressive separating the sewing of the seed from the fruit that was brought forth. It’s no wonder we don’t see the connection between ingested foods and the resulting ill-health. It doesn’t happen overnight. And one of the things that frighten me the most is what will be happening to our children and grandchildren as a result of this dietary shift that happened in my generation. Our children are now suffering from advanced metabolic diseases that were once known as adult-onset diseases like what we now call Type-2 Diabetes. It used to be called Adult-Onset Diabetes, but then when children started suffering from it we simply renamed it for better fit and finish.
I know for me it wasn’t a matter of not having the intellect to understand why I should have been eating a diet that contained much more if not solely plant-based whole foods, it just wasn’t spoken of broadly when I was growing up. There were no classes in any of the schooling that I took that would have in any way described my way of eating as unhealthy. There also wasn’t any learning that I participated in that explained how the human body works the way I understand it today. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist, I just wasn’t aware of it, nor was I specifically looking for those answers.
I suppose if there was someone I respected that would have described to me directly what would happen to me physically as a result of my eating habits, I would have chosen a different path. If someone had taken the time to sit down and describe in simple terms that a fourteen-year-old could understand that a body has certain specific needs to live a full and healthy life I might have chosen a different course. Instead, I chose Dr. Pepper and Funyuns or Munchos. Slurpee’s and Cool Ranch Doritos. Good times, good times. Or so I thought.
I wonder if I would have followed a different path had I met someone like me when I was 18 that would have shared with me what I share with those in my car every day. What if would have met someone like me, a teacher of human physiology and disease pathology that would have taken 15 minutes to share the information that I share. Would I have listened and actually taken action? I don’t know. It really does seem that something tragic needs to happen in someone’s life before they will choose to make a significant change for the better.
-Michael J. Loomis