It’s about 12:30 in the afternoon and I’m sitting in my car by myself. I’m happy because I found a space to park that isn’t next to any cars and the lot is empty enough that I’m pretty sure no one will park next to me.
I’m alone. Alone with my treasures sitting in a bag on the passenger seat. I’ve been looking forward to this moment all week. My “little treat” as I like to call it. I go out for my little treat every Friday -and how I look forward to it!
I deserve it. I work hard and I don’t spend much on myself.
I open the bag and the comfort I feel as the aromas fill the car get me high with anticipation of that first bite. I lay out my feast:
- One Jumbo Jack
- Large order of onion rings
- 2 Jack in the Box tacos
- Strawberry Shake
I do this quickly because I don’t want to think too much about it. A single Mom who barely makes rent even these few dollars should be spent on taking care of my son and not on myself. I can’t let myself taste the guilt.
I can’t think about it too much or I’ll become aware that I’m hiding in my car behind the 7/11 so no one see me. I can’t let myself taste my shame.
I hadn’t thought of those days in many, many years – but it was brought to mind as there has been a bit of hoopla lately regarding Kentucky Fried Chicken offering gift certificates up to a value of $500 this Christmas season. If you do a Google search you’ll see things like:
- “Health Officials Outraged over KFC gift cards”
- “Fury over $500 KFC gift cards as nation battles obesity crisis”
Years ago in that parking lot I wasn’t gorging on KFC in particular, but my approximately 2200 calorie lunch was procured at a fast food restaurant. At the time I was indulging in my habit I weighed in at around 200+ pounds. That’s quite a bit for a 5’2″ woman.
About now many of you are probably gearing yourselves for an article decrying the sins of fast food restaurants. Not they have never “sinned” – but that’s not what you’re going to find in this post.
But, before I move on, I want everyone to know that purchasing a $500 gift certificate from KFC, or from any restaurant for that matter, is not something I’d purchase as a gift for an overweight or obese friend or family member. That’s like buying an alcoholic a six pack. And it certainly isn’t something I’d give to a child.
Which is my point. It would be irresponsible for me to give such a gift. In this post I want to take the opportunity this debate presents to talk a little bit about self responsibility.
You see, no one was twisting my arm to have my weekly “little treat”. Sure, I’d watched plenty of commercials telling me all about how wonderful these things tasted and how much I would enjoy them.
But no one had a gun to my head. No one forced me bodily into the restaurant. No one threatened me by telling me if I didn’t eat those 2200 calories, they’d do something bad to me.
The Colonel did not make me do it.
As a matter-of-fact, in order to get to that fast food restaurant, I must have passed a few grocery stores as well as other restaurants where I could have picked up a healthier and much less calorie dense lunch.
I chose not to.
Now, I’m just as familiar with the movie “Super Size Me” as the next person – and there are some very valid points made in the film. But there’s another side to that story and it has a something to do with our mind set as consumers – especially American consumers. And businesses succeed by selling the consumer what they perceive to provide them with the most value.
Unfortunately, especially in the case of portion sizes, Americans have a long history of thinking “bigger is better”.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the bean counters of the fast food industry knew that by making their portions larger (at relatively little increase in cost to them) – at what we saw as a low cost to us – would be perceived as a “bigger bang” for our buck. We’d see “value” and not only snap it up – but purchase more often.
They were right. And this concept over the last 30 years or so has snowballed. Think about it. Fast food aside – when we go out to eat if our plate isn’t overflowing we think we’re getting “gyped”. It has reached the point where what we now perceive as one “portion” is really 2, or 3 – or more. And we’ve been feeding these portions to our kids.
I understand the power of advertising. I understand that it influences our thinking. I understand that concepts of psychology and sociology are utilized to convince the masses “to consume”.
I also understand that this is MY life and MY choices. When I (finally) had my “Ah ha” moment and started on the path to life-long healthy weight it was a decision I made for myself. Actually, it was a series of decisions that I would continue to make for myself in the coming days, months, and years.
I understand the frustration of the people who would like to burn Colonel Sanders in effigy at this point. But I think that at least some of this pent up anger spilling out all over the Internet is projected anger.
Maybe we’re not as angry at the Colonel as we are with ourselves.
Outside of condemning the fast food industry and enacting all kinds of laws that will do nothing but cost money to oversee and create self-perpetuating bureaucracies we do have another clear choice:
Take full responsibility for our choices. Put ourselves back into the driver’s seat of our lives. Take responsibility for what we feed our children.
Remember that the goal of any business is to make a profit. If we change what we value when we either go out to eat or when we purchase groceries for our home from “quantity” to “quality” this is what businesses will compete with each other to provide us with.
And I think that we are making positive strides in this direction. All those years ago Jack in the Box would have been a very difficult, if not impossible, place for me to find anything even close to nutritious.
Today I can decide to have a “Chicken Fajita Pita” or “Southwest Chicken Salad” – both come in at 300 calories. Even our infamous KFC offers better choices, such as oven roasted chicken options. I traveled with my husband on the road for a couple years and know first-hand that it IS possible to make choices at most fast food restaurants that offer reasonable nutrition and calories. Not premium – but reasonable.
So, if anyone out there gives me a KFC gift certificate I know exactly what I’m going to get: “Tender Roast” chicken breast and a side of coleslaw – which comes in at about 350 calories.
It’s your lunch. It’s your life. You decide.