Today I was disheartened by the state of nutrition in the people I see all around me, not limited to my field. Point in case; today Pat tells me he wants to get breakfast at Wawa. Now, Wawa is a fine establishment with many healthy options, so I encouraged him to look for something healthy. He returned with a small low fat chocolate milk. Not bad. Then, a large, pre-packed cinnamon, glazed strudel. I say, "Thats not healthy in any way - sugar, fat, nothing good."
He interjects, "It's my money. It's my choice." He is absolutely right. He has the same God given right to make bad choices as the rest of us. We all make some decisions that are not in our best interest. It's the paradox of the overweight doctor or the nurse that smokes.
Personally (true confessions:) I drink coffee everyday, hardly ever go to the dentist and haven't had blood work done since I was fifteen (mainly because I feel strongly that there should not be metal objects in my body extracting vital juices for prolonged periods of time). I have no idea what my cholesterol is. This is a number I should know when I'm pushing thirty. (As I write this I'm anticipating the call from my mom.)
I said, "You're right, but it's my job to help you understand what a good decision is and what a bad one is. That's a bad one, but let me help you find something good." We walk past a pastry case. She pauses, "I'm sorry. There's nothing healthy in there.", I explain.
"Not even muffins?!"
"Not even muffins. At least not these. Most muffins are glorified cupcakes. Substitute the icing for cranberries or apples, but still loaded with sugar and empty calories."
I'd had this same issue with Joey not long ago. We were at the grocery store and he was about to purchase a snack - a single serving apple pie (before noon). He asked if he should get it. I told him the same thing. He exclaimed, "It's made of apples!" His anger was demonstrative of his feeling of having been lied to, or deceived by some greater food force. I explained that the apples were really more of a coincidence than a core component of the dish. However, this did little to reconcile his frustration. Really, rightfully so. There is a lot of deception in the food we eat, because food is a business. Food will always appeal to trends and slant views toward the incentive of a profit. That's how business works. It's full of half truths and euphemisms.
Back at the pastry case in Wawa Pat felt the same level of frustration as the previous Joey. He threw a hand up in my face to silence me and walked away. I pursued the point by highlighting the yogurt, fruit, eggs and cottage cheese all on display a few feet away. he circled back around to the damned strudel and claimed his autonomy. There I accepted my defeat; pre-packaged and all - 500 calories, 26 grams of fat and God knows how many sugars and carbs.
I went to my car and waited. There, straight in front of me stood a father, smoking. His two kids (maybe 5 and 7) stood beside him scarfing down a giant hot dog and kool-aid each, at 9:30 in the morning. The truth is I dont' know the context of this. Those kids might live off of everything from the garden six days a week and this just happened to be "super-special hot dog and kool-aid for breakfast day!", but something tells me that's not the case.
While the dietary choices of some families can be distressing, I feel more empathy for the people like Pat and Joey. Their struggles are the norm in my field. They may have grown up being told, "Eat this. It's good for you." or "Don't eat that!", but even the families that make good meal choices don't always have the ability to explain why. Nor do their kids have the desire or, sometimes ability, to hear why. So, often times they continue through adulthood eating whatever they grew up eating for better or for worse. Then, they develop their own patterns or eating, not knowing if it's healthy or not or why. Obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and so much more are rampant in my field. For some people it's so complex to understand how and what makes a person overweight, exacerbates diabetes and raises cholesterol. It's my job to help them understand these issues, but by the time they reach me, they're so established in their routine, it takes mountains of self-determination to adjust. Joyfully, some truly do have an overwhelming desire to do what it takes to be healthier.