Mindful eating?

In many parts of the world, people have trouble getting enough food. More than 20,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes, and one billion are malnourished. The entire history of the world is one of constant dearth of food and nutrients; for much of human existence, the whole process of living was one of constant struggle to obtain and consume enough food to survive.

In the United States, it’s a different story. Americans’ relationship with food is a funny thing. We eat a lot, but we fuss about our diets just as obsessively. We are, as Michael Pollan has said, “a notably unhealthy people obsessed by the idea of eating healthily.” Almost one-third of American adults, and about fifteen percent of adolescents and children, are obese. Large corporations, which have little or no interest in public health, control the way our food is grown, processed, and distributed. Restaurant portions grow larger and larger, and the most widely distributed snack foods and beverages are full of ingredients that contribute to weight gain.

So, what can we do about it? Well, now you can shell out $49.95 for a Powerseed, a palm-sized “mindfulness assistant” designed to help you think more about what you’re eating. You put it on the table during your meals, and every so often it will make a noise or flash a light to remind you to eat mindfully. No, of course it’s not a glorified egg timer with a Zen aesthetic. It is a “lifestyle change system,” and that’s different. Apparently.

Oh, I’m sure it works, but it’s a subtle little device—I doubt the fattest people in our population are sitting down regularly for the kind of quiet, leisurely meals with understanding dining companions that the Powerseed seems to require. And for $49.95 (at least shipping is only $2.95), you might as well just get a month’s gym membership—though even for that, you’d probably have to pay a sign-up fee. Maybe $49.95 can get you a pair of discounted running shoes. Or better yet, why not spend $14.95 and get a different kind of mindful-eating device that’s only slightly less sexy?

Why does eating well in this country always seem confined to the realm of the well-to-do?

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]