Would you be surprised if on your next visit to the doctor’s office, you received a recommendation to begin smoking? Would you be taken aback if your doctor told you to forget conventional wisdom and skip exercise altogether? Would you find it at all out of place if your doctor started encouraging you to begin recreational use of illegal drugs?
As champion of your personal health and well-being, you would never expect your doctor to do any of those things. Doctors are supposed to lead us down the path of healthy choices, a path filled with plenty of exercise, a good nights’ sleep, some baby aspirin and the proverbial apple-a-day. So why, oh why, upon my last visit to the doctor’s office, did I encounter not one, but two vending machines stuffed to capacity with a whole host of sugary surprises and greasy goodies? These glass cases of indulgence sat right there in the waiting room patiently preying on every already-ill person to walk through the door. This doctor’s office, this supposed bastion of health and wholesomeness, was openly peddling the absolute worst of the worst the culinary world has to offer. I’m no MD, but isn’t there some kind of hippocratic oath that Doctors are supposed to take that would prevent them from committing such a transgression?
Unfortunately, my sugar-soliciting Doctor is not the only one who’s stirred my ire with their dietary trespasses. My wife and mother and I recently made a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park. While waiting for our tour to begin, we had a few hours to burn and decided to embark on a bit of a hike. It had been a while since breakfast, so we needed to recharge and refuel. We were told about two dining options, there was a simple cafeteria and of course, for our eating pleasure, a vending machine. So here we were, anxiously looking to ramble off into nature’s bounty, ready to tackle any and all obstacles, only to be offered nothing more than orange soda and doritos to power our expedition. And the cafeteria wasn’t much better. Sure it offered more than sweets and confections, but a menu full of ballpark rejects and nacho-cheese-drenched snacks is hardly the kind of high-energy fare which we required.
Clearly, neither Dr. Sweet Tooth nor Mammoth Snack National Park have a full understanding of what it is they are supposed to be promoting. For the former, do they not understand that doctor’s offices should be places that exclusively encourage healthy choices? And for the latter, what kind of message does it send to youngsters when you show them that nothing pairs better with nature’s splendor than an extra large dose of high-fructose corn syrup? Now don’t get me wrong, when it comes to eating, I’m no saint. The record will clearly show that when it comes to stats for candy bar consumption, I’ve always been among the league leaders. But I’m not talking about the merits of soda pop or the rights of potato chip manufacturers, I’m talking about messages. I’m talking about appropriateness. I’m talking about the idea that when you live in a society that has the kind of health and eating problems we have in the United States, some institutions need to stand up and represent what’s right.
So who should take a stand as these beacons of health and nutrition? Obviously, doctor’s offices and hospitals are no-brainers. If we can’t get the medical professionals to embrace the principles of healthy eating then we should all look forward to the day when diabetes is simply a part of the American experience. National Parks, State Parks, County Parks, City Parks and Township Parks should all comply too. Any place that offers the public a chance to reconnect with nature shouldn’t offer food that contains no natural ingredients. Health clubs, gyms and YMCA’s should also join the junk-food-free club. What’s the point of exercising if it’s immediately followed by an empty-calorie binge? And without question, all of this crap needs to be taken out of our schools. Kids need to expand their minds, not their stomachs.
This is not a plea for the eradication of junk food from our national menu. Cheetos and Snickers bars have their place. We should be allowed to poison ourselves to our heart’s content. This is a plea for there to remain in our world some places of refuge where the junk-food, fast-food and carbonated sugar-water industries are not allowed to intrude. This is a plea for those places and institutions that have a role to play in our physical well-being to live up to their responsibilities. The double standard needs to end. A vending machine full of chips and candy bars in a doctors office should be just as appalling as a cigarette vending machine would be in its place. Nachos and National Parks do not go hand-in-hand. Americans are unhealthy enough already. We don’t need mixed messages convincing consumers to make connections about food choices that couldn’t be further from the truth. That vending machine in the doctor’s waiting room is sending an unwritten endorsement of junk-food as a healthy snack option. We would never expect our doctor to give us a prescription for a drug that clogs our arteries, causes diabetes and makes us fatter, so why would it be okay to peddle food that does the same?
Have you witnessed any inappropriate junk-food promotion? Is there someplace you know that should be offering raisins rather than Reeses Pieces? Please share any experiences you’ve seen for yourself. And special points for anyone who was bold enough to complain.