Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Battle of Bulge: Knowledge is Powerless

"You see, you're eating it, it's good, isn't it?" 

One of my biggest detractors is my brother Owen. I have winced for years as he heartily pours brimming goblets of Coke for his children; I would then try to neutralize the sugary damage by popping sliced grapes into eager open mouths, lined with rotting teeth. 

Whenever Owen leads me into temptation by slapping some sort of oozing store-bought goodie on the kitchen countertop, he once again misses the point by about fifty miles. 

I never claimed that soda and its ilk doesn't taste good. What I have insisted is that they are just plain bad for you. 
I have no problem ignoring "poisonous" items in the supermarket, and my home is a haven for the toxin-free. That is why I eat out so rarely; in the murky confines of a back-kitchen, I know not what sort of vitriolic amounts of fat, sugar, and salt it being indiscriminately poured into my albeit delicious lunch. 

When those who dine out are informed as to calorie amounts, Stephanie Clifford reports, even those who watch themselves succumb to the crappiest item on the menu.

Why? The brain does a great job of kashering the pig by making the most calorie-dense offering acceptable by association to the best option available in the same eatery. Just having a salad with low-fat vinaigrette under the shared roof absolves the sinful fettuccine alfredo of any wrong-doing. 

Frank Bruni is an example of the study's participants.
The chicken salad hero at Lenny’s, a chain in New York, has 213 more calories than the tuna salad on the same kind of bread. I did no research to bring you this information. On the big menu board at the Lenny’s around the corner from me, where I sometimes grab a perfunctory lunch, the calorie counts of every item are clearly posted. The city made this mandatory for such restaurants about five years ago, hoping that informed gluttons might be reformed gluttons: that if we had more knowledge about where our efforts to slim down were going wrong, we’d have more power to change them.
And yet four out of every five lunches at Lenny’s, I get the chicken salad, all 879 calories of it, because there’s something more persuasive than nutritional data. It’s called mayonnaise. I can taste it in the chicken salad but not in the leaner tuna, partly explaining the extra damage — and the exaggerated siren’s call — of the former. The stomach wants what it wants, even if the love handles pay a pendulous price for it.
When that slab of seduction is laid before me, I know what will happen; the submission to good ol' fashioned gluttony, dulling my senses with saturated fat (I hope not trans). While I chew, for those few seconds, I am, admittedly, blissful.

However, unlike my equally (if not more so) scrumptious veggie-based diet (yes, I said "scrumptious"), there are painful ramifications. Like by any relapsing addict: Self-loathing, flagellation, withdrawal, and promises of "never again." It's easier to stay on the road than search endlessly to find it again.
You're my brother, Owen, so I think I love you. But please stop waving that calzone under my nose.

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