Sarah Palin Defends Innocent Cookies From Alleged Liberal Onslaught

Illustration for article titled Sarah Palin Defends Innocent Cookies From Alleged Liberal Onslaught

Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are positioning themselves against the anti-junk-food zealotry of people like MeMe Roth. Does that mean every time I eat a cookie I'm supporting the Tea Party?

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Palin hasn't taken on Roth directly, but according to Judith Warner of the Times, she did show up with armloads of cookies to protest a supposed Pennsylvania "school cookie ban" (never mind that the district wasn't trying to ban the treats, and the school she visited was private anyway). Glenn Beck, meanwhile, claims the government's health initiatives show the Obamas believe "you're incapable of making decisions. . . . Left to your own devices, you're going to eat too much, you're going to be a big fat fatty." Unlike Beck, I'm generally a fan of Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative, with its emphasis on exercise and improving access to healthy food. But I'm not keen on the idea of turning cookies into contraband.

Warner says that in order to get people eating healthier, we'll have to make them think it was their idea. She quotes one David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, who argues that smoking is on the decline largely because of social stigma. Writes Warner,

Because of the unique emotional power of food, it's hard, if not impossible, to similarly stigmatize unhealthful eating. But it's not inconceivable, Kessler says, that social norms could change: that huge portions, or eating processed foods loaded with sugar, salt and fat, for example, could come to be seen as socially unacceptable.

That's a process Roth — who compared eating junk food to rape and once threw away all the ice cream toppings at her child's YMCA — would likely endorse. But it's not a very rational one. People were eating and enjoying cookies long before America's obesity rate started rising, and demonizing a tasty treat doesn't seem like a good way to win over people's hearts and minds. After all, talk about "bad" foods has been around as long as dieting — and neither has effectively lowered America's average BMI.

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Does arguing against the demonization of sweets mean joining forces with Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin? Not entirely — I'd like to see America help its citizens get healthier by subsidizing walkable cities and grocery stores in urban areas, as well as closing the gap between rich and poor with increased social services and a more progressive tax policy, all of which Beck would probably decry as Big Government socialism. And if we're going to tell people what to eat at all — a dubious proposition, as Warner points out — we should be preaching not abstinence, but moderation. Which isn't something either Palin or Beck is known for.

Junking Junk Food [NYT]

Image via Maria Dryfhout/Shutterstock.com

DISCUSSION

loremipsum1999
loremipsum1999

Like the author, I am very much on board with the "Let's Move" campaign; it's actually a fairly innovative method to get kids interested in exercise, and it goes about its goal in a rather light-hearted way.

Although I like cookies as much as anyone (as long as they're raw cookies), I don't think taking them out of school lunches is a bad thing. These kids can have cookies and junk food probably any time they want when they are home with their families, or they can at least have them after they have eaten a healthy meal for dessert. I don't think it's necessary for kids to have cookies multiple times a day, every day.

Also, Mr. Glenn Beck, a) you're a loathsome human being, b) you're pretty chunky yourself, and c) we can't control ourselves. According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a staggering 63% of American adults and almost 50% of children are overweight. Now, we can't assume that all these people are just lazy gluttons, and probably a good amount of them eat healthy but suffer from obesity due to illness, medication, injury, etc. However, certainly not 63%. Americans (not all Americans, but given the numbers, let's say as a majority) have proved that we can't control portion sizes, we don't eat enough roughage, and we over-indulge in processed foods.

Although I personally enjoy a raw vegan diet, which I do for my own health reasons, I don't expect every other person to eat the same way. So I agree with the author in that sweets should not be demonized, and Roth's statement which compares junk food to rape is actually insulting. However, I don't think it would kill the children of America to eat one meal five days that was completely junk food free. It's a difficult subject because one must certainly recognize that the parents should have a degree of input over their children's diets, but judging by the numbers of obese Americans, there is a good chance those parents are not going to be the best role models when it comes to food. If this is the case, a stricter, healthier lunchtime meal provided by the school could be extremely relevant.