The trouble with Valentine’s Day

For the record, I believe that Valentine’s Day was created by Hallmark and subsidized by Godiva. Most pointless holiday ever. Why do you need a separate day to tell someone you love them? Shouldn’t you do that every day?

But that’s not the point of this post. The whole “subsidized by Godiva” part is the point of this post. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I used to work for them. Great job when you’re young and your metabolism is at an all time high. Now? Probably not so much.

One of my co-workers had a doctor’s appointment today. Just a regular physical, he said, but they wanted to draw some blood, and asked him not to eat anything beforehand (I’m assuming it was anywhere between 12 to 24 hours before, but I’m not sure. I didn’t overhear that part of the conversation.) Another friend of mine, upon hearing he’d been asked to abstain from eating prior to the appointment, saw him come back from Starbucks carrying a green tea with lemonade and a croissant (he was too hungry and had had to schedule his appointment late in the afternoon, poor guy) she squealed and told him on no uncertain terms was he to eat or drink what he’d just bought. Her reasoning? They wanted to test his blood sugar.

Sugar, sugar everywhere...

This, of course, led to a discussion about why they’d need to check his blood sugar, which then led to a discussion about the dreaded “d” word: diabetes.

Diabetes is the scourge currently plaguing our country. It’s the disease that you can bring on yourself without knowing it. It doesn’t discriminate, and ten bucks says someone you know has it. I do. My dad was diagnosed almost ten years ago.

It’s not a scary diagnosis. At least, as long as it’s the non-insulin dependent variety (I have a friend whose young son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes about a year ago. Scary, scary stuff.)

The thing that gets me is this is one of the most preventable diseases out there. But noooo, we’re a nation that doesn’t understand portion control and whose offspring clamber every time they see those golden arches. Oh, and those new ads about high-fructose corn syrup not being all that bad for you? Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious.

Do numbers scare you? Here’s some scary numbers:

According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2010 18.8 million people in the US were diagnosed with diabetes. There were an estimated 7 million who were thought to be undiagnosed, and a whopping 79 million who would be considered pre-diabetic (my grandmother included). If you break down the country’s population by age group, it’s estimated 25.6 million people between the ages of 20 and 65 are diabetic.

Obviously, we’re doing something wrong here. Maybe it’s WIC not giving people enough money to buy healthy food. Maybe it’s the giant corporations who run our nation’s restaurants who refuse to cut portion sizes or sticking everything in the deep fryer.

Maybe it’s lack of willpower.

Where CeaseFire of Chicago has the idea use a public health model to combat violence (and it’s working!) maybe we’d get somewhere if we stopped looking at diabetes and obesity as a health epidemic and instead started treating it like an addiction.

Yes, I mean it. An addiction.

Sugar and other so-called “comfort food” trigger dopamine production in the brain, much like certain drugs do (although it’s on a smaller scale). Many healthcare professionals have long viewed overeating and other eating disorders from an addiction state of mind, using behavioral therapy to solidify “good” behaviors and eradicate the “bad”. What harm would it do to think of the tendency to reach for food laden with sodium, carbs, and sugars as an addiction? None.

Addiction counseling is also about isolating the triggers that cause people to reach for their vice of choice, whether it’s booze, drugs, or sex. Apply those same techniques to bad eating habits, and I’ll bet we’d not only have a healthier population, but a less medicated one, too.

I have this problem. My office stocks thirty cent sodas and there are two Jimmy Johns, two Potbelly’s, and two Specialty’s Bakeries (home of the most wonderful chocolate chip cookies outside of Mom’s kitchen) within a five block radius. Not to mention there are three Starbucks within a block of each other and numerous other restaurants and bad-food purveyors well within lunchtime walking distance. It’s the same issue I had as a kid: food from home is boring.

I’ve told myself, over and over again, it’s got to stop. Time to cut back on the sodas, the sandwiches, the crap that people bring in to work because they don’t want it at home. I don’t have a whole hell of a lot of willpower. I never really have. Once I got to high school and I saw heard the sweet, sweet song of the Coke machine, I was a goner. Me and high fructose corn syrup have been likethis ever since.

We sent our fellow benefits representative off to his appointment thoroughly freaked out that he was going to get tested for diabetes. Maybe it’ll be the kick in the pants he needs to stop eating so many carbs.

It should be the kick in the pants I need to stop drinking so much soda. The BF weighs ten pounds less than I do. He’s a foot taller than me. Granted, he’s one skinny-ass mofo (he has two hollow legs) but there’s just something so wrong with that.

I’m not going to bother to promise myself I’m going to change. Instead, I’m going to paraphrase AA: I’m not going to have sugar today. I’m not going to have sugar tomorrow.

So this Valentine’s Day, instead of passing out cookies or cupcakes,  or handing your sweetheart a box of chocolates, tell Ghiradelli’s to fuck off and treat yourself to a carrot or three.

*image via usafutures.com

2 thoughts on “The trouble with Valentine’s Day

  1. I’m staring at my box of See’s, trying to be strong and stick them in the deep freezer. I, for one, have fought my weight forever. I’m finally on the downward trend (lost 40# since being laid off and now I get to exercise whenever I damned well feel like it), but it is a daily struggle. Especially w/ 2 small kids and a hubby w/ 2 hollow legs. Luckily, we don’t eat out too much anymore (I’ve turned cheap), but I remember working downtown w/ all the yummy places you mentioned w/i yards of my building. Making the decision to power-walk at lunch vs. eating w/ friends is tough, as you tend to isolate yourself. Others may not like you because you “snub” them for something healthier. But in the end, you are responsible for you. Sometimes being a snob is the healthy choice.

    1. Good for you! I used to eat really healthy…when I still lived at home. My parents hardly ever allowed junk food of any kind in the house. Then I went away to college and realized there wasn’t anyone policing me anymore. Oops.

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