Christopherson: Eating food that's terrible for us

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Underlying conditions.

    How many times in your life before last March had you heard that two-word phrase?

    We've heard of pre-existing conditions before, of course, which are sort of like underlying conditions, but also sort of different.

    Pre-existing conditions are a political football in our nation, where if you are fortunate enough to live comfortably financially and/or have solid health insurance through your employer, getting high-quality medical care for a reasonable price is possible and not the pipe dream that it is for lower-income people and those who don't get decent or reasonably affordable medical coverage through their employer. For far too many people in this country, a catastrophic illness isn't labeled catastrophic just because of its obvious negative health impact, it's also catastrophic because it can in the blink of an eye bankrupt a family.

    If you have pre-existing conditions, insurance companies don't want to cover you because you're too risky. Specifically, the likelihood of your pre-existing conditions flaring up or your pre-existing conditions raising the likelihood that some new health condition is going to inflict you and, in the process, be made worse because of your pre-existing conditions, makes you a money-losing cash-sucking vacuum for profit-driven insurance companies that might be forced to provide you coverage.

    But underlying conditions have become a staple of our daily conversations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have one or more of a whole litany of underlying medical conditions and you contract the virus, chances are you are going to have a much more difficult time battling it and eventually recovering from it. With any underlying conditions, chances are you won't be one of the people who catch COVID-19 and are asymptomatic and, therefore, don't even know they have it.

    We've heard about all kinds of underlying conditions in recent months, especially ones like asthma that can adversely affect the lungs, since so much of the trauma caused by COVID-19 involves the lungs being ravaged.

    But there are many more, like diabetes and cancer or other more chronic conditions that compromise a body's immune system.    

    But in the United States, we have one massive underlying condition that doesn't get mentioned in the headlines as much as the others, and it's obesity. Millions and millions of Americans are, by medical definition, overweight. Millions more are considered “obese” and, even more dire, “morbidly obese.”

    The pandemic has shone a flashlight-sized light on our country's weight problem when maybe it deserves a spotlight-sized light. While being cooped up and spending more time at home has spurred some feel-good stories about people buying exercise bikes or taking more walks and getting into better physical shape as a result, for most of us, more idle time and added stress about the pandemic and politics and what the future holds doesn't spur us to exercise, it spurs us to eat more foods that are terrible for our bodies, and drink more alcohol.

    Let’s face it, Americans eat the unhealthiest food on the planet, and it’s not even close. Preservative-laden, easy-to-cook food is full of ingredients that are awful for our long-term health. Fast food is so delicious and gratifying and so laden with carbohydrates and fat we almost get high from ingesting it. Medical professionals and nutritionists will say that olive oil possesses some positive traits, but that basically every other oil that finds its way into the ingredient list of so many other foods we eat every day is detrimental to our health.

    Further stacking the deck against many of us, unhealthy, convenient food is cheap and super-filling, while fruits, vegetables and quality proteins are more expensive and require time to prepare. Who has the time and money for all of that...and it doesn’t even have deep-fried breading on it?

    We’re just bombarded with it. Have you seen the new Hardee’s commercials with the prime rib burger? It’s a greasy hamburger, but then a mountain of shaved prime rib is plopped on top of it. Then a small ocean of cheese sauce is globbed all over the top of all of it. Or how about the new Dairy Queen commercials? You get a basket of chicken strips and fries, and you can dip every bite in “House Made Hidden Valley Ranch.” The narrator makes it sound like the availability of this particular condiment – and the apparent fact that the powder and milk and mayonnaise are apparently stirred together in the DQ kitchen – is an earth-shaking development that should stop everyone in their tracks. “Did you get that?” she says. “House Made Hidden Valley!”

    Yes, I got it. A stomach-ache, that is.

Mike Christopherson