Blum: Order Up!

An embrace of fast food is just the solution America’s obesity crisis needs.

by Maxwell Blum | 11/15/19 2:05am

Coming from one who routinely wakes on Sunday mornings feeling little remorse for last night’s consumption of two Double-Doubles, Animal Fries and a 29-ounce Dr. Pepper, I’m constantly reminded of my “trust in the Lord” for my metabolism’s sake by the fact that Proverbs 3:5 is clearly printed on the underside of every soda cup at In-N-Out, including my own. And, all things considered, I’m not the only one unapologetically spending my Saturday nights ordering up highly-caloric, obesogenic, fast foods at my local Las Vegas burger temple. 

Let’s get evangelical. Quite eloquently, Proverbs 3:5 states “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” According to this verse’s author, Solomon, God’s knowledge is beyond our comprehension, and His omnipresence associates the divine with even the simplest of everyday objects. Evidently, God can be found in just about anything — even a 29-ounce Dr. Pepper from In-N-Out Burger.

Are we, sinful processed food consumers, sentenced to eternal obesity damnation as a result of our caloric transgressions, while those who glorify God through the wholesome-food movement grow exalted? 

Quite the contrary — fast food could be the answer. In-depth studies of wholesome foods, processed foods, food deserts (a commonly attributed origin of obesity) and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign show that the solution to America’s obesity crisis does not lie in demonizing fast, processed food (while simultaneously glorifying wholesome, trendy food). And, as a self-proclaimed French Fry Evangelist, I couldn’t agree more. 

Recent failures in overly flamboyant anti-obesity campaigns like New York’s 16+ ounce soda ban and McDonald’s’ proud push of veggie burgers makes clear that the average American consumer wants what they want — no matter how many quinoa salads appear on billboards. Perhaps a gradual trend toward healthy iterations of popular, cheap food would be a more effective solution than costly campaigns of the potentially-ineffective wholesome food movement. 

An esteemed journalist for The Atlantic, David Freedman, has repeatedly ridiculed those who view “food processing as a source of society’s health problems” as “Pollanites,” strict food followers of University of California at Berkeley and Harvard University professor Michael Pollan. Having been raised in the ever-urbanizing city of Las Vegas, I’ve been introduced to an ever-evolving religious melting pot, where so-called Pollanites and French Fry Evangelists alike coexist in a dissonant harmony. As Pollanites are within my family, at school and at work, I, alongside my fellow French Fry Evangelists, am inescapably subject to the constant demonization of processed foods. This begs the question — is the belittlement that my people and I receive for routinely eating processed foods justified through real, reliable, thoughtful science?

And all God’s people said, “No!” When asked to describe the origins of food deserts, which some correlate to a rise in obesity, the internationally recognized journal Health & Place remained quite vague on the matter, anecdotally reporting of “several theories,” a “lack of consensus,” and an overall “debate about [food deserts’] actual existence.” As shown, despite the efforts of many, the obesity epidemic remains an unsolved enigma with the development of its solution still in its infancy. In the scientific community, there is little to be said concerning what causes obesity within a population; the Pollanites are in no place to criticize those who cheerfully embrace processed — and delicious! — food. 

Fighting obesity requires a comprehensive yet subtle improvement to the nutritional value of food served at fast food restaurants: Loud advertisements of healthier processed foods won’t work. Admittedly, processed food establishments have provided accessible, fast and unhealthy foods, which are indeed major players in America’s health epidemic. Nevertheless, a public forgiveness of the sins “Big Food” companies (In-N-Out Burger, Chipotle, Wendy’s, etc.) have made could be done by them making their processed, popular foods more nutritious. Potentially, this could significantly expedite closing the chapter on the obesity epidemic and begin a New Testament of a healthier, more sustainable America. 

Simply put, science aligns with Freedman’s belief, as he wrote in 2013, that “the fast-food industry may be uniquely positioned to improve our diets.” By stealthily reducing fats, sugars and problem carbs in their meals while preserving taste and satiation through the use of processing technology, Big Food companies responsible for feeding 85,000,000 Americans each day could “do far more for the public’s health in five years than the wholesome-food movement is likely to accomplish in the next 50,” Freedman wrote.

Since diving head-first into a world of obesity academia, I’ve entered my “promised land” with a dignified strut. Undoubtedly, I’ve developed an optimistic worldview concerning fast food joints I’ve been told to avoid my whole life. While some may simply see two Double-Doubles, Animal Fries and a 29-ounce Dr. Pepper, I see potential. Perhaps I’m a crusader — a French Fry Evangelist armed and ready with the weapons necessary to finally end the war on fast food.