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Moral Fiber

Right now, amid so many depressing reports about the demise of our nation’s economic, health care and education systems, there are still two areas in which we remain the clear world leader: incarceration and obesity.

Is there a connection?

Since the 1980s and the Reagan administration, the prevailing government approach to behavioral issues such as these—the national marketing strategy—has been to present them as individual moral failings, and to encourage people to rise above temptation: JUST SAY NO!

Obviously, this strategy has never worked. It conflicts with what seems to be a fundamental characteristic of American Culture. There is certainly a pervasive belief, reinforced by decades of marketing messages, that we, as Americans, are entitled to what we want, when we want it. Our society seems to be telling us to JUST SAY NOW!

I wish I were an exception.

In the 1960s, when I had less body fat than a Barbie doll, I used to laugh at a TV commercial in which a middle-aged white guy (he must have been almost forty) stands in his attic trying on his old army uniform, which doesn’t come close to fitting. Alarmed, he rushes to the kitchen and slugs down a gallon of MetriCal, the Great Tasting Diet Drink That Tastes Like A Shake™.

Last night, following this philosophy of “the more you take, the more you lose,” instead of climbing on my recumbent bike for another 600 calorie journey, I went out to the local Hannaford supermarket and bought flavored rice cakes (Only 50 Calories Each!), curry-flavored Ramen noodles (Great As A Meal Or As A Snack!), organic dates (Only 40 Calories Each And A Great Source of Natural Fiber!), Newman’s Own Popcorn (All Profits Go To Feeding Other People Real Food!), and a freshly-baked Bran Muffin (Nothing Makes A Finer-Shaped Stool!!).

Before my metabolism changed to resemble that of a three-toed tree sloth, I used to think this diet-and-exercise stuff was all a matter of will-power and discipline. Now I realize it just takes applied intelligence and a valid VISA card.

Who needs moral fiber when you can buy Metamucil at a discount. (30% More For Free!)

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