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I just finished the first 2 chapters of the book Eating Right in America and although I don’t agree with everything that is presented in the book, I’m actually enjoying it so far because I think it really challenges my way of thinking. To me, eating has always been simply a pleasurable experience and my motto has been I live to eat and not eat to live so I will be annoyed at any idea that takes pleasure away from eating habit. For example, Atwater’s idea that we must eat in an “efficient” manner. I had mixed feelings while reading about Atwater’s calorimeter experience because from a scientific perspective, it was quite intriguing to see such a complex analysis of food consumption. It struck me that our body doesn’t make a distinction between delicious and non-delicious food and that delicious food is more of a delicacy than a need. I think this is a mistake that I often make about food, that I intentionally forget the distinction between good food and healthy food since I value pleasure eating a lot more than healthy eating so it was good for me to see that taste and preference don’t have much to do with the nutrients it provide.

But from an ethical perspective, I feel like Atwater’s experiment is treating humans as nothing more than just a machine where we need consume an adequate amount of fuel to survive and that our means of living is only survival and not pleasure or happiness and I did not agree with this part. In my mind, the thing that separate humans from machines is our ability to experience pleasures and happiness and I don’t see anything wrong with placing pleasure at the top of the priority list as long as you earn it.

However, as I read on about the Progressive Era and Richard’s idea of moral and discipline, my opinion about eating for pleasure changed a bit. I agree with the quote “Most Americans had a mistaken notion of liberty as meaning each person is a law unto himself; on the contrary, true freedom came not from unrestrained choice but from living knowledgeably within the constrained provided by the fixed principles which governs all living organisms”. Before this, a question that was constantly on my mind was “how is moral has to do with eating habit? But one example that helps me understand the direct relationship between eating habit and discipline is the bread making process that was mentioned. You can’t just say that because you live in a democracy world that you can bake bread any way you want. There are certain laws of nature of how bread must be cooked and if you don’t follow those rules, your bread will be soggy and ill-shaped. It makes sense that eating habit is a form of discipline itself because a healthy eating habit involves controlling yourself and sacrificing your taste and preference for a greater cause (health and efficiency purposes) and that’s basically what you would have to do to become a good citizen, someone who “forfeited his right to unrestrained individuality.”

Overall, I think this is an interesting book, it opens my eyes to more complex views of eating habit and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

Questions:

Do you think eating right will improve social aspect of our society?

Should there be a different menu for working class and middle class?

Should we extend eating right education to everyone or limit it to well-to-do classes? Do you think it’s really the well-to-do class obligation to be healthy for the sake of the race?

2 Responses to “Social Reform Through Food”

  1. sjksjk says:

    I also think that eating for pleasure is the way to go. However, health is the second most important aspect for eating habits. Efficiency would be important if food was scarce, but in the modern world, food is quite abundant.
    Eating right would improve society to a degree. If eating habits were more focused on health, there would be less concern for some health problems that are prevalent today.
    What is “right” to eat should remain the same across classes, since in the end everybody is human. However, the options are more limited for the lower classes. A guideline of what is healthy and good should be made with income restrictions in mind.

  2. laurenspiel says:

    The most interesting to part of this book to me is the distinction that it makes between social classes. When thinking about health and reading about the efforts made for our country during the war time, it never crossed my mind once to think about the distinction between classes. I think we should extend eating right education to everyone, although the lower classes may be less aware of nutritional facts and how to eat a balanced diet overall, they would greatly benefit from being educated as well. Although they may not have the resources, or ability to make as much of a change in the world as the wealthy do, they have the right to be educated on nutrition as well, so if the opportunity ever comes where they can make a healthy choice they are aware of what is the better option. We should not exclude the lower class because they are more illiterate or stubborn, it is important that if we want society to change for the better we do not exclude the lower class because they have less access to the resources that the wealthy and middle class do.

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