Thursday, February 26, 2004

Are you in the habit of eating out everyday or several times a week?

Reasons for doing so are many. Both my wife and I hated cooking and everything that went along with it - the appliances, the mess and fussing about over recipes, the clean-up, the overall drudgery of it all. We were both busy and didn't like the annoyance of preparing a meal for ourselves after a hard day's work. When our first child arrived, the idea of cooking became even more distasteful since it would be additional drudgery on top of our already fully loaded lives. We justfied eating out easily:

1.Convenience - No dishwashing, no wasted time cooking, you can save on electricity and water bills, you can save all that time spent grocery shopping, you don't have to worry about planning meals each day. I hate cooking.
2.Quality of Life - time sitting in a restaurant is enjoyable, you can catch up on the events of the day, discuss and take stock of your life, food is one of the great pleasures of life and is worth spending money on, choosing restaurants to visit can be an enjoyable hobby, choosing menu-items is fun, I enjoy the company of others while eating out.
3.Money - I bet if you calculate the cost of cooking a really Gourmet meal at home it would be more than what I typically eat at a fine restaurant...and no dishes to wash, I bet the cost of grocery shopping for food added to the additional cost of running the dishwasher and water plus the time lost preparing and cleaning up after the meal would also easily be equivalent or more than eating out for simple meals. I like spending money on eating out - it's one of my hobbies, and I can afford it.

Why all those reasons above are wrong
1.The additional cost of electricity and water usage is miniscule, we're talking pennies per day.
2.The time spent driving to and from a restaurant is very often greater than the time spent preparing and cleaning up after a meal.
3.Even if you eat out for every meal, you still have to visit grocery stores for odds and ends and late night or early morning hunger pangs - the additional time for full all-out grocery shopping is minimal - maybe 15-30minutes extra time spent per week versus maybe 15 minutes at least for a quick shop to stock up if you eat out every meal.
4.You often must spend an hour or more in a restaurant even for a quick meal. The wait for seating, the wait for taking your order, the wait for your food, the time spent actually eating, the wait for your check, the wait to pay for your meal. See #2 above also.
5.You can take stock of your life or have conversations with others (spouse and friends, or even over the phone) while cooking.
6.Cooking can be an enjoyable hobby, actually more so than simply restauranting.
7.Eating out can be a more heightened experience the less you do it. The more you eat out, the more dull, mundane, redundant it becomes.
8.Eating out at even cheap places like taco bell for a small family will add up to about $10,000 in a year if you eat out every meal (theoretically assuming you could eat out 3 times a day at a place as cheap as taco bell every day for an entire year). I've kept up eating out expenses for an entire year, I've easily spent more than $12,000 a year on it and we definitely did NOT eat out every meal nor every day. The typical bill for eating out at an average non-fast-food restaurant is something like $30 for a family of 3 eaters (including 15% tip). Eating well at home costs a family of 3 eaters about $6000 a year in grocery costs. There's really no comparing the two money-wise; home-cooked meals is 50% cheaper.
9.The time spent planning out your meal becomes essentially ~10 seconds once you get the hang of eating at home. We started by having a repertoire of 5 evening meals to eat each day - for instance, we came up with pasta day, pizza day, rice day, soup day, and noodles day. As you can see you have several potential variations on each day. I'm a vegetarian who eats dairy products and occasional eggs (no fish, poultry, beef, pork, seafood meats, or food containing any residue of such). My wife accomodates my vegetarianism and essentially became one herself in doing so. Even so, we are able to find plenty of appetizing recipes and meal plans. What we find is that the evening meal always results in left-over food which we end up eating the next morning or lunchtime; we've found preparation for the evening meal becomes essentially the preparation for the next day's lunch as well - a savings in time and money here too.
10.Restaurant food is some of the most unhealthful toxic concoctions consumable. Since restaurants are mainly concerned about a)their bottom-line, and b)making food appetizing so that you return for another visit, the food you find in restaurants are going to follow one of these strategic pathways. Either they will be laden with fat and calories to help you gorge and proclaim over their delights - and return for seconds, and tell your friends about their ambrosia. Or the food will use the cheapest, shittiest quality of ingredients to allow the restaurant to save on expenses while maximizing their profits. An example of the former strategy would be your typical Olive Garden variant quasi-Italian restaurant, an example of the latter strategy would be your typical streetcorner greasy Italian pizzeria joint. Knowing that a typical middle-aged man weighing about 170lbs should be consuming not much more than 1800 calories a day, one modest meal at Olive Gardens or Macaroni Grill's should easily leave you with twice the calories and several times the healthy fat consumption recommended. This is why Americans are the fattest people in the world - so easy to spot out of a crowd in any other country. Many Americans spend more money dieting than other citizens of the world spend actually eating.

The obvious solution to American's perpetual fatness is not to spend more money on the after-effects of food, but to spend less money on food itself - to eat less, to prepare your own meals using healthier ingredients, to not obsess over eating so much, to cut out junk food. The oracle answer to "how can I lose weight" has always been and will always be: "Expend more calories than you consume."

The Coke and Pepsi Conspiracy
Another major factor in America's fatness is the consumption of sugary drinks. The world's most valued brand-name is supposedly Coca-cola. Coke and Pepsi ads are ubiquitous, inescapable. We have been brain-washed into believing we need softdrinks to be happy, to survive. Our kids are brain-washed into believing the same. I got my son hooked on soft drinks since he was about 1 year old. He was at the 99% percentile for weight for his age and height at one point, he was "fat" according to the new pediatric BMI indices - he was consuming soft drinks 3-4times a day and these were his sole vehicles for hydration. He would actively avoid water. We completely cut out his soft-drink consumption, allowed him to drink sweetened tea however, and tried to push filtered water whenever possible. Within a year, his weight dropped while he continued to grow and he now appears nearly ideal body weight (though still occasionally begging for a Mellow-yellow). It would be good if he could be weaned completely from sugared drinks, but because of the overwhelmingly healthful benefits of tea, we will probably allow sweet tea. If the new sweetener Splenda was less expensive, we could use this exclusively to sweeten his tea, but for now, regular cane sugar will have to do.

Try watching TV while counting the type of commercials shown. You'll find that a typical 1 hour program would have 15minutes or more of commercials, most of which are in one of a dozen or so categories: pharmaceuticals, financial services products, cars, beer, soft drinks, restaurants, various junk food products. If you watch the commercials during children's programming on Nickelodeon, Disney, or even PBS, you'll find that half or more of the commercials are for junk food, junk cereal, sugared drinks etc. These marketers clearly know what they are doing and are very consciously instituting brain-washing techniques in order to program children of today to become the fat, unthinking junk-consumers of tomorrow. We cut out our cable-TV services to reduce our children's exposure to all this pathologic marketing. We do let our kids watch some TV because I've found that people who grew up watching no TV at all, tend to turn out a bit socially mal-adapted - maybe in a good way, but still.

I'm not totally against junk food either - ice cream, chocolate, candy-bars, potato chips can be the food of the Gods taken in moderation. Sure, it would be great to sit around eating nothing but fruit as snacks, but nobody wants to go insane.

The Mad-Cow Scare, The Avian-Flu Scare, The Hepatitis A from Mexican Green Onions Scare
What I've found is that once we stopped eating out, my fairly anticipated once or twice monthly bouts with diarrhea dissipated. You'll find that it is nearly impossible to avoid some "food poisoning" from restaurant food if you eat out often enough. Most of these are the relatively harmless 4-hour-post-cibum Staphlococcal diarrhea contracted from eating food handled by some nose-picking (or Egads, butt-picking) food-handler in the back kitchen. More seriously you could have some bloody diarrhea from Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter on chicken, eggs, seafood, other meats or vegetables. If you're having a bad day, you get to spend some time in a hospital from a hemorrhagic E.coli contaminated meat or produce. If you're really unlucky you may have to die from eating food with Bacillus cereus growing on it. Since we've stopped restauranting, I've noticed a noticeable absence of sickness from probable food-bourne illnesses. A major benefit to not eating out.

We've all heard and read about Mad-Cow, the Bird-flu, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A. Getting Norovirus or HepA might be just a roll of the dice and can be difficult to prevent. Bird-flu is hyped as something you can avoid by not eating poultry from Asian countries - the prognosticated pandemic flu from Avian sources is more likely to spread not bird-to-humans, but humans-to-humans, so avoidance of eating chicken is not going to make a difference in your health. But the variant Creuzfeldt-Jacob disease lurking ominously in many ruminants throughout the world is I believe a potential harbinger of the extinction of mankind. I remember in med school the chief of Pathology used to always handle various formaldehyde-preserved human organs with his bare hands and many of us did the same. He one day casually remarked that we ought to wear gloves even though he didn't - he mentioned the Jacob-Creuzfeldt "viruses," the so-called "slow-viruses" at that time - with latencies of 20-40 years from infection to symptom onset. Such latencies allow large opportunities for the subject to culture out the prions inside his body, and disseminate the disease to others - a perfectly smart, nightmarish behavior by a soul-less disease entity. He mentioned that we know so little about these prions. I noticed that this chief of Pathology always wrote in a tiny, trembling scribble. Within 2 years he retired from the faculty and was rumored to have a type of dementia. Did he have variant Jacob-Creuzfeldt?

One thing I know is that one of the main jobs of a public health servant working for the CDC or NIH or other government department is to prevent panic in the population. It's with this understanding that I read those comforting messages about Mad-Cow Disease issued by the CDC and other branches. In talking with any given scientist working on prions, you'll find many doubts cast on those blandishments issued for public consumption. One major point mentioned always is that you get Mad-Cow Disease from infected cows when you consume the brains, spinal cord, or "beef on-the-bone." The fact is that the prions are present in some numbers in all nerve tissue. The fact is that "nerve tissue" are present throughout the body - in every inch of the body. The fact is therefore that prions are present in every inch of the body of every cow or animal infected with Mad-Cow Disease.

Beef and beef byproducts are found everywhere. Lard, soups, oils, petfoods, bologna, pepperoni, hotdogs, certain candies, gelatins, etc. Milk, cheese, yogurt are also beef byproducts - think about it. Nobody is claiming to have found prions in these products but how carefully are we looking for them though? Do we want to know if they are there? Prions cannot be destroyed by boiling or freezing, they cannot be destroyed with bleach, formaldehyde, or other chemicals. They survive in vaccuums - in fact, they probably arrived on Earth through space aboard an asteroid or meteorite. They are the ultimate survivors, they will inevitably survive all other living beings on Earth now. There is much debate over whether Prions are even alive - they are bits of protein which have the ability to make more of itself - is this reproduction? If so, is reproduction an adequate criteria for life? At which level of contact with the human body are prions transmitted i.e. incorporated? intravascularly, via mucosal linings, via nerve fiber sheaths? We are not sure of these questions yet. With their long latencies and difficulties/expense in diagnosing infections, how do we know that many/most of us are not already infected? Could it be that it's not a matter of whether you are infected but a matter of will you express the symptoms in your lifetime?

With this background my wife has vowed to not eat any more beef if she can help it. She is so addicted to beef that she has often slipped-up and eaten beef since she has stated this last December. Since we humans have only 75 or so years of life, is it even worth agonizing over something that may steal a few decades of our life? In the case of our children, I would say yes. In the case of the potential succession of human generations henceforth, I would also say yes. This could all turn out to be another false bomb-scare. But if it turns out to be a real-life Invasion of the Body Snatchers phenomenon, inexorably crescendo-ing over the years from the first reports of Cannibals with kuru in NewGuinea and sheep with scrapie in Europe, it may very well be time to ring the bells of Armageddon within our foreseeable future. This is an anti-climactic way to end this section, but...this is another reason we are not eating out as much anymore.

why we don't eat out no more