Living off the fat of the land

We've all seen the headlines: Americans are overweight and out of shape. And that's just the Falcons' offensive line.

Worse yet, our children are overweight and out of shape. Pretty surprising, considering how many calories they burn while manipulating those little joysticks with their thumbs.

But the tendency toward slovenliness isn't limited to couch potatoes. Watching youth sports, I've observed that even the athletic kids tend to be a little soft around the middle. Must be all those nutritional post-game snacks the parents keep providing.

So who's to blame for this flaccid state of affairs? Is it really the parents, or is it - as is the case with most of our problems - society itself? Speaking as a parent, I'm all for fingering the latter.

I can certainly identify at least one societal trend that contributes to obesity in children as well as in their adult role models: the policy, now common among fast-food restaurants, of giving their customers more food than they ask for, more food than they need, more food than some third-world countries consume in a week.

None of which fazes those establishments, who draw us in by advertising "extra value meals" - five times the calories for only twice the price - then offer to "supersize that" for only 40 cents more. For another dollar, they'll throw in a set of hand trucks or a defibrillator, your choice.

Case in point: The other day I stopped by a popular fast-food restaurant for one of their famous fried apple pies. Yes, I know I shouldn't be eating fried apple pies, that they're not good for me. But I haven't had one in while, and I've been exercising and watching what I eat. Besides, I really like fried apple pies.

Anyhow, I pulled up to the drive-through and ordered an apple pie, whereupon I was informed that, because of a special sale on apple pies being held only that day (and for the foreseeable future), I could actually have TWO apple pies for the price of one.

I tried to explain that I didn't WANT two apple pies. That I felt bad enough eating one apple pie. That I was perfectly willing to purchase half the guilt for twice the price.

Of course, when I pulled up to the window and the young woman handed me my bag, there were two apple pies inside. And I, of course, did what any other red-blooded American male would do in that situation. I ate them both.

Guilt aside, there is one silver lining. A few more trips through the drive-through and I can try out for the Falcons offensive line.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.