Junk Food Paradox (Or is it Irony)

“Animals’ taste systems are specialized for the niche they occupy in the environment. That includes us. As hunters and foragers of the dry savannah, our earliest forebears evolved a taste for important but scarce nutrients: salt and high-energy fats and sugars. That, in a nutshell, explains the widespread popularity of junk food.” – Mary Roach

Would you spend money on a can of Pringles if it amounted to what you earned in a day?

Probably not. Junk food isn’t cheap here. In fact, only the wealthier can afford it. I can afford it so I buy a can once a week. (Part of my cheat day.) But the observation here is that the driver the University hired to drive my fiancé and I around the city is only paid a 1,000,000 Guinean Francs a Month. With the current exchange rate that works out to approximately $111.00 US. Being paid monthly that works out to $3.70 US a day.  (This is about, or slightly above what the average Guinean makes in a year.) My can of Pringles – $4.00 US.  I get vegetables and now fruit delivered to my house each week via a friend of mine who has a couple businesses over here. He charges me approximately $22.00 US for the 2 baskets and that lasts my fiancé and I the entire week.  I spend a couple extra bucks for some extra onion and potato and a about $3.00 for a tray of 30 eggs and we pretty much have our food for the week. But our total grocery bill will climb closer to the $80.00 to $90.00 range because we will buy some other items. A couple cans of beans, maybe some spice, dried cranberries, some cheap, but delicious, Rum imported from India ($5.00) and of course some junk food. The junk food is the most expensive portion of our shopping bill.  That is not the case back home is it.

The poor here are generally lean because they can’t afford the crap. Our poor in North America are experiencing an epidemic because they can’t justify spending their limited income on vegetables and fruits. Never mind organic!

I’ve been here nearly 8 months and lost 20 lbs. of fat. Largely because the junk food is more expensive and because of where we are living we just can’t run to the corner store to buy a bag of chips and a coke. The nearest market doesn’t sell that stuff. The guy I buy my bottled water from across the street doesn’t sell it. After my can of Pringles is gone while watching some French Rugby. It’s gone! That’s it for the week.  Along with lifting heavy once a week and incorporating a session or two a week of some high intensity body weight training (Lots of burpees) I have lost that 20 lbs. and Have a current resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute. (Yes I’m bragging.) The heart rate could be lower, but I do like my pan roasted Guinean coffee.

Now I’ve addressed the problem, but I do not have a solution.  Because will power is also not something you can count on! A couple weeks ago we house sat for some embassy friends. Because they are in what us outsiders term “The Embassy Bubble,” they have access to all things American. Foods, Amazon books etc.  So they just happened to have snack food around. Healthier than my Pringles, but they had some cheese and crackers and peanut butter and more crackers and a couple cans of canned Jalapenos and some more crackers.  Over the few days, my fiancé and I house sat… We binge watched Trueblood and ate almost all of it!  So much for will power…  It was there, so we ate it.  (Then we replaced most of it because we felt bad.)  What is in your control is to not have it in your house. If it is in your house you will eat it. My Pringles last me one day, and I as mentioned before, then that is it until the next big grocery run.  But how do we control it in society when so much of it is subsidized by the US Tax payer and made so frickin’ Cheap?  My suggestion is limit your purchase to only a one. (Two at the most.) And resist the temptation to walk or drive down to the corner store when it’s gone. This of course is much easier said than done I know.

What I do know is that we will be returning to North America this summer. The question and real test will be, can I keep these “rules” when I’m home and surrounded by the abundance of cheap, all the flavours you can imagine, Pringles? We will have to see.

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