[trigger warning: food, calories, fat shaming. please enjoy this completely nontriggering otter instead.]
Recently, as I have whinged about repeatedly, I discovered that my constant nausea and digestive problems* are a result of biliary dyskinesia, basically gallstones without the stones. The only treatment is a low fat, cholesterol free diet.
Do you have any idea what a fucking pain in the ass it is to have to eat low fat, no cholesterol? At every meal? (At first, I thought I could have 20 grams of fat in one meal as long as I stayed low fat the rest of the day. This is not true. Not true at all.) Admittedly, having to go gluten free would be exponentially worse, but this is bad enough.
Forget about fast food. They don't sell anything low fat other than the soda.
Forget about ordering in. There's no way of telling what's in anything from the menu descriptions alone, and forget about asking the person taking the order. They don't know or they'll lie to get you off the phone.
Is the food in question cheap, convenient and tasty? I can't eat it.
Hey, I can eat tha-- wow, that's expensive. If I buy this, I'll only be eating 3 days this week. Hey, that's cheap, and I can eat it. Yay! I have to soak it for how long? I was kind of intending to eat before tomorrow. A crockpot? I don't even own one of those.
This is every meal for me since January 4th. So you tell me, why is it such a mystery that posting calorie counts at fast food restaurants doesn't work? Short answer: desperation. Long answer: privilege.
Desperation: There's nothing wrong with occasionally eating at McDonalds, for the average person, anyway. Your body can and will absorb a few extra calories, grams of fat and teaspoons of salt. So the the occasional McDonalds visitor won't be swayed by calorie counts, and they're not who calorie counts are for.
Very few people are eating at McDonalds on a regular basis because they think it's a good idea. What McDonalds is is cheap, convenient, and quick. If you're low on money, time and transportation, McDonalds meets your immediate needs: food that you can get to that's cheap and quick. Calorie counts won't change that.
Large portions of the population of this country do not have access to grocery stores, let alone organic food, and couldn't afford it if they had access to it. If your choices are dinner from the convenient store down the street or McDonalds, um, well, yeah. There you go. I may not be able to afford the food I need, but at least I can go look at it.
Privilege: This is what the FDA thinks the problem is:
As the FDA lamented in a 2004 report, "It may be that consumers do not take advantage of the available information on the food label to control their weight, perhaps because they do not appreciate how the information could be used for weight management purposes or perhaps because they find it too hard to apply the available information to such purposes."
Yes, Official FDA Lamentor, the American public is simply too stupid to "appreciate" what "this sandwich contains more than one day's worth of calories" means. Fat people are mouth breathing morons who are lucky not to drown in the shower. (Don't look up!)
Let's imagine a situation in which a mother and two children have to choose what to eat for dinner. The mother knows she can buy 3 hamburgers and 2 regular fries for $5, not including tax. Hmmm . . . wow, that dinner is not healthy. At all. Well, it's that or walk 4 miles to the nearest grocery story and buy, what exactly, for $5? Anything that would feed 3 people for $5 would likely be as bad as the hamburgers and fries, so why not save a lot of time and effort and just eat the freakin' hamburgers while we're here?
Now ask yourself, "how useful is nutritional information in this situation"? The answer is "not very".
The answer to the "problem" of obesity isn't calorie count posters at fast food joints. It's better access to healthier foods for less money.
Hmmm . . . well, I guess I can see why they're sticking with calorie counts.
*Trust me, the whinging could have been worse. I could have told you exactly what my digestive problems are. You must have good karma!