Friday, September 29, 2006

Cost of calories

I'm taking a short break from my road map to weight loss. Calories have become cheaper, easier to acquire and to consume over the last several thousand years. Twenty-five thousand years ago, most humans spent much of their time finding, preparing and chewing food just to meet their basic caloric needs.

Now, we can buy our daily caloric needs with income that takes minutes to earn and we can take in those calories in a few bites. I thought it might be helpful to put some numbers to this thought for illustrative purposes. I found a site to help me.

According to that link, in 1929 we spent 22.7% of our income on food in total (at home and away from home). In 2005 this figure dropped to 11.5%. WOW!!!! I know, numbers probably bore you, but for the anlytically minded (like myself) this is huge. Just 77 years ago we spent $22.70 of every $100 of income on food. Now we spend $11.50. That's a drop of $11.20. Furthermore, the percentage of income spent on food at restaurants has increased from 15% of our food budget in 1929 to 43% of our food budget in 2005.

Translating this another way, $1 today can buy about 150 calories of food, on average. That same dollar (adjusted for inflation) could only buy about 75 calories in 1929. Of course there are wide variations on the cost of calories for specific foods, but I'm talking averages here. So, today you can get your caloric needs on about $10-$15/day, whereas in 1929 it would cost you $20-$30 in today's dollars.

So...what's my point? This seems to be one of the reasons why, as a nation, we are fat. In less than 8 decades, a mere blink of the eye in human history, we've substantially improved our ability to get the calories we need to survive. Just think how much we've improved over the last several thousand years. Thousands of years ago, it's likely that calorie gathering, prep and chewing took 6-8 hours per day, whereas now it can take less than an hour. What are we doing with all that extra time?

Also, consider that we've made food more tasty and appealing. Mix cheap and easy calories, delectability and lots of free time that can be spent shoveling delectable treats into our mouths and what do you get? Fat America.

I think we've solved the problem of hunger - for the most part - in our country. Now, we need to do a better job of educating people about how to control their weight.

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