(HOST) Everyone knows that the way we eat has consequences for our physical well-being. But commentator Bill Mares was surprised recently to read that it also has consequences for the economy.
(MARES) I’ve filled the car with gas, and now I’m filling my own stomach. I sit in the parking lot at a convenience store in Burlington, reading the New York Times and making cell phone calls, while I wolf down a cheeseburger, a candy bar, and a cup of luke-warm coffee.
My eyes scroll down the business page to a headline that makes me do a double-take: EAT QUICKLY, FOR THE ECONOMY’S SAKE.
It’s a column by Floyd Norris that reports on a survey by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development about the living conditions of their members. It suggests that nations where people eat faster have higher rates of growth in their gross domestic product. The dividing line between the fast eaters and slow eaters is one hundred minutes for meals per day, the survey said. Norris is quick to say that correlation is not to be confused with causation.
We don’t know, for example, if people spend more time at meals because they have less to do when economies are not growing – or if economies slow down because citizens are dawdling over second cups of coffee or glasses of wine, when they should be at work. The report makes another cautious correlation – between economic growth and obesity. Some of he less obese countries – France, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Norway – grew more slowly than the more obese – U.S., Mexico, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
"Humm," I say. "When my wife isn’t home, it takes me probably less than 20 minutes a day to chow down bagels, soup, apples, honey, peanut butter, salads and cheddar cheese, as well as my share of ice cream and donuts."
At that speed, I could almost call my eating patriotic, like following President Bush’s injunction, after the 9/11 attacks, to go shopping. Plus, I’m among the lucky ones who have dodged the obesity bullet. My weight hasn’t varied more than 5 pounds in 50 years. except when I’m sick. The trouble is, eating on the run still leads to indigestion, which leads me to think about the Slow Food Movement. That’s a 20 year old world-wide crusade with over 100,000 members. They hate everything about fast food, from its preparation to its consumption. Listen to parts of their manifesto: "We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.
"Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer."
Now, I’ll agree that sounds a bit pretentious; but the idea that we make a positive contribution to the gross domestic product through bad eating habits sounds to me – well – kind of gross. Guess I’ll have to re-think my taste for fast food and fast eating.