Gaining weight due to recession?

By Megan Kutulis
February 5, 2009

It’s a shame there’s no level on the food pyramid for comfort food, because I think it’s safe to say that, although most of us have established “get skinny” resolutions for 2009, there’s a stash of chocolate and Campus Corner menus hidden somewhere in our dorm rooms.

Of course, this is nothing new. “Starving” college students have been known to live off Ramen noodles and to-go snack bags, but, in a time of recession, it’s not just college students who are looking to indulge in a little emotional eating.

Granted, the American public has never been secret about its obsession with food. Most towns have fast food restaurants on every corner, and the national obesity rate has been creeping up for years. But these statistics and the recent economic downturn aren’t doing much to scare anyone away.

Instead, it seems like no one is hesitating to pull out their wallet for a night out. Over break, I saw parking lot after parking lot crowded with cars, and 45- minute waits on a Tuesday night. There are lines of people waiting to get inside the T.G.I. Friday’s at King of Prussia. Call me crazy, but I never realized there was such a demand for a burger and fries.

I understand that it’s winter, it’s freezing and sometimes cooking dinner when it gets dark at 4 p.m. is out of the question.

That’s when calling for a pizza or having a menu to choose from seems like the perfect solution. And it is, until you realize you absolutely have to have that new outfit and all your income has been spent on bills and tips.

There’s also that whole aspect of emotional eating. Whether you’re celebrating a new job?a rarity in our current economic situation?or getting over your most recent break-up, it seems like dinner or a “quick bite” is always involved.

Of course, this is nothing new, but it seems surprising when you turn back 70 years to another economic rough spot, when out-of-work Americans were waiting in line for bread instead of a three -course meal.

No matter what the circumstances, I have to say I’m surprised. I know that groceries and the gas it takes to get them might not be cheap, but a $50 meal six nights per week certainly isn’t cheap either. Maybe families of four should start stashing up on Ramen and pretzels.

In a constantly declining economy, eating out is apparently the one thing Americans really aren’t willing to give up, which could be a good thing. Sure, we’re all a little strapped for cash, but to get the economy going again, our money has to go back into it.

The next time you find yourself unwilling to make the trek to the caf, just tell yourself, you’re doing it for the economy.

Megan Kutulis

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