The Bacon Renaissance: You Are What Your Friends Eat

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baconforpresident

Bacon Makes Everything Better..?

Over the past few years, bacon has made its way off of the breakfast table and into some completely unrelated areas of our lives. You’ll find it on T-shirts, bumper stickers, iPhone cases and other various, inedible novelty items. Additionally, it has appeared across the spectrum of our meals. Coffee shops boast bacon-flavored lattes, while menus of upscale restaurants feature chocolate-covered bacon, and I think we all know of the famed Maple Bacon Doughnut from Voodoo Doughnuts that even spawned a beer of the same flavor. So, is bacon the fad anti-diet?

Fadulous

Wikipedia defines diet faddism as, “idiosyncratic diets and eating patterns that promote short-term weight loss, usually with no concern for long-term weight maintenance, and enjoy temporary popularity”. Every generation sees some new and some of the same fad diets. Things like the Paleo Diet, Atkins Diet, and the Blood Type Diet have been around for several generations, but how much do these affect us?

Take into consideration the gluten-free craze. Although most people now know that these products began by offering options to those with Celiac Disease or wheat/gluten sensitivities, but it took the nation by storm. Hundreds of well known brands are now producing gluten-free items for the estimated 1% of the American population afflicted with Celiac Disease. This is just one of many things that has become a health trend for millions of Americans who want to live more healthful lives. It can be pretty easy to just jump on the bandwagon.. everyone is doing it.

You Are What Your Friends Eat

I moved to Bozeman three years ago, and although I’ve always been interested in nutritional health, I found myself among a lot more seasoned connoisseurs of healthful eating. This is mecca for vegan, granola, and local-foods-only consumers. It’s trendy to be healthy. I found myself eating a lot more foods from the organic section, and dining at the Co Op with my friends on a twice-a-week basis. When I leave town, I sometimes find myself indignant at the lack of variety in  restaurants and grocery stores. Whether or not I like to admit it, I’ve become one of them.

Most food trends have proven to be no different than most fashion trends in their transitory natures. They sweep through the population, appearing especially in certain demographics and peer groups. Celebrities are talking about them, restaurants are featuring them, and eventually, most will go the way of the mullet. The great fact of all these trends is this: they affect the way we eat. If you’re one of the folks that concedes to the notion that bacon makes everything better, then you’re likely eating it with more than just your eggs.

As a target population, while Americans have added 2 years to their life expectancy, they have not improved their status in the weight bracket in the last 10 years. In fact, the issue of obesity has only gotten worse. Interestingly, there has been some speculation  that weight gain can be “contagious“, with rising numbers making obesity, in a sense, socially transmittable. In other words, if your friends are overweight, you’re also more likely to fall into this category.

Who Controls the Food Trends?

While doing my research, I came across countless recipes, blogs and products catering to bacon lovers, from edible dishes made of bacon, to a Wikipedia page entitled, “Bacon Mania“. I had dinner at a downtown restaurant last week where the cornbread came with a whipped butter that was peppered with candied bacon. I also came across some interesting pages about annual food trends. Once again, I was reminded of the fashion industry, and the people who decide what’s going to be in style this year. It’s probably not the people who care about your wallet or self image. Similarly, the yearly food trends don’t likely conform to the views of the people who are looking out for the health of our nation. After all, we are living under the watchful eye of an industry that invites us all to choose the country’s new favorite flavor of potato chip.

Ultimately , these kinds of unhealthy trends are a nightmare for the community nutritionist. Bacon is certainly a good source of flavor, but it’s also a great source of saturated fats, preservatives and sodium. With heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States, can our society really afford to endorse such foods?

Evolution-of-Obesity

Don’t get me wrong, this is certainly not an anti-bacon campaign. I have a fondness for this porky treat, myself. My point in all this bacon and fad diet talk is not just that social intake norms affect actual individual intake, but that many people make their choices with a lack of knowledge, following a sort of mob mentality, simply because it’s socially acceptable.

The community nutritionist’s job doesn’t just stop at forming policies or improving school lunches; they also educate their constituents about the food choices they’re making. Considering the notion that public health professionals aim to create an environment where people can thrive in a healthful manner, I think the experts could take into consideration the need to dismantle certain misconceptions about fad diets and trending foods, so that we can all make educated choices with how we’re eating. Because ultimately, it’s my choice whether I decide to put bacon bits on my frozen yogurt, not my community nutritionist’s.

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2 thoughts on “The Bacon Renaissance: You Are What Your Friends Eat

  1. Fad diets are huge in this nation and it is disappointing that so many people fall into them. While you lose weight and feel better while following one, the minute you choose to stop following that specific fad diet regime the weight comes back and once again you are looking for another way to get healthy. There needs to be more education for individuals to help them understand that to lose weight and be healthy is a life long journey of continually editing and changing your diet to make it suit you not the other way around, which is my opinion is how fad diets work.
    It’s easier when you live and are influenced by the people in a healthier community. Being surrounded and immersed in it, it’s hard not to follow the community around you. The issue is a large part of our nation is obese and there are fewer and fewer communities like Bozeman that motivate individuals to be healthy.
    I think you make a great point at the end, that it’s the consumers choice how they eat and what they eat. “You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or teach the man to fish and feed him for a lifetime”. We all know the saying and as educated individuals in the dietetic field need to follow suit and help individuals understand how fad diets can be more harm then help. So that each time a new one pops up individuals understand that it’s not the best choice for their health.

  2. Good words! I love how you took class-relevent material and threw it into the reality of how awesome bacon is in my opinion and so many others’. You’re right, too. Are we, as Americans, in a position to endorse such a food item as bacon? Or are we, as Bozemanites, in a position to encourage the consumption of bacon? Let alone chocolate dipped bacon?!

    It is interesting to me how one society can preach two opposite extremes simultaneously. For example, diets that encourage heart healthy choices and low cholesterol as well as “Bacon makes everything better.” Is there validity in either side or any in-between? How does one make up their minds as to what they think and feel about fad diets? There are sooooo many out there, we are not able to test each one and decide what is right for us based on first hand experience, although we may be able to do so with a few.

    I am glad you pointed out how our surroundings influence us. When leaving town, I too tend to have trouble making healthy choices as I would at home in Bozeman. This can be unfortunate, but I am very happy to live in such a health-minded, for the most part a pro-(local)bacon, granola kind of town! I realize your blog is really about fad diets and their influences in general, but I really love the bacon aspect!

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