Caution: Eating Can Be Addictive

The Old Country Buffet is the WalMart of eateries. For just over $8 you can eat until you vomit. The food is good, and there is enough variety that you can’t possibly try everything and still keep it all down. I go there occasionally when I have missed at least one meal and feel ravenous. Therefore, it was on my mind one Thanksgiving when I felt obligated to eat lots of Turkey but had no one with whom to dine. The Old Country Buffet seemed the perfect solution. Like the big family reunions of my youth, there would be plenty of people around with whom I didn’t want to converse, but now I didn’t have to. And there would be plenty of food. Even better, when I was finished eating I could leave without feeling guilty.

Not having to talk with anyone leaves more opportunity to concentrate on eating. I had several dinners, which included turkey, ham, fish, corn, yams, green beans, carrots, mashed potatoes, broccoli, au gratin potatoes, and a dinner roll. Salad included several types of melon with cottage cheese and Jell-O. For dessert I had cherry cobbler, carrot cake, pumpkin pie, and a vanilla ice cream cone. All of this was generously washed down with five glasses of diet Coke. My binge took approximately one hour, and I had plenty of time to observe the activities around me.

My first observation was that a clear majority of the patrons were about twice the weight they should have been. Some were several times over their healthy weight. Some were so overweight they had to use canes or walkers to get around. A few were so large they couldn’t move, so they brought friends with them to fetch their food. I didn’t really expect to see moderation in eating at Thanksgiving, especially in an all-you-can-eat buffet, but the behavior I witnessed appeared to be routine. These folks were professional eaters. I tried to hold my own, but even eating all that I did, I felt outclassed.

Amusement parks have height restrictions on some rides, and all-you-can-eat buffets should have weight restrictions. Eating establishments like The Old Country Buffet are probably doing more damage to the general health of more Americans than any of the big tobacco companies, and I think there ought to be warning labels on their doors. The labels should read: "Caution: Eating can be addictive. Entering this establishment may contribute to obesity, nausea, pyrosis, indigestion, gastritis, drowsiness, … ". Well, you get the idea. Of course it wouldn’t have discouraged me from going in, and I, like a majority of Americans, wish I weighed less than I do.

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