McCULLOUGH: Health Ranger to the rescue? No thanks.

Will McCullough

The hyphenated word “trans-fat” itself is scary, like a demon from below that will rise to instantly clog our arteries. If nothing else, the demon will put unwanted extra layers on our stomachs, sides, chins, etc.

Dining Services has the phrase “Good nutrition is a daily choice” plastered over many crevices of its Web site. Please do not worry; I do not plan on boring you with an extension of the e-mail crisis. The interest in that phrase is certainly not relegated to Dining Services’ attempts to rid the campus of trans-fats. The March issue of “The Atlantic Monthly” contained an article profiling the recent New York City Board of Health’s vote to “ban artificial trans-fats from restaurants, school cafeterias, pushcarts and almost every other food service establishment it oversees.” Clearly, issues about trans-fats are much broader than Villanova’s campus.

After further perusal of the Dining Services’ Web site, I found a link to an article on the Web site “News Target: News that Empowers” written by Mike Adams. Adams has dubbed himself “The Health Ranger” (no, I am not making that up). The Health Ranger’s story is told on his Web site, one that is eerily similar to Ben Stiller’s character from the popular film “Dodgeball.” (Wait, what happened to him at the end again?) The Health Ranger’s article focuses on the ill-effects of hydrogenated oils, citing 30 specific maladies that can arise from consuming them. It would probably not be productive to point out how far this article missed the mark set by the Web site’s name; its goal appears to be to causing fright rather than empowerment. The Health Ranger’s list of maladies looked like it could have been caused by smoking cigarettes while tanning under power lines or close to a nuclear power plant. It contained conditions that were like plagues of nature, and I suppose that I should have been scared into not touching another Tastykake for the rest of my days. This was not the case.

Perhaps it’s where I was born and raised (in and around the city of Philadelphia), but health concerns when dealing with food do not phase me – I would hope they do not phase you, either. I love to eat things that I know are disastrous for my health; we all do. I know that for every Butterscotch Krumpet I eat, I lose 10 years of my life. (If you have not partaken in the deliciousness that is the regional Tastykake company, please do so before you leave the Philadelphia area for the summer.) I am not active at all. I have a family history of heart disease, and at the ripe old age of 21, I find it increasingly difficult to walk up a flight of stairs. If a doctor, nutritionist or perhaps even the Health Ranger himself observed my daily habits, he or she would want to start me on a regimen of flax flakes, rye berries, carrots and strenuous workouts to undo the undoubted damage I have caused myself.

A direct cause of the consumption of junk food is people like the Health Ranger. On his Web site (healthranger.org), there are a couple of obviously flattering pictures of him trying to implant the thought, through this image, that if I eat right and listen to the Health Ranger, one day I could look like him. This is just one example of the ideal body image that has been prescribed, and it is exponentially worse for females.

The man even goes as far as to credit his depression to being overweight and suggests his weight loss was the cure for his depression. As a non-psychology major who has never met him, it would be imprudent for me to state with any certainty the cause of his depression. However, if what is on the Web site is true, it seems like the man has issues with poor self-image that are directly related to his body. Moreover, he and the entire branch of humanity that would be happy if I never saw another double cheeseburger project insecurities upon us all, despite their claims of a desire for superior health society-wide. In their eyes, we should all think better about ourselves.

Food consumption withstanding, the collegiate years are undoubtedly some of the most potentially unhealthy years of anyone’s life. The “studious” all-nighter and consumption of things other than food all amount to a cause for concern. Food consumption should probably be the least of these. I do not doubt the legitimacy of the Health Ranger’s list of maladies, but there is no way to force me to think about those conditions when they are presented the way they are. The link between poor body image and poor health is inseparable in all current manifestations. Perhaps it has been my youthful ignorance in the formation of this opinion, but I doubt it will change anytime soon, based on how we are projected to think about ourselves. For now, on Saturday afternoons, I’ll roll over, pick up something trans-fat-laced to eat and put myself into a cholesterol-induced coma ’til I wake up for the night.

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Will McCullough is a senior English major and economics minor from Plymouth Meeting, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]