You'll Eat Salad -- and You'll Like It

Carol Platt Liebau
Posted: Nov 29, 2010 5:21 PM
Jim Geraghty recounts an absolutely amazing anecdote from Richard Wolffe's book, wherein President Obama essentially forces an overweight staffer to eat salad for lunch.


All this goes along with the recurring meme of the Obamas' food obsession.  In yesterday's New York Times Magazine, Judith Warner speculated about whether Michelle Obama could make "field greens and strawberries as comforting, satisfying, and heartwarmingly American as apple pie?"

Actually, she can't.  And the reason lies in a intriguing column from the Wall Street Journal by Jonah Lehrer: It isn't as much about the taste as it is about the calories.

After citing the relevant experiments, Lehrer concludes:

[Scientific test results] suggest that we're programmed to enjoy calories regardless of their taste: We would still crave McGriddles and mashed potatoes even if these foods tasted like wheat germ and spinach. That's because a distinct part of gustatory pleasure has nothing to do with our tongues, with the savory and sweet sensations that we detect with our taste buds. Instead, we are delighted by the very calories we're supposed to resist.

For better or worse, there it is.  What's more, the Obamas might want to keep in mind part of the underlying psychology of some food disorders: Deciding what one will (or won't) put in one's mouth is one of the ways individuals seek to exercise some control over their lives.  Could it be possible that, the more the government tries to control us in every other area, the more Americans will seize autonomy where we can, namely, in our food choices?

As applied here, let's hope the theory isn't a good one -- otherwise, all of us will be grotesquely obese by the end of the first Obama term (or, God forbid, the second).