Do serving sizes and rules count in a pandemic?

A couple of days ago my daughter was reading the back of a large Kit Kat package. You know, those chocolate wafers that come in a block of four. A large package has 2 bars connected. You snap the strips or ‘fingers’ off one at a time to eat them. Can you hear the jingle in your head … “Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!”

Maybe you knew this, but I never did … they really do want you to give a piece away. A Kit Kat bar has 4 ‘fingers’ but a serving is only 3 fingers. Seriously? How did I not know this? Did you know this? Here is a picture of the package …

Now, further research shows that the 4 finger packages give a different nutritional profile, presuming that you will eat the whole thing. But after conditioning you to do that, the KitKat people don’t seem to realize that you are therefore conditioned to snap the larger bar into 2 of the 4 finger sections.

This realization made me wonder about the serving sizes of other things.

Cheetos Puffs:                      13 pieces make up one serving

Ben & Jerry’s:                       4 servings in a pint

Bear Naked Granola:          ¼ cup is a serving

Doritos:                                  11 chips are a serving

Top Ramen:                          ½ the single block of dry noodles is a serving

In these social distancing days, there are a lot of jokes about the Covid-19 pounds, and the Quarantine-15. Seems like a good thing to laugh about. No one is saying go out and gain 60 pounds during quarantine. But if the blurred days and the passage of time and months have taken a toll, and your eating habits have become like a longer version of those vague days between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s very understandable.

Everyone is probably enduring the most sustained, all-encompassing, stressed-out time in their lives. I paid attention to what the medical and scientific communities of experts are saying. So, I believe in the necessity of lockdowns and social distancing, and the need to continually remember we must ‘flatten the curve.’

It’s stressful living with such a huge change in routine, with no concrete end date. As scary as it is for adults, it has to be much worse for children and teens. No birthday parties, first communions, bar/bas mitzvahs, confirmations, Quinceanera, sweet 16s, proms, graduations, weddings. No bowling alleys, mini-golf, movie theaters, pool parties, paint bar, escape rooms, laser tag, sporting events, concerts … Nothing.

On top of all that, adults must face serious fears about the long-term effect of this pandemic on our nation. The economy, Wall Street, the markets, jobs, health care, manufacturing, the supply chain and on and on. Everything is being affected.

Never in our lives has a pandemic like this struck. The last one that seriously affected this nation was back in 1918.  Our schools have never been shut down for months at a time to enforce social distancing mandates. I remind my kids that it could be worse, that at least they have the Internet and can continue schoolwork. That they can continue to interact with friends through Snapchat and Facetime and things like that. I try to be encouraging but I know very well that this is horribly traumatic. My kids are teenagers. They are in critical years for social interaction and exploring new interests. They also know people who have died from this virus, and others in various stages of recovery. It’s not just something on TV or the Internet.

I’m the parent. My responsibility is to encourage them but be honest with them. I think all parents everywhere are doing the best we can. At least I hope that’s the case. No matter what we’re doing though, we probably all feel at least to some degree like we’re failing. We aren’t eating the right foods or the right amount. We aren’t setting a perfect example. Our kids are playing too many video games or watching too much YouTube, spending too long building on Minecraft or Snapchatting. I’m on the computer a lot myself, working on my blog or on my Instagram, doing editing work for people and coursework for my graduate degree. I can’t micro-manage my teenagers and even if I could, it wouldn’t be the right thing to do.

I can’t live this experience for them. I can love them and support them, empathize, and sympathize and stabilize their immediate environment. I can tell them to enjoy their favorite snacks, go for a walk or a bike ride if they want to, binge watch your favorite show if they feel like it. In the grand scheme of things, it’s OK to have some comfort food in these days where everybody could use a little bit of comfort. It’s OK to do things that make you feel a bit better, provided it’s not dangerously self-destructive.

Some people reading this are getting ready to email me or comment that, “You can’t tell people to eat junk food all day!” because they will hone in on that one point. Well, relax because that’s not what I’m saying. I’m very well aware that research shows a balanced diet with substantial plant-based nutrients is the best thing. If you already live that way, there’s no reason to think you’re going to ditch it. But if you don’t already live that way, it seems pretty clear that the throes of a pandemic are not a good time to give yourself a slew of healthy new rules and put more pressure on yourself.  The obvious exception to that would be if your doctor tells you to right now.

In case you weren’t aware when you started reading this article, I live in New York, the state with the most coronavirus cases by far. As of May 15, the 5 states with the most cases are:

  1. New York: 343,051 cases
  2. New Jersey: 142,704 cases
  3. Illinois: 87,937 cases
  4. Massachusetts: 82,182 cases
  5. California: 74,871 cases

The stats about gyms are little more confusing so I won’t bore you with them. Suffice to say that New York has a huge number of them. At some point the coronavirus plague will ease enough to allow gyms and fitness centers to open their doors once again. There will be all kinds of specials and people will flock to them like it’s the first Monday after New Year’s. I won’t be going because I will still be disabled, but I will long distance cheer for all those who do.

People will stagger wide-eyed back into the streets and onto the sidewalks. Most will be shaggy haired, unwaxed, undyed, lacking manicures and pedicures and otherwise ungroomed. Less tanned, less toned. More appreciative of medical workers, scientists, teachers, and truck drivers. Grateful to be able to have a church service, celebrate a wedding, have more than 5 people at a funeral. Rejoice in having a birthday party that is not a drive-by vehicle parade.

Happy to return to our regular fears and idiosyncrasies. But none of us will ever be quite the same again.



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