“They can’t take it if I don’t got it.”

That’s what poverty sounds like. 

It’s a voice that lives in the moment because this present moment is the one thing “they” can’t take away. It’s a voice that is accustomed to “not having” because the moment it’s admitted you “have,” you have a 100% chance of losing it. 

The choice many have is not between spending or saving. It’s between spending or having it taken. 

“They can’t take it if I don’t got it.”

But “it” isn’t really all that much. Sure, it would add up to a lot over time. But that’s assuming it would ever be allowed to add up. Life doesn’t seem to ever let that happen. And since “it” isn’t really all that much, “it” is spent on cheap and immediate pleasures like drive-thru food, paper-thin plastic toys, the latest knock-off of the latest big thing. “It” is spent on brief moments of relief, forgetfulness, and food that satisfies the immediate cravings for more. There is more than one meaning behind the term “empty calories.” 

As a society, we certainly have a need for more thorough and widespread education on principles of nutrition. But if you think the problem is as simple as education and ignorance – honestly ask yourself whether you know anyone who would say a bag of Cheetos is healthier than a bag of carrots. Everyone knows the answer. The Cheetos get picked because they taste really good and they give pleasure right now. Carrots taste ok and they give a sliver of extra pleasure to a future I can barely hope to see. So why choose the carrots?

Also, Cheetos don’t go bad. Cheetos fit nicely into the part of our brain reserved for “cheap” snack. Carrots get slimy. Carrots fit nicely into the part of our brain reserved for “produce” which we’re often told is expensive. 

  • Cheetos – immediate pleasure, don’t spoil, cheap
  • Carrots – possible future pleasure, spoil, expensive

Now it doesn’t seem so black and white. It’s not as clean and simple as healthy or unhealthy. The battle in the mind and heart of the broke/n is the battle of hope. Is there a future in which I can have something that won’t be taken away by The Man, the government, family, robbery, medical bills, last minute emergencies, debt life?

“They can’t take it if I don’t got it.”

What’s my point?

What’s healthy and what’s not healthy has been discussed and debated ad nauseum. There are more varieties of fad diets than there are varieties of vegetables in an inner-city grocery store. You can’t change the health of the broke/n by shouting from the rooftops that they should eat carrots instead of Cheetos. They already know that. They’re not stupid. It’s not a matter of ‘what.’ It’s a matter of ‘why’ and ‘how.’ 

If you can give someone a way, or ways, to improve and control their health, appearance, energy, etc. that can’t be taken away by external forces, you are allowing them to dare to hope. You are giving them power by revealing a power they already have. I’ll eat now for the future if I can see that I actually have some control over how it turns out. You need to show someone how health and fitness can actually be something “they” can’t take. 

There is a helpful saying that goes something like,” Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”

Just remember that telling a man that he should eat fish is neither giving him a fish nor teaching him how.

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