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Abbey Taylor

HLPE1540 Reflective Writing 2

In reflecting upon my readings in the Second opinion textbook (Germov, 2014) from the last
few weeks, I have been further enlightened on the factors influencing health, being
particularly interested in chapter 11 based on The social appetite (William & Germov,
p.207). Through this reading and the corresponding tutorial, I learnt in depth about the
social construction of food, the McDonaldisation of food and the correspondence to
previous material such as global public health.

According to Germov and Williams, the preparation and consumption of food is an

inherently social activity, whether over the family dinner table or eating out with friends
(2014, p.208). Thus, food is largely associated with social activity. In the tutorial, our tutor
mentioned how we label foods as either good or bad but we ignore such labels when it
comes to these social activities or celebrations like Christmas which often involves partaking
of the bad foods. In reflecting on this, I began to think how society almost blurs the lines
between what is good and bad through these social messages. For example, if we
associate eating chocolate with a fun time with friends or going to the movies, or cake with
birthdays then that bad food in our minds really seems good. If we are constantly
portraying this, then in times when people want to have that happy feeling which really was
gained through the social activity, I think that they will turn to bad foods. This relates to the
McDonaldisation of food (Ritzer, 1993 as cited in Germov, 2014 p. 211), in that foods are
cleverly used to gain profit and in relation to McDonalds itself they have used advertising to
lure children, through toys, play equipment and organised birthday parties (Germov,
2014 p.212). I could take the happy meal as an example where the placing of the word
happy suggests that eating this meal will make you happy, further blurring the lines of what
is considered good and bad in terms of food. Furthermore, the food at such places are
high in fat and high in salt and sugar, which if we have more of the more our taste
preferences shifts towards foods with high concentrations of these ingredients (Germov,
2014 p. 212). As our tutor mentioned how from birth we appeal to these foods. In reflecting
on this, I thought about the three main elements of a meal at most fast food restaurants: the
soft drink, the burger and the chips, which clearly replicate the use of sugar, fat and salt
which are cleverly used to appeal to taste buds. While this may suggest a lack of individual
control, relating to the structure-agency debate (Germov, 2014, p.9) individuals still hold
some accountability for their choice of foods; however, they should not be blamed as there
are various social factors that contribute to food consumption.

During the tutorial, we were put in groups and assigned to analyse images of families from
particular countries and their weekly groceries from the Hungry planet: What the world
eats book (Menzel and DAluisio, 2005 pp. 1-13). When I looked back at the various
countries and the different amounts and types of foods they had, I felt very lucky and almost
guilty to be Australian with the amount of relatively cheap fresh produce and variety of
foods we have compared to other nations. In particular, the picture of the group of a Chad
family most likely being refugees with limited food only spending a little over a dollar a week
for groceries, yet looking happy to me which really struck me as for them that is what is
normal but for us we would consider it unhealthy. It made me reflect on previous readings
on the chapter Global public health (Broom & Germov as cited in Germov, 2014), where I
learned that approximately, 40 percent of the worlds population survives on US$2 or less
per day (CSDH, 2008 as cited in Germov, 2014 p.69). Thus, in relation to the Chad family
they are among many who live that way which reiterated to me the amount of poverty there
is in the world, as if I hadnt known that statistic I wouldve assumed that that family was a
rare case, but really there are many more. Furthermore, it made me think about what is
being done and the politics of aid and how ironically the aid is primarily used to benefit
the national interest of the donor country as often the poorer country in need of aid has to
abide by the contract made by the donor which usually involves them deciding how the aid
is to be used (Germov, 2014 p.71). This demonstrated to me the complications of these
politics, in which in trying to help another country, the donor country is the one that is
helped. This related to an activity we conducted in a tutorial, where we were each given
coins representing different values and we were eventually split into the three social classes
according to what coins we had, and whenever the rules changed the upper class decided
on the new rules. Through the activity, I began to realise how it was a metaphor of society, in
which the richer people make the rules that govern the poorer classes and how like the tutor
mentioned, which I hadnt thought of before, it is very unlikely that the richer people will
make rules that hinder them. Thus, the activity showed the widening of the gap between
richer and the poorer and how the rules of society make it nearly impossible for those
distinct classes to change. In retrospect, I can see how the politics of aid reflect this
mentality, which makes me contemplate the difficulty of improving health in developing
countries, such as like the example of the family from Chad, which enabled me to see this
point of view from a more personal perspective.

Throughout my readings, I have been able to continually make connections between them,
being particularly enlightened with understanding on the McDonaldisation of food in
Western countries which noticeably contrasts with the poverty of Third World countries. I
have come to realise that the root of such health issues is the importance of gaining profit as
the McDonaldisation attempts to attract customers for monetary benefit, and the politics
of aid demonstrates how money affects the ability for effective aid to be given to those
poorer countries. Ultimately, when comparing the two, I personally cannot help but feel
guilty for the luxuries I enjoy in Australia where the issue of health seemingly is about too
much food, while there are those in poverty-stricken situations; however, I have come to
understand the complexity of the issues that have contributed to this discrepancy and
unfortunately, the limitations for change.

Word count: 1123 (including in-text references)

Germov, J. (2014). Second opinion: An introduction to health sociology. 5th ed. Melbourne,
Australia: Oxford University press, pp.69,71,208,211,212.
Menzel, P. and D'Aluisio, F. (2005). Hungry planet. 1st ed. Napa, California: Material World
Press, pp.1-13. {Accessed on the 28th April 2017}