Magazine article Economic Trends

The Economy in Perspective

Magazine article Economic Trends

The Economy in Perspective

Article excerpt

Make yourself comfortable ... I ran into Walter Badgett in the frozen food section of the grocery store. I've known Wally nearly all my life--we grew up in the same neighborhood. We were close back then but we'd lost touch over time, like so many friends. I hadn't seen him in a couple of years, and there he was, right in front of me, scrutinizing the labels on a couple of ice cream cartons.

"Wally," I called. "How's my man?"

He looked up and beamed. "Mark," he said, "I'm terrific. It's great running into you."

We quickly swapped information about mutual friends, asked after family members, and caught up on our work and lives. I thought we'd have to cut it short because Wally was still cradling the ice cream containers.

"What's up with the ice cream?" I asked. "How about putting those tubs back in the freezer while we gab."

He smiled a little sheepishly as he did it. "I'm trying to figure out which of these to buy," he said. "The frozen yogurt has 5 grams of fat and 190 calories per serving, and the slow-churned ice cream has 6 grams and 180 calories. Which matters more, the fat or the calories?"

Although the differences seemed pretty small to me, I could tell that Wally really took the choice seriously. He'd never had what you would call an athletic physique, but he had always taken care of himself. Now I noticed that he had a small paunch above his belt and his pants looked a little tight around the middle.

"Worried about putting on weight, Wally?" I ventured.

His eyes met mine. "Let's just say that I'm above my comfort zone."

"How did it happen?" I asked. "You always took such good care of yourself."

"It's amazing how the pounds sneak up on you," he lamented. "I think it all started after I had a bout of intestinal flu a few years ago. I dropped a few pounds below my normal range, and I guess I looked really thin. Everyone I knew told me it was unhealthy--that I looked nearly deflated. They kept after me to bulk up, so I changed my diet. I started snacking between meals, putting cheese on my burgers, that sort of thing. At first, I felt in control, but then some unexpected events got the better of me. …

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