There's a long tradition in American industrial food of pushing both indulgence and weight loss. Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine are just the other side of the Hungry Man coin: processed, pre-assembled food that makes you feel bad about yourself for different reasons.
The systems by which we get our pre-assembled meals may be changing but the messaging remains the same. Food delivery is becoming more common as apps such as Postmates, Caviar and GrubHub make it easier for people to order food from their favorite restaurants and eat in front of the TV. So why can't these companies leave well enough alone (your evening just got simpler!), rather than inserting themselves into the feel-bad Olympics?
On May 10, known to some people as National Bike to Work Day, GrubHub sent out an email. "You did your part by biking to work," it said. "Now it's time to treat yourself by ordering your favorite foods from Grubhub."
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This reinforces the idea that food is a reward for virtuous behavior, rather than an essential element of remaining alive. This "good" food and "bad" food idea is pervasive in the United States, but it's baffling that a food-delivery company would fall for it. GrubHub in particular has dug in its heels: An email blast from its publicist was sent earlier this year with the subject line "Order takeout AND get your summer body with GrubHub!"
Ostensibly the idea was to get us to talk about how many people in L.A. are vegans, a factoid GrubHub has learned by tracking what we order. (It's humiliating to think about how many people at these delivery companies know I subsist almost solely on bun cha and Tender Greens.) But the phrase "summer body" has got to be one of the most vile in the American language.
The weight-loss app Lose It! sends similar emails about the chain restaurants that Americans eat at most, and what we order at those locations. It's always hard to parse if the app supports us dining out, if it wants us to learn to order lower-calorie options at these places, or if it's just sending out press releases for attention. (It's the third option.)
So why is GrubHub getting involved in what we order? The app is privy to how many times a month we order mayo-drenched sushi and meat-lovers' pizza, and that we'll never stop, no matter how shamed we feel about it. Can't that be good enough for them?