Irrational Thoughts

If diets are impaired primarily by irrational thoughts, then the prime remedy must be to change how people think. This suggests that what Third World women need most is to be educated about scientific principles of nutrition. But if practical reason already prevails, what they need most is a rise in their family's disposable income. Anthropologists Kathleen Dewalt and Gretl Pelto make this point in their study of a rural Mexican village. They concluded that the quickest way to get dramatic improvements in nutritional standards is to increase the resources poor families have to work with. I would only add that the slowest way to get people to eat better is to tell them what they ought to eat when they can't afford what they ought to eat.

-- Marvin Harris