Eating Lessons

Or, Shut Yer Pie Hole!

Recently, I and my family watched Supersize Me, the documentary which mercilessly criticizes McDonalds, and the entire American food industry, for producing products designed to make us fat. It also criticizes — but not strongly enough for me — American consumers for being dumb enough to eat this “food” with any kind of frequency.

We were able to watch this as dispassionate observers; we never go to fast food restaurants. Oh, OK, once in a while my wife will take the kids over to McDonalds to go to Playland. Once every two months, probably. Other than that, never.

We both have noted, over the years, that we feel like shit after eating that food. So we don’t eat it. Your body sends signals, sometimes.

And, guess what, none of us are overweight. Much. Hmmmm. You don’t think Morgan Spurlock is onto something, do you?

Yet I hear criticism of his movie, mainly in the form of the argument that “of course he gained a bunch of weight and nearly pickled his liver, he ate every meal at McDonalds for a month! And supersized when asked, automatically!”

Not a good idea, no doubt. But this argument is missing the main point. Let’s ignore the supersizing for a moment. Let’s also stipulate that eating that diet without the supersizing would have resulted in nearly the same weight gain and damage to his health; after all, he was eating 5000 calories a day, and the extra 2500 sure weren’t coming exclusively from the supersizing, since he only did that nine times in thirty days.

So think about this for a minute. Think about the fact that it is possible to gain that much weight that fast, by eating what are considered “normal” meals — according to the restaurant that creates them, and the people who buy and eat them. This speaks volumes about why we are so fat in this country today.

The restaurant views these meals as normal; the patrons view them as normal. Hence, they are for all intents and purposes “normal”. These are meals with lots of calories and little water, what I call “calorie-dense”. If you eat calorie-dense meals with any frequency, and you’re not a marathon runner, you’re going to get big. ‘Twas always thus.

But you sure don’t have to eat at McDonalds to get fat. God knows, look around you. How many people are within 10-15 pounds of their ideal weight? Both my wife and I are. My oldest son is underweight, and so is the middle son. The youngest is probably the chunkiest, and even he is nowhere close to being “fat”. So, sure, we starve them, but let’s not get into that right now.

The point is this: people eat too friggin’ much in this country.

Carbs, fats, proteins. Fat-free, cholesterol-free, sugar-free, flavor-free, whatever. None of this shit matters, when we eat the prodigious amounts that we do. We are way, way off the path toward healthy eating when we focus so obsessively on such things.

WE EAT TOO FRIGGING MUCH.

And we are helped in this process by McDonalds, and by every other restaurant that serves huge portions, and by every consumer who demands those huge portions. There is lots of blame to go around.

I’m not sure where it starts, but somebody needs to pull the brake on this train. The cost to us in our health care system alone is astronomical, surely in the billions of dollars. And for what? So we can eat like gluttonous pigs?

Good plan!

So I found this essay by a BBC correspondent extra interesting: ‘Aged 11, I was too big for Paris’.

It details a Brit’s experience in France, especially in the area of food and how differently they view it in France.

Apparently, the way French people stay skinny is, get this, they eat less food than Brits and Americans. No shit! Less food.

LESS food. Not more food, LESS food.

You eat smaller portions, and you cut out snacks, and the pounds just melt away.

So obvious, yet it has to be explained to us. What does that tell you?

Some smart French person needs to write a diet book and sell it to Americans: “The World’s Simplest Diet”, subtitled “How to Lose Weight, for Dummies”.

It would consist of one page, with two sentences: You eat too f*cking much. Cut back, lard-ass.

Those who want to lose weight must find the best way to cut back that works for them. If that means cutting out fast food, then do that. If it means salad for dinner with lemon juice and oil and vinegar, instead of pasta with meat sauce, then do that. If it means cutting out all bread so you can still enjoy 2 beers at night, then do that. But you have to cut back on something. Or eat less of everything you eat now; eat half of what you do today, and you will lose weight. Totally up to you.

You’re probably wondering, OK, smart guy, what is it that you do to stay so healthy? Here’s what I do. Disciplined eating most of the time, occasional pigging out. Disciplined eating means

  • breakfast is oatmeal with berries, or two hard boiled eggs
  • lunch is usually salad with chicken
  • dinner is light, whatever we’re having that night
  • snacking is allowed but not too much rich stuff like chips and ice cream
  • eat fruits and veggies at least 2-3 times a day
  • certain foods should be treated like medicine: olive oil, berries, garlic, salmon, fresh food of any type, have as much of these as you can cram down your gullet
  • drink as much water as you can, 4-6 good size glasses if possible (suppresses appetite)
  • limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks

Plus I exercise 3-4 times a week, including both strength training and aerobic. If you have time to eat, and time to watch TV, then you have time to exercise. Do it. Pretend you have doctor’s orders, because, really, if you took the time to go see a doctor and said “Yes I’m 35 pounds overweight and I work at a desk job”, do you think he/she is going to say: “Keep on doing that, because it’s obviously working for you, and your heart and lungs are in fine shape”? Riiiight.

Americans, for some odd reason, like to complicate their lives with options and choices, and then wonder why they get confused and annoyed. Eating is natural, but eating mass-produced calore-dense “food product” is not. A pretty good rule to follow is this: if it didn’t walk on legs, or swim in the sea, or grow in the ground, you probably shouldn’t be eating very much of it. Simple to define, a little harder to do. But that’s the price one pays for feeling good, looking good, taking care of the inside of your body as well as the outside, and having more energy to boot.

From where I stand, that is a trade worth making. Obviously not everybody is going to agree, and that’s fine, to a point. But when we see all the fat kids around us, we have to question our choices.

It should be pretty clear that what we’re doing now is not working.

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2 comments
  1. I am having a hard time deciding whether our eating habits (my eating habits!) are due to cultural factors such as “cheap is good” “fast is better” and “cheap and fast is really good.” or if it is just that we lack discipline. I have some discipline, but I need more. Anyway, sorry for the ramble, your post was just interesting as I had just posted an entire monologue about Ding-Dongs. LOL

  2. Tivona said:

    I have been mostly vegetarian for over thirty years. I eat a balanced diet (with some junk food treats occassionally), do yoga, stay active and drink in moderation. I am the same size and weight as when I graduated from high school that long ago. Imagine that.
    I am daily appalled at the eating habits of those around me. I believe this “condition” has more far-reaching consequences than just making Americans fat and over-taxing our health-care system. Americans are also becoming stupider. Ignoring warnings from doctors and researchers they eat the wrong foods – gluttonously. This causes them to become obese which causes them to become physically lazy which causes them to want to do nothing but sit in front of the television and watch sit-coms and reality shows which causes them to become mentally lazy which cycles back again to ignoring health warnings and generally not educating themselves in any way. We ARE what we eat. Umm, that would be bovine. An extremely viscious cycle which will do nothing but turn the US into a third world nation within just a few generations. Is anyone else as afraid as I am?