Jul 212012

This morning, I read a staggering statistic over a cup of Chai. 63 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Not good news at all for any of us. On the positive side, if you become aware of certain practices in our society that make us fat, you can keep yourself from becoming part of this statistic or arm yourself so you can start moving the scale in a downward direction.

I recently drove with my husband, son and mother to Colorado for my brother’s wedding. The entire trip, I was bombarded by billboards with photos of sundaes and sandwiches and lines about all-you-can-eat buffets. At hotels, morning breakfasts consisted of food laden with calories (biscuits and gravy, eggs smothered in cheese and sour cream). And at restaurants in general, we were served monster portions that could have fed three instead of one. Is it any wonder that we are overweight, when everywhere we go, we are programmed to finish the three-person plate, go for the all-you-can-eat buffet, and indulge in food with so much sauce, you can’t taste the original food (and could almost gain weight smelling it, it’s so caloric). Have you ever noticed what’s on the children’s menus–pretty much never anything healthy–it’s always fried chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and pizza without a single veggie.

TV can also send you running for the kitchen (or dialing for pizza in 30 minutes or less). Just when you’ve finished dinner, you turn on the tube to see someone pulling a cheese-rich slice of pizza from a plate, sinking teeth into a juicy sandwich or sipping an ice cold beer. My solution for that is hit the mute button and go do a small cleaning task. The worst thing you can do for your diet is eat while you are doing another activity such as watching TV or reading. When you eat mindlessly, you can easily consume a ton of calories without the brain even processing that the food was consumed. So afterward, you don’t even feel satisfied.

Even the grocery store can send us on a path of destruction. All I can say, is don’t go there hungry! The store managers know how to put all the most costly convenience foods just where you will see them and the packages have images that will get you salivating and forgetting they pack more calories than nutritional punch. My advice is to just steer clear of the frozen foods aisles and head straight for the produce section! Make a point of trying one new food every week that is healthy so you can acquire a new healthy taste. The more you eat fresh food, the more your tastebuds will come to appreciate food that’s not packed with artificial flavors and preservatives.

So my message for you is to rethink all this. For one, why do we eat? Ideally, it should be for nourishment, not simply to satisfy some temporary lust for taste. The more you eat food overloaded with additives, the less you will be satisfied with foods that improve your health like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. They don’t have any flavor, people sometimes say. That’s because your tastebuds have become deadened to the taste of real food. Give them time and they will be satisfied with a hint of garlic or a touch of ginger, instead of five dollops of sour cream.

Part of my weight-maintenance and health program involves avoiding too many meals out. That way I don’t have numerous opportunities to eat foods over which I have no control. Few menus offer caloric content and I don’t know if my vegetables are steamed, sauteed in olive oil or some kind of trans-fat laden grease. I also sometimes ask people about my meal (like what is in that butter dish? butter, margarine, etc.) and if they can’t tell me, I never go back.

If every person demanded that restaurants serve smaller portions, healthier fare, and provide nutritional content, they would have to deliver. Instead, we allow them to take advantage of our gluttony and our senses, which lead us to make poor nutritional choices. Some people would rather not know how many calories they are consuming so it doesn’t inhibit the enjoyment of their meal. But this temporary enjoyment comes at a high price in terms of health not only for us, but for every other American. And anyway, I would ask you, do you really want to adopt a mantra to live by that is “ignorance is bliss?”

3 Responses to “Why Are We So Fat?”

  1. Cheryl says:

    It’s pretty much a cultural thing- hispanic, black and southern white.

    Just got back from the beach scene in California and attended a Jr. Lifeguard competition.
    Great to see all kinds of kids in shape.

    It’s role models and NOT what kids get in school!

  2. Susan Dawson-Cook says:

    Hi Cheryl,
    I agree when it comes to diet, it’s all about what we’re used to. And then if you want to improve, you have to recalibrate your tastes. I still remember doing that after college, when I’d acquired a taste for junk food and too much alcohol (along with about 25 pounds). Now if you put fresh food and junk side by side, I prefer the healthier fare.

    It sounds like you had an interesting trip to CA. What took you to the competition?

  3. Cheryl says:

    Relatives competing and hubby and I swam the Pier to Pier two mile the next morning! Loads of FUN!

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