Saturday, July 19, 2008


Man counted calories, watched the pounds go

Yes, that's the title. And yes, apparently, that's newsworthy. Or as Fark always reminds us, "it's not news, it's CNN." Here's the article.

Since when was this kind of thing newsworthy? Granted, with all the "miracle" diet products on the market these days, people do seem to have forgotten how weight gain happens. Eat a box of Twinkies and sit on your ass all day, day after day, and you're going to pack on the pounds.

Prepare to be enlightened:

"'As long as you know how many calories you need and how many calories you eat, it's just math,' Sujit Bhattacharya said. He also included more fruits and vegetables in his diet and ate fewer fatty meats. For exercise, he changed his routine from three days a week of limited cardio and heavy weights to six days a week with the same heavy weights but increased cardio."

Next thing you know, he'll be writing a book. Of course, it will consist mostly of math illustrating input/output concepts, as well as pictures of fresh food with plus signs next to it and processed food with frowning faces. Sadly, it'd be a book people might buy but probably wouldn't use, since people expect quick fixes and results without effort.

I know a family who seems always to be suffering from one health ailment or another. I've babysat for them before and had them cancel at the last minute on more than one occasion due to someone in the house being sick. Their house has, if I remember correctly, 5 televisions in it: one in the living room, one in the dining room, one in the basement, one in the parents' bedroom, and one in the 9 year old's bedroom. The toddler doesn't have one yet, as far as I know. Their refrigerator is full of things with artificial ingredients; once we baked cookies and I spent 10 minutes searching high and low for sugar, which was finally pointed out to me by the child as the "Splenda" box. I had to read the box to find out how it "worked," not knowing how much to use, relative to the amount of sugar. I was also dismayed at my inability to locate butter, but was told by a now-exasperated charge that "the butter is right there!" Margarine. "Does this... bake?" I asked? Apparently it does, but I thought the cookies tasted weird. I didn't recognize either of those things as ingredients.

Another thing that always bugged me was the pantry. It was bursting at the seams, and of course all children like to have fun snacks [you will never find a bigger fan of Gushers than I am], but some of the things worried me. Hershey's 100-Calorie chocolate bar?

Nabisco's website invites consumers to "feel good about your snacking choices." You can read about "100 Extraordinary Women," "Tell a Friend" and most importantly, "Buy Now!" Not only do these "packs" have an awful lot of packaging, but they can also be more than twice as expensive per ounce as the same thing in larger amounts. My father refused to buy those multi-pack chip boxes when my brother and I were growing up, always giving an emphatic "no!" and railing against the "wasteful packaging." It's an awareness that I am happy to have with me still.

I worry about any kid who grows up limited to "100 calorie packs," not really understanding what a "calorie" means and not learning portion control. Take it from someone who was on the heavy side in elementary school, and who has gone on to have a pretty good relationship with food— someone has to teach you. As much as I love ice cream and chips every now and then, I really love fresh food in just about any form. I have yet to meet a vegetable I don't like [although my relationship with cilantro is beyond repair]. I love brown rice, an achievement of my parents that took months, probably, when my brother and I were young. One of my favorite restaurants is Magdalena's Tea House, a local vegan and raw food joint. I didn't grow up eating this way, but I did grow up knowing the importance of good food. [My parents were also smart enough to feed us dinner really late in the evening if they were serving something they knew we wouldn't like. I'm definitely going to do that with my kids someday!]

We as a nation have developed this twisted relationship with food, where we overeat and eat junk, and then blame food for our weight problems. We don't exercise but we expect to have perfect bodies. And I certainly don't have the perfect body, but I know it's healthy and strong, and I like it. We need to, in the words of CSNY, teach our children well. Not only in the "satisfactory" sense, but also when it comes to "wellness."

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