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July 28th, 2003
Nutrition, etc.

I’ve gone off on this before, but I’ll go off on it again. It’s time to rant about weight loss.

Our brilliant congressmen, Kurt Schrader and Randy Miller, have decided to reject federal grants for things like a program to reduce obesity in Oregon, among other things. “Print brochures to give to people that say ‘eat more fruits and vegetables?’” said Miller. “That’s like putting cancer warnings on cigarette packages. It doesn’t work.” While I’m not going to debate the legitimacy of printing cancer warnings on cigarette packages, the proposed program the grant would have covered would have done a lot more then just print brochures.

From the article: “At least a dozen dietitians and coordinators statewide would have been hired to do a wide range of intervention activities: visit schools to talk to students about nutrition, chart out routes for children to walk to school instead of getting a ride and help employers set up exercise programs at work for employees.”

The reality of the matter is that a large majority of adults don’t have a clue about what proper nutrition is. The blame for this can be placed at the feet of many institutions, as well as individuals. Yes, people COULD take the time and effort to learn. However, frequently they don’t know that they don’t know, so to speak. I won’t even get started on how difficult it is to even access a nutitrionist–insurance frequently doesn’t cover visits, so people have to pay out-of-pocket, which a lot of folks can’t afford. Some health food stores have them on staff for free, but it’s not really advertised, and folks who don’t regularly shop there won’t have a clue.

Buy a package of chicken breasts. See how HUGE they are? Did you know that a proper portion size is about a THIRD of one of those things? Most people don’t, and they eat a whole chicken breast and get three times the protein they need in a meal. The big fast food chains are to blame for this too–they use enourmous portions of chicken and beef, and most people don’t know that they shouldn’t have any meat at all at dinner if they ate a Big Mac or Whopper or Carl’s Jr. burger for lunch. Don’t even get me started on the mind game that is supersizing.

Restaurant aren’t exempt either. Look at all the commercials encouraging people to eat more, like Olive Garden’s endless pasta plates and “all the salad and breadsticks you want.” Restaurant serving sizes are also much too big, but the American public has been conditioned to want MORE MORE MORE or they feel cheated.

Food suppliers have to encourage people to eat more in order for them to sell more, and that is exactly what they have done. In the process, we have cut health programs from schools, and if nutrition is covered in schools at all, it’s usually limited to “This is the food guide pyramid, follow it” which doesn’t really teach anything useful. This notion of portion size and how much fruit and veggies doesn’t come across until someone is holding up plastic food and saying “This is how much chicken you should have at a meal.” Then it becomes real, and you have a guide in your head for comparison.

A program of nutritionists could teach people this, especially kids/teenagers. People don’t exercise unless it’s made convenient for them, and helping employers set this up makes it convenient.

It’s not enough to simply say “People know they should eat more veggies and exercise, so we shouldn’t bother with this.” The problem of obesity is so much more complex. That attitude fails to consider the fact that people are constantly bombarded with messages to eat more (consider advertising, supersizing, all-you-can-eat specials, etc), and just saying “Eat less” isn’t effective or helpful. We must teach people HOW to eat less, through proper nutrition and portion size.

Posted by Claire at 10:02 AM | Politics | Comments (2) | Tweet This Post

2 Responses to “Nutrition, etc.”

  1. Allie says:

    Agreed on all points. I heard that someone, somewhere, is also trying to get a tax going on “fatty food” in the hopes that people will want to stop eating it if they have to pay more for it. Yep, like that’s really going to help.

  2. Claire says:

    Ugh, fat taxes. This doesn’t help at all. The “real” offender in my mind is the processed convenience food industry that has become enormously popular as the American public has quit learning how to cook from scratch (and yes, that is a complex problem all on its own). But tax the Hamburger Helper? Not a chance. The big food corporations like ConAgra would lobby that out of existence in a heartbeat.

    A “tax” doesn’t address the problem (inadequate knowledge of nutrition and cooking from scratch). As a society, we need a lifestyle change that includes teaching nutrition and cooking, and freeing up TIME to actually do it.

    Each successive generation works more hours per week than the previous–it’s no wonder that no one has time to cook anymore. Forget the myth of the “lazy” youth–we’re working our butts off here! (except our butts are getting BIGGER in the process…)

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