Diet for a Large Planet Part 2

My friend was pretty excited about her one-stop-shopping trip to the dollar store, upon discovering she could get her kids' sodas there, as well as a few other convenience foods on her list.

My response? I love the dollar store too! (After all, they sometimes even have organic spinach and such.) No red light went off until later that afternoon, as I took a walk with my husband. A woman walking in front of us must have just picked up her kids from school, stopping with them at the dollar store on the way back home. Her kids were eating some sort of frozen dessert on a stick, and all three were carrying a dollar store bag or two, filled with... Soft drinks, but of course.

This young mother's kids didn't look horribly obese. At least, not yet. We don't need a crystal ball though, to know what kind of adults such kids will grow into. They're all around us.

But it's not just in America anymore. It's been eight years since the French bestseller, "French Women Don't Get Fat" came out, and a lot's changed since then. A look at the statistics might suggest something: McDonald's revenue in France grew 79% between 2004 and 2009 (more than in the U.K. or Germany). Meanwhile, enrollment in weight-loss companies like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers also grew, more so in France than in many other countries.

Meanwhile, plus-size women’s bikinis have become big business in sun worshipping Brazil. The Girl From Ipanema is not a size 2 anymore! Processed foods and sugary soft drinks have replaced traditional foods like rice, beans and vegetables, and the waist lines show it.

A recent Mayo Clinic study led by Dr. Francisco Lopez Jimenez has suggested that our statistics on obesity may need revision, as 20 to 30 percent of people considered normal weight still have an alarmingly high percentage of body fat. Problems arise when a greater percentage of one’s weight is fat; that fat, though weighing the same as muscle pound for pound, will take up more volume. How well our organs function can depend on how much fat is surrounding them.

For example, a 200 lb. farmer of the 1800’s was probably quite muscular. That same 200 lb. man today, sitting at his desk, getting little exercise, can have considerably more health risks related to his high percentage of body fat to muscle. He will look fatter than the farmer, and will no doubt indeed have much more fat in his body, even if he weighs the same.

It’s not that I have a personal vendetta, as I seem to bemoan the plight of fatness in our modern society. It’s not that I think we should all look like skinny, malnourished models. But I do think it’s reasonable to suggest that our way of eating has gone off course. We have created man-made foods that have never existed in nature before. We’ve taken foods like oil and processed them to the point that our bodies can probably hardly digest them. Even our cutely-shaped cereals go through an extrusion process, rendering a final product so far from its original form that our bodies must start to wonder… (What was wrong with whole grains in their natural form anyway?!)

More on this “Diet for a Large Planet” later…

Jennifer Cote



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