Skip

Diseases of Affluence
November 17, 2010 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Diabetes is overwhelmingly the most common cause of male impotence in the developed world. Men and women are designed to move, and when we do not, our immobility reduces us in every respect. A long, enjoyably rambling piece about urbanization, faux survivalist sailors, self-sufficiency, and the problems caused by the creeping spread of the modern Western diet and lifestyle. Also, the difference between Canadian and Afghani guts.
posted by r_nebblesworthII (85 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was just thinking about posting this, an excellent Slacktivist piece about diabetes and the American deficit, but I think it works better as a supplement to your post.
posted by Shepherd at 11:30 AM on November 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


And may we say that if you are not reading Slacktivist, you should start.
posted by Billiken at 11:37 AM on November 17, 2010


From the first link:
A few of the families still hunt moose in the autumn, but ten thousand people require much more food than the forest possesses, and mostly what the people here eat are Cheez Doodles and Pepsi. They are among the least expensive foodstuffs available. Milk is three dollars a litre. Bread, two dollars a loaf. Anything perishable is flown in and carries its air freight in the price. The pop and the chips are trucked in over the ice on winter roads and last all year. It is precisely the same circumstance that prevails on Hiva Oa, Nauru and Saipan.
Until the cheapness of unhealthy food is addressed, diabetes is here to stay.
posted by nomadicink at 11:42 AM on November 17, 2010 [24 favorites]


IIRC diabetes is the leading cause of limb amputations in the first world as well, whereas in the developing world it's leprosy.
posted by XMLicious at 11:43 AM on November 17, 2010


I have always wanted to run away to an island in the Pacific...
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:44 AM on November 17, 2010


This thread will unfortunately devolve into another obesity debate, I fear, but I was impressed on a recent visit to Spain by the sheer absence - not reduction, but absolute absence - of obesity on the streets of Barcelona and Granada. These people walk their asses off and as far as I could tell have a couple small meals a day. It was the oddest thing to walk down a crowded street and not have to steer around an infinite number of 300 pounders.
posted by docpops at 11:45 AM on November 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


Having a discussion about the effects of urbanization on public health is all well and good, but can we not do it using colonialist eighteenth-century tropes about the corrupting effect of civilization on pure, authentic noble savages? I mean really, this is disgusting.
posted by nasreddin at 11:51 AM on November 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


I have always wanted to run away to an island in the Pacific...

And apparently, some people living on islands in the Pacific should go running.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:52 AM on November 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


What a rambling article.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:54 AM on November 17, 2010


I think I'm going to go for a walk now.
posted by weston at 11:56 AM on November 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


And apparently, some people living on islands in the Pacific should go running.

I didn't say Tonga
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:58 AM on November 17, 2010


I make it a personal principle not to mess with Tonga. There's "overweight" and "starting defensive tackle for the New York Giants."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:06 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Until the cheapness of unhealthy food is addressed, diabetes is here to stay.

It is more accurate to say that until the exorbitance of healthy foods (in the remote communities being discussed) is addressed, diabetes is here to stay.

The issue is that getting healthy (and therefore most likely perishable) food to remote areas cheaply and frequently, which is frankly not possible for many places. Perishable, healthy foods will always be more expensive in remote areas simply because they are rarer, due to infrequent shipping schedules and risky transport.
posted by Sternmeyer at 12:11 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Until the cheapness of unhealthy food is addressed, diabetes is here to stay.

Even absent any subsidies, healthy food is always going to be more expensive, because healthy food is perishable food. It needs to be distributed quickly, refrigerated or frozen , inspected and tested for contamination. It's easy to say "Eliminate corn subsidies!", but that's not going to make fresh fruits and vegetables easier to get in remote areas.
posted by electroboy at 12:14 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dammit, Sternmeyer...
posted by electroboy at 12:14 PM on November 17, 2010


It is more accurate to say that until the exorbitance of healthy foods (in the remote communities being discussed) is addressed, diabetes is here to stay.

Diabetes is not limited to the remotes communities discussed in the article.
posted by nomadicink at 12:15 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


...and neither is the perishability of healthy food.
posted by electroboy at 12:19 PM on November 17, 2010


Food is usually produced in remote places. (Farms need more space than urban areas have; people don't want to live near the industrial plants that produce cheez-its.) The relative expense of perishable food is not determined by the location of the consumer. The remoteness is a red herring in this article, with respect to everything other than the time-of-acculturation.
posted by Fraxas at 12:22 PM on November 17, 2010


Nasreddin "tropes about the corrupting effect of civilization on pure, authentic noble savages? I mean really, this is disgusting". I don't understand "disgusting"--perhaps not useful, misleading, hackneyed or whatever. Plus, I did not get a sense he was doing it--as far as I could tell he was talking about II Diabetes in different population groups, much admired navigational skills and clinical observations. Your point is??
Also, Pruitt-Igoe "what a rambling article"--I grant you he did not seem to be in a hurry but it held together, was coherent and told a story of obesity, culture and medical observations.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:23 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


In the late '90s, for about a year and a half, I took on-again, off-again gigs teaching two-week intensive radio courses in Cree communities around James Bay in northern Quebec. We're talking places that are getting up there close to the treeline -- there are still evergreens, but they're stunted and scrubby, and from the air the landscape in winter looks like the world's most ambitious Rorshach test, snow-covered lakes and dark stands of brush whorling around together into what seems like infinity.

These are towns of 300-1000 people, dry communities, where the Elders speak only Cree, middle-aged folks, their culture gutted by residential schools, generally speak only English, and the young people, being raised in schools with mandatory Cree education, are usually bilingual and sometimes tri, with French also in the mix.

I was -- and am, I'm sure -- almost always the thinnest post-adolescent in town. That's at 5'10 and 180 pounds, BMI around 27, in reasonable shape by North American standards but a far freakin' cry from ninja-fit.

I kinda-sorta bought into the "good food is expensive" argument, but this was weakened by the fact that food was (at least partially) subsidized by the government. You couldn't find apples for a dollar a pound up there like you could down south in mid-October, but you didn't have to sell your car to buy a banana, either. There were lots -- lots -- of unhealthy food options available, but you could eat healthy for a reasonable price if you had a mind to.

My courses weren't going so well, either, for those first few trips up north. I'd been hired to basically give people a course on how to go from zero to journalist in two weeks: what makes a story, what makes a good story, basic interview skills, basic audio editing skills, basic structure. I'd go in and spend a few days in the classroom talking about what was important and why, then issue the minidisc recorders, then have the students (generally late teens or early twenties) interview each other, then move onward.

It kinda sorta sucked. Nobody was into it; attention spans were really short, and despite the fact that people had actually had to fight to get into these courses, nobody wanted to be there.

I made it through the first course, went home disheartened, and then went back for a second trip to another town about four months later. It was during that course that I had a minor epiphany:

Until relatively recently, the Cree up north had been a culture that had survived based on immediate action. If you sat around and had long conversations about caribou hunting tactics and techniques, you'd starve to death. You had to get out there and kill a goddamn caribou.

So I turned the course on its ass, issued everyone their MD recorders on day one, said "go do journalism!", let everyone leave, then reviewed the journalism people brought back on a one-to-one basis. I delivered the content I had been front-loading in the context of people's actual experiences and what they felt they needed to know. I'd be lying if I said it was a pedagogical paradise, but it was a hell of a lot better and more motivating than what I'd been doing before.

The same thing applies to the diabetes epidemic (and it is an epidemic) up north right now: this is a culture that until just a few decades ago survived in a feast-or-famine envrionment where famine was a lot more common than feast. Eating what you could when you could was important because you had no way of knowing when food would be readily available again. And the southern folks basically dumped a shit-ton of abundance on people who were well-adapted to dealing with scarcity. It's not that if good food became cheap everyone would suddenly start eating better; it's as much about a paucity of education and adjustment to a culture where your caloric requirements for the next three days can be bought in a bag for $3 next door.

I don't talk about this often, because I feel awkward as hell discussing it, because of something that nasreddin said very well upthread:

Having a discussion about the effects of urbanization on public health is all well and good, but can we not do it using colonialist eighteenth-century tropes about the corrupting effect of civilization on pure, authentic noble savages? I mean really, this is disgusting.

The Cree aren't more pure, or more noble, or more savage than anyone else; they're as smart as anyone and as decent as anyone and are doing the best they can after being dealt shitty cards from the bottom of a crappy deck. But the urbanization that got foisted on them was dumped in a matter of decades, compared to the hundreds of years that southern caucasian North Americans had to develop our Cheetos-fuelled sendentary lifestyles.

But it's a really, really weird conversation to have, because it goes into racial and cultural places that make me acutely aware of how badly white guys like me have fucked things up, and how creepy and condescending it sounds for a contract worker to come back from these communities and proclaim that I Know What The Problem Is.

Cree people and educators and community leaders definitely Know What The Problem Is, and far better than I do.

That's one of the things that I find vaguely offensive about these conversations myself: the idea that this is happening and all of these communities are just getting fatter and gazing around doe-eyed, shrugging and saying "wha'hoppen?". There are plenty of folks up there that know their shit and who are acutely aware of what the issues are. It's just been a problem with such a sudden and extreme onslaught -- one that took only two generations to take hold, and one of those generations is busy enough trying to deal with being spiritually and culturally gutted by the residential schools -- that it's going to take one, and probably more, generations of education and adjustment to correct the mess that's been made.
posted by Shepherd at 12:26 PM on November 17, 2010 [85 favorites]


It was the oddest thing to walk down a crowded street and not have to steer around an infinite number of 300 pounders.

Well, thanks for reducing people of a particular weight to objects. Way to keep the thread from devolving into hateful comments about obesity! And I don't know where you live, but the percentage of people in the US who weigh more than 300 pounds is on the order of 15%; maybe you should just stop walking through NFL defense training camps or something.

There's a lot of research that suggests that weight gain may be a sequela of diabetes (or that both may be sequelae of underlying metabolic issues), not the inverse.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:27 PM on November 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


It would be really nice if people could keep it straight that there are critical differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. These pieces are entirely about the latter. Troublingly, the slacktivist piece says at one point: "For the record, I am not diabetic and no one in my immediate family has diabetes. The closest we come is Nick Jonas who, although not an actual relative, is probably more beloved by certain members of my household than many actual kin. This makes my family rare and fortunate."

Nick Jonas has type 1 diabetes, which means that these issues are basically completely inapplicable to Nick Jonas and to thousands of others with type 1.
posted by chinston at 12:28 PM on November 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


And sorry, my comment about "people" is aimed at the authors of the linked pieces, not to people commenting in this thread.
posted by chinston at 12:30 PM on November 17, 2010


Type I diabetes is an auto-immune disorder (usually). It doesn't discriminate on the basis of affluence. Although in the US, it's getting to where you pretty much have to be affluent to manage it properly. Insulin pumps and the associated supplies are not cheap.
posted by COD at 12:35 PM on November 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


OK sidhedevil, correct that to 225, 250. You pick. And diabetes, type 2 at least, is a product of obesity. The exception is very rare. Don't confuse the issue.

Eating unhealthy food in my opinion and practice is far more likely driven by laziness and lack of knowledge of basic cooking than cost. It is just easier to buy prepackaged junk than prepare a meal. But it's a lot cheaper to buy a few groceries and mix up a few days of chili or pasta and some vegetables and just not eat so much than to buy your meals one by one from a fast food joint, in general.
posted by docpops at 12:37 PM on November 17, 2010


Fat people are people too.

But they are still fat.
posted by hermitosis at 12:39 PM on November 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


people don't want to live near the industrial plants that produce cheez-its

A cheez-it factory isn't a paper mill or a rendering plant. It's a bakery. There's probably industrial bakeries where you live. There's one a couple blocks from my office that makes shitty white bread. It smells a little yeasty occasionally, but it's not really unpleasant.

The relative expense of perishable food is not determined by the location of the consumer.

Sure it is. Ask anyone that's lived in Alaska, remote areas of the Southwest, Appalachia, etc. Sparsely populated places have low demand, so the shipping costs are spread over a smaller number of units, less transportation infrastructure, a smaller number of suppliers/distributors, etc etc. All of these things lead to higher prices.
posted by electroboy at 12:46 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy is triggering my douche alert.

He is right - the Western diet is awful and responsible for major health issues in this country...but if the concern is mortality rates...most cultures that don't suffer from diseases of affluence still have shorter life expectancies. Granted these deaths are from conditions that are largely cured and curable in Western society...its still a tradeoff.

You either live in a society that, with its plentiful supply of cheap, processed, empty calories, has collectively had the free time to solve the common plagues of yore (but in that pursuit is poisoned by the very food that allowed such time spent in thought)...or you live in a more agrarian society where most of your free time is not devoted to the realm of ideas but to the realm of subsistence, and you trade lifestyle diseases for the types of disease that we have since cured.

I would argue that now, more than at any point in history, it is more difficult than ever to eat healthfully in the West. The amount of willpower and research required to ensure a relatively healthy diet is staggering, whereas in the past...even 70 years ago...it was "built in."

Before an efficient network of rails, roads and skyways created fast shipping routes...and before refrigeration allowed slower spoiling times...eating locally and organically was your only choice. It was built into life. You likely HAD to eat food that came from within an hour's distance and it was likely grown organically (prior to industrial farming techniques). Even if you WANTED to stuff your face with moon pies and whistlecakes...there simply wasn't the supply...sugar was imported and expensive!

I don't think that Western Fatassery is necessarily a failing of our wherewithal as Westernized Individuals...lots of Westerners actually have to THINK HARD about what they are consuming (if they are health concious) but in most cases the healthy options are just not all that prevalent. Add to this the sad fact that the nature of our economy dictates a sedentary lifestyle for most working individuals and you have a huge problem that would likely create a fatass out of any person, regardless of nationality or creed.

An awful, systemic problem, yes...but that doesn't make us all bad people...which is seemingly what the author of this article is implying. Stopping there precludes a dialogue about how we fix this.

PS. I also like how the author throws in lots of boat terminology to show us all how authentic and REAL self-reliant he is. Not fake self-reliant...like those fatasses with outdoor hobbies and solar panels on their houses. They could never be as supple as a tatooed Pacific Islander. Sexy, Sexy Islanders.
posted by jnnla at 12:56 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Junk food being cheaper than real food, and corn syrup being in EVERYTHING in the united states, is why we have diabetes. Period. We could absorb the sedentary lifestyle if we had real food. Divert corn subsidies to smaller produce farms, regulate entertainment calories the way we regulate cigarettes, and the Type II epidemic goes away.
posted by clarknova at 1:01 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would argue that now, more than at any point in history, it is more difficult than ever to eat healthfully in the West. The amount of willpower and research required to ensure a relatively healthy diet is staggering, whereas in the past...even 70 years ago...it was "built in."

That's bullshit. Poor people were eating carbohydrates for the vast majority of their calories, some meat and cheese, but almost no fruits or vegetables. This is why diseases like scurvy, pellagra, and goiters were common, not to mention death from famine. Wealthier people regularly suffered from gout due to overindulgence in terrible food.

The romance attached to preindustrial or premodern or prewar diets has more to do with advertising images than reality, and I'm astonished to see how often they're uncritically trotted out.
posted by nasreddin at 1:03 PM on November 17, 2010 [30 favorites]


It's easy to say "Eliminate corn subsidies!", but that's not going to make fresh fruits and vegetables easier to get in remote areas.

You have a point, but I also don't think it is a binary choice between Cheeze doodles and Kiwifruit. If we didn't subsidize cheap crap, poor (and middle class ) people would eat fewer calories, period. I mean fifty years ago, even in the US, did people forage, graze and stuff their faces like they did now? No, and why not? A lot of factors, but the fact that cheap salty, sugary snacks weren't so ubiquitous and well, *cheap.* A person (even middle class) simply couldn't afford to eat quantities like people eat now. And after decades of eating like that, I believe that a persons neural pathways change in much the same way a crack addict's neural pathways change, such that getting off the Cheeze doodles is as hard as getting off the rock.

I've recommended it before, and I am going to do it again, "The End of Overeating", by David Kessler.

PS we also have too fact that we are incredibly physically inactive, and poorer people unless they have a manual labor job are even more so - to some extent, it takes money and leisure time to exercise in the US now.
posted by xetere at 1:18 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Poor people were eating carbohydrates for the vast majority of their calories, some meat and cheese, but almost no fruits or vegetables. This is why diseases like scurvy, pellagra, and goiters were common, not to mention death from famine. Wealthier people regularly suffered from gout due to overindulgence in terrible food.

The poor are constrained by their options...and always have been. They get what they can, when they can, and aren't picky about what they can get. The carbohydrates consumed by the average pre-industrial individual were most usually more complex than the carbohydrates consumed by the average American individual today...and the average pre-industrial family supplemented their diet with seasonable vegetables. Prior to 1910, most of America was agrarian and the incidences of what we typically refer to as "lifestyle disease" were close to nil.

I suppose I should have said that a pre-industrial diet came pre-packaged with low incidences of lifestyle disease (heart attack, diabetes, hypertension etc). They were not, by and large, all well and good as you noted, and as I mentioned in the fact that most people living today who eat a premodern diet (The San people, some of the Inuit mentioned in this article, tribespeople in Papua New Guinea) have shorter life spans then we do. Its simply a trade off.

That being said...I think it is still harder today for the average person to eat healthfully without thinking about it due to the prevalence of cheap processed food over healthier alternatives.
posted by jnnla at 1:22 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Divert corn subsidies to smaller produce farms, regulate entertainment calories the way we regulate cigarettes, and the Type II epidemic goes away.

It won't go away until the phalanx of K Street lobbyists whose jobs depend on corn subsidies (and the legislators whom they lobby) go away. The going away that you speak of will be that much harder with a Congress that is predisposed to be hostile toward anything that they believe resembles a nanny state or even an activist state. These are the same people who believe that incandescent light bulbs are a manifestation of "statism."
posted by blucevalo at 1:24 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If we didn't subsidize cheap crap, poor (and middle class) people would eat fewer calories, period.

I keep hearing variations on this argument, but not a lot of proof to back it up. I'm not sure that farm subsidies drive down the price of processed foods to make them more attractive than fresh foods. People eat processed foods because they're easy, cheap and tasty. Preparing meals from fresh ingredients may be healthier, but there's a time comittment and some expense that a lot of people just aren't interested in.
posted by electroboy at 1:42 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rather, I'm not sure that farm subsidies drive down the price of processed foods enough to make them more attractive than fresh foods.
posted by electroboy at 1:42 PM on November 17, 2010


Fraxas: Food is usually produced in remote places. (Farms need more space than urban areas have; people don't want to live near the industrial plants that produce cheez-its.) The relative expense of perishable food is not determined by the location of the consumer. The remoteness is a red herring in this article, with respect to everything other than the time-of-acculturation.

Remoteness today is better understood in relative rather than absolute terms. It has to do with things like road access (or lack thereof, or seasonal access only), demand volume for perishable goods, and the frequency, and shape of the demand for, air freight transport (and the resulting cost thereof).

So for instance, even if you cut Toronto off from the continent's road and rail network, perishable food would remain far cheaper in Toronto than in Lutsel K'e, Paulatuk or Cambridge Bay (for whom the straight-line distance from Cal and Mexico is less than or equal to Toronto's), because there are far more (and larger) flights, because the demand in bulk is far higher, and because the shape of air freight is far more balanced (inbound v. outbound) than it is in most Northern communities where there usually isn't a lot to bring back out.
posted by waterunderground at 1:47 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


...or mostly what electroboy said an hour ago.
posted by waterunderground at 1:48 PM on November 17, 2010


The amount of willpower and research required to ensure a relatively healthy diet is staggering

That's just nonsense. The only research you need is "avoid processed foods when possible, get a regular amount of fresh vegetables, and don't overeat as a general rule of thumb". No one needs a phd in nutrition to have a reasonably healthy diet. And the amount of willpower to avoid purchasing the processed snacks when you're at the supermarket is the same amount of willpower it takes a child to stop taking other kid's toys. Yes, I know you want it Jimmy, but no Jimmy, you can't have it.
posted by modernnomad at 2:07 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's just nonsense.

Being Type II and having sat through numerous education classes with other Type II's, I can assure you it's far from nonsense.

The problem, as I see it, is by the time one is diagnosed as Type II, at least in the American Southeast where I live, a life time of bad habits have been developed and changing those habits is really challenging. I'm usually the youngest person in the room and the struggles people have and go through with trying to learn what to eat and how to eat is staggering, requiring an almost superhuman level of focus and work.

It's not impossible, but it's damn hard and far from nonsense to recognize that fact.
posted by nomadicink at 2:13 PM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Obesity is a symptom. Diabetes is also a symptom. The bad diet is a symptom. The industrial farming system... is a symptom. And the root cause of all of it is the Western culture and lifestyle. I'm glad this guy has figured out we're not eating healthy and the results are bad. I think I figured that out plenty of years ago. I think most people did. The non-Western diet comes with non-Western cultures and lifestyles. The pre-Industrial diet... you get the idea.

Or does this guy think we should really live like poor Afghans? You cannot have the body of a rural Afghan subsistence farmer without being a rural Afghan subsistence farmer, or at least nobody yet seems to have discovered how to do this. Right now, we do not know how to have a non-Western diet while still enjoying cars and 2000sqft houses and Netflix and the internet and iPhones and vacations and new wardrobes every year and the ability to work 50+ hours a week in an office and still be able to take care of your home and family and dietary needs... or encouraging people to aspire to this ideal. Every part of this system contributes to the obesity rate in this country, the diabetes rate, the industrial farming system, etc. Our entire economy exists on this model. Our cultural values and activities and everything all exist on this model. One person's ability to live in an atypical and healthier way while still enjoying the fruits of industrial Western culture does not mean that everybody can do that without breaking the model.

This is just another person complaining about the problem without presenting any realistic way to deal with it, and at this point I'm beyond bored with that, I think it's destructively encouraging people who are not themselves personally fat to pat themselves on the back about their virtue without facing the fact that we all might have to change.
posted by gracedissolved at 2:14 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fraxas - ...remoteness is a red herring in this article...

the Northern Manitoba settlement that the article is talking about can't support enough local agriculture to feed itself because the soil is thin and the growing season is too short. It's too far north.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:15 PM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd love to read and discuss but I'm getting a beach ball for the main link. Is there a cached copy out there?
posted by immlass at 2:18 PM on November 17, 2010


Just from googling around a bit, I found a few articles that claimed subsidies had very little effect on either food prices or obesity. This paper from UC Davis seems to be a pretty concise discussion. Mainly that they cost of farm commodities represents about 20% of the cost of prepared foods for home consumption and much less for products like soda and meals consumed away from home.
posted by electroboy at 2:25 PM on November 17, 2010


the amount of willpower to avoid purchasing the processed snacks when you're at the supermarket is the same amount of willpower it takes a child to stop taking other kid's toys. Yes, I know you want it Jimmy, but no Jimmy, you can't have it.

CAKE!
posted by weston at 2:27 PM on November 17, 2010


That's just nonsense. The only research you need is "avoid processed foods when possible, get a regular amount of fresh vegetables, and don't overeat as a general rule of thumb". No one needs a phd in nutrition to have a reasonably healthy diet.

No one needs a PhD in condescension to dispense it, either, apparently.
posted by blucevalo at 2:44 PM on November 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


And the root cause of all of it is the Western culture and lifestyle.

I wish people would stop using this term. What exactly does it mean? Switzerland and Italy have relatively low rates of obesity but are undoubtedly Western. And "Western Culture"? Van Gogh and Shakespeare have something to do with obesity?

Just call it a sedentary processed food lifestyle and leave the blame out of it.
posted by benzenedream at 3:14 PM on November 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


And the root cause of all of it is the Western culture and lifestyle.

Culture doesn't make people fat, food makes people fat. Culture may encourage people to eat food that makes them fat, but nonetheless it is still the food and its calories making people fat. Not culture. Culture has no calories.

t now, we do not know how to have a non-Western diet while still enjoying cars and 2000sqft houses and Netflix and the internet and iPhones and vacations and new wardrobes every year and the ability to work 50+ hours a week in an office and still be able to take care of your home and family and dietary needs...

Lots of westerners who are not obese would disagree with this. Also, lots of westerners - most, dare I say it - do not have 2000sqft houses etc.
posted by smoke at 3:14 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


And the amount of willpower to avoid purchasing the processed snacks when you're at the supermarket is the same amount of willpower it takes a child to stop taking other kid's toys. Yes, I know you want it Jimmy, but no Jimmy, you can't have it.

It sounds all "tough love" to say it but that is nonsense. You know that and I know that.

For a person habituated to the high salt, high, sugar kind of junk food, it takes the same amount of willpower for a crackhead to stop smoking crack. Part of that is our physiology, part of that is research that shows just how our pleasure centers of the brain react to junk food, and how to make junk food even more excitatory to the brain's pleasure centers.

One might need a Ph.D. to understand why, but one doesn't need a Ph.D. to read the many books and articles spelling this out. In addition to the one I mentioned above, there is....

Junk Food Diet Causes Rats’ Brain Pleasure Centers To Become Progressively Less Responsive

Compulsive Eating Shares Addictive Biochemical Mechanism With Cocaine, Heroin Abuse, Study Shows

Binging rats get hooked on junk food

Craving for junk food inherited

Crave man

and so on... I can make an FPP out of this.

Obviously this doesn't mean there is NO personal responsibility aspect, but we are in, pardon the cliche, a brave new world, where the average zhlub in much of the world is not facing hunger and famine, but plenty, and plenty more. Add to that flavors, chemicals, and cooking processes not even invented so our physiology hasn't had the time to deal with it and we have a major problem.
posted by xetere at 3:21 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


And the amount of willpower to avoid purchasing the processed snacks when you're at the supermarket is the same amount of willpower it takes a child to stop taking other kid's toys. Yes, I know you want it Jimmy, but no Jimmy, you can't have it.

I just got hit by a...SNARK ATTACK!

But really. Although you trivialize the fact that the health concious among us (myself included) like to think carefully about what we eat, the point is that this is a fairly new phenomenon that is compounded by deceptive advertising which does a good job hiding health risks.

"Juss eat fruits and vegetables and don' bitch" you imply...whereas the point I was trying to make, and perhaps not so effectively, is that today, more than ever, there is a chance that your fruits or vegetables were sprayed with some chems that might make you sick. There's a chance that the "healthy" wheat bread you are eating was actually refined, stripped of wheat germ and bran, bleached, and then colored and packaged in some package with an eco-leaf on it. There's a chance that the meat you are eating is full of hormones or anti-biotics or maybe its actually technically mostly corn from all the non-standard cornmeal they feed the animals...who knows.

And before I sound like a raving whole food evangelist who would get along great with the guy who wrote the original article, I should say that it seems like the jury is still out on whether any of the "bad" stuff in the Western diet is really all that bad (see any MeFi debate about HFCS). But the point is that, yes...it is tricky to eat healthfully without devoting some thought to what it is you are eating...or think you are eating...and that mental energy has a real cost, as snide as we want to be about it.
posted by jnnla at 3:24 PM on November 17, 2010


The northern parts of the central provinces (e.g. Churchill, MB. mentioned in the article) are one area where the ill effects of the Western diet have hit hardest. Compounded by distance, limited land access and high costs of just about everything, it's a great struggle to get good food there (and keep it fresh.) For fly-in remote stores the costs of transport can be as much as 28% of their sales (industry average is 3.2%.) So you can imagine that boxed and processed foods are waaay more affordable and practical.

The widely quoted figure of aboriginals having three to five times the rate of diabetes isn't even the whole scary story - existing figures 'probably understate the true prevalence of diabetes, possibly by as much as one half.' And what's worse, the number of aboriginal diabetes cases are expected to triple over the next 20 years. But the most shocking figure I've heard is that amputation related to diabetes complications is sixteen times higher for registered First Nations people in Manitoba.

There is some good news. According to this article [PDF], some programs in aboriginal communities are showing results:
However in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake rates of type 2 diabetes are only twice the national average. In addition analysis of the information in Kahnawake shows that both the incidence (number of new cases diagnosed each year) and prevalence (total number of people in the community) of Type 2 diabetes have remained almost stable since 1986. (1) This is very positive news as rates of Type 2 diabetes in many Aboriginal communities are continuing to increase. For more details please read the scientific article given below.

The Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project (KSDPP) Research Team and Community Advisory Board (CAB) believe there are many reasons for this good news. First, Kahnawake has had control of education and health services since the 1970’s, which enables the people of Kahnawake to make their own decisions about health and education. Second, Kahnawake has developed many programs to promote health and wellness in both the community and in the schools. Third, community organizations work to promote healthy lifestyles and wellness messages to the people of the community. Fourth, community organizations collect much information from the community on lifestyle habits, and then bring that information back to community members for discussion. Fifth, health and community workers put local newspapers, radio and even television to good use for health promotion.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 3:29 PM on November 17, 2010


Culture doesn't make people fat, food makes people fat.

Strictly speaking, that's true, but the two are closely intertwined sometimes to the point where separating them is difficult or meaningless. The American Southeast, which is known for having highest rates of obesity and diabetes in comparison to the rest of the states. Why is that? What is about that region or culture or environment that causes such alarming high rates of diabetes?
posted by nomadicink at 3:31 PM on November 17, 2010


That's just nonsense. The only research you need is "avoid processed foods when possible, get a regular amount of fresh vegetables, and don't overeat as a general rule of thumb". No one needs a phd in nutrition to have a reasonably healthy diet.

Uh, yes. This, uh, there should be some sort of Metafilter Prize for Condescension, actually.

Seriously, d'you think there might be a few barriers to your little Diet for America here?

Have you ever tried to balance a full-time job and raise a couple kids on your own? Because my mom did and she was (and is) a great parent but we probably ate mac-n-cheese with canned tuna and a couple baby carrots on the side more than the AMA would recommend.

Do you know how to cook a balanced and nutritious meal? If so, is it because it was modeled for you as a child, or is it because you had the time, energy and interest to learn those skills as an adult?

Have you ever tried to carry a week's worth of groceries from the store, six blocks away, in a cardboard box on a sweltering summer day, because you haven't got a car?

I did this once but that is more because I'm an idiot and I probably could've taken the bus or borrowed a friend's car or even remembered to bring my buggy from home.

Look, I would love for everyone to follow best nutritional practices starting tomorrow. But these little nostrums are not only unhelpful, but also convey a distinct lack of compassion and willingness to help come up with practical ways for us to get from Here to There.

A solution that receives full marks will discuss family systems, employment problems, urban design & planning, tax policy and agricultural policy, in addition to exploring the place of individual choices.
posted by tivalasvegas at 3:36 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I probably would've agreed that everyone knows what foods are healthy and how to prepare them, until I lived in a house with 5 other guys post college. One of my roommates was a white guy with a middle class upbringing, had a degree in Comp Sci, so he wasn't a complete dummy.

We'd go out drinking on the weekends (starting on Thursday) and he'd wake up the next day around 5 PM just to grab a smoke and take a piss, then go back to sleep until it was time to go out again. Most of the food he consumed was delivery pizza or wings. After awhile this started to take its toll and he generally felt like crap, so he decided he was going to get healthy. Which led to this conversation:

HIM: Man, I really have to get in shape and start eating right.
ME: Yeah, that's a good goal. I could probably stand to eat a little better myself.
HIM: Yeah...So... What am I supposed to eat?
posted by electroboy at 3:45 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Culture does too contain calories.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:58 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, culture has an effect. I have stated before, that back in the sixties when I was growing up most moms were home, in the kitchen, making a healthy dinner. Mine went back to work when I started school, in contrast. The meals mom made when she was working were way more processed than the ones she made when she was home. Because after working all day, who has the energy to cook?

Add to that that in that day, there were cultural pressures to NOT eat too much. And finally, during most of the sixties, people didn't drink soda all the dang time. Kids were limited to ONE soda a day if that. If we were thirsty, we were given water, and if we whined for koolade or juice, we were told that if we did not want water WE WEREN'T THIRSTY.

Going into the seventies, more women went into the work force. (This is when crockpots started to become ubiquitous.) At the same time, fast food restaurants (for that matter, all restaurants) went into overdrive....again. tired parents found it easier to get take out or to go out to eat for many of the weekly meals rather than cook every day. Mom's extra paycheck made it easier to splurge in that area. And gradually....parents who grew up hating their vegetables didn't quite feel up to making Junior eat his, particularly when since everyone was tired when they came home and just wanted the kid to shut up and eat.

Yes, this is oversimplified, and no, I am not trying to demonize working women (my mother WAS one.) Just saying that the culture changed, and why should anyone be surprised? People only have so much energy. I work parttime now and we eat much better than we did when I was fulltime-after a ten hour day, if I hadn't cooked ahead, no way did I want to spend another hour in the kitchen. And I really am not a fan of processed food!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:03 PM on November 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Culture doesn't make people fat, food makes people fat. Culture may encourage people to eat food that makes them fat, but nonetheless it is still the food and its calories making people fat. Not culture. Culture has no calories.

Food doesn't make people fat. Look at all those skinny Afghans--they ate food, didn't they? Hell, look at Michael Phelps, look at the food that guy puts away, pretty sure he's not fat. Okay, I know people know this, but do you need reminding? Physical fatness is the result of your day's activities on the whole: what you do, what you put into your mouth, *how*. Culture doesn't hold your arm behind your back until you eat the Twinkie, but our problem is not that one individual person somewhere in the world is fat. The health issue is that the population on the whole is not engaging in healthy behaviors. That is *entirely* cultural. And, in the context of the article, the results spread like culture, too. The weight gain and the diseases go where the TVs and the consumerism go.

Personal responsibility is an individual issue. I'm not saying it doesn't exist. It is just meaningless from a population standpoint. If you want the whole population to be healthier, and yet you want to do it living in unwalkable cities with grocery stores full of processed food with a population who is encouraged to work long hours and live (and eat and exercise) in a solitary way, etc., all of which put together is part the economic system that supports the way we live, it's not going to happen. And that's why it hasn't happened yet.
posted by gracedissolved at 4:34 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Going into the seventies, more women went into the work force.

Hold that thought!

Another thing that happened in the seventies was some great inflation. Nixon's Ag Secretary Earl Butz said the way to deal with it was to alter grain subsidies. Since the thirties, we had had stable prices as the government guaranteed a base price to keep farmers going and bought excess produce to keep prices steady. Butz got rid of the second part, encouraged over production then let folks dump it on the market, thus glutting the market and driving down the price. Result- cheap corn and all that that gets us.

Three money paragraphs are at the end of this page.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:37 PM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Have you ever tried to carry a week's worth of groceries from the store, six blocks away, in a cardboard box on a sweltering summer day, because you haven't got a car?

Borrow one of the store's shopping carts.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:02 PM on November 17, 2010


I wonder what Wilford Brimley would think about all of this.
posted by bengalsfan1 at 5:10 PM on November 17, 2010


What I really want is a study were the subjects get their calories two different ways.

Both groups can eat same protein and fat sources.

Equal exercise.

One group should eat complex carbs. While the other gets refined carbs of equal caloric load.

Equal nutritional levels. If that' possible.

I have been reading off and on for years about diet research, I'm still not even close to an expert.

I'm really interested in what effects insulin spikes cause on the body regardless of the total calories or carb load over time.

Also, I don't care as much about weight change, as blood chemistry.
posted by KaizenSoze at 5:12 PM on November 17, 2010


From everything I've seen posted so far, the overarching message seems to be that the source of American obesity is multifactorial and controversial, but that above all, it is not something within the individual's own control, because of forces driving them to eat too much of the wrong things.

Seems simple enough. Give up, get fat, we're fucked.

Or maybe not. Perhaps despite all of the evil forces out there people can accept responsibility for their own decisions and accept the fact that they are eating too much and try to reverse the obesity curve by setting examples for their kids so that the next generation isn't the first where obesity is the norm and the majority.
posted by docpops at 5:13 PM on November 17, 2010


Why would anyone need to set examples for the next generation? How about the next generation just accepts responsibility for its own actions, et cetera et cetera? After all, obesity is something within the individual's own control.
posted by XMLicious at 5:38 PM on November 17, 2010


Two reasons:
1:epigenetics
2:because kids tend to do what they are shown by their parents, and it also helps for parents not to feed their four year olds bags of fries, double scoop ice cream cones, and sippy cups full of Pepsi
posted by docpops at 5:45 PM on November 17, 2010


Borrow one of the store's shopping carts.

Where I grew up and where I live now, the wheels lock themselves up when you get past the entrance or the parking lot boundaries.
posted by tantivy at 5:47 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


You want to see the future? Imagine a wheel, locking on a grocery cart. Forever.
posted by benzenedream at 6:00 PM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


but that above all, it is not something within the individual's own control, because of forces driving them to eat too much of the wrong things

I think you're seeing this too simplistically. As a Type II diabetic, hell, as a human being, it is ultimately up to the individual to take care of themselves, no question. But to completely ignore the forces of society is unrealistic.

For instance, today at work, when I went to the fridge to get my hummus and carrots, two things struck me. One was the bag of leftover Halloween candy someone had left in the break room. Two was the vending machine, loaded with candy and chips. The candy was free and there was a huge bag of it. In the vending machine (which was next to the soda machine, of course), the items were at most 80¢.

The hummus and carrots? They cost $5 and change and I had to go to the store to get them. The shitty food? It was free or cheap and I wouldn't have to walk more than 20 feet to get them. Hell, I don't even have to leave the building. The vending machine gets refilled every 3 weeks or so.

That's the problem I've consistently heard in the past 2 years in the diabetic program. Cheap, shitty food is too easy to reach for. Learning about nutrition and having to think about what to eat, how much to eat is overwhelming at first, it's paralyzing and mind numbing for people who are working full time jobs usually have kids and trying to fight a 40 or 50 years of bad habits in a region of America that has the epicenter for the diabetes and obesity epidemic in the country.

It may be easy for you personally, but trust me, it is not easy for most.
posted by nomadicink at 6:22 PM on November 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Docpops, what I've certainly been trying to say is not that it has anything to do with whether one individual can or cannot choose to engage in activities that cause weight loss. The original post is not about people dieting. There is a big, huge difference between whether or not one person can do something, and whether or not this change is something that can or will happen on a societal level. And "give up" is not something I want to see as an option, myself. But "everybody just needs to stop being lazy fat slobs" is basically just "give up" when applied to a society, because if that was going to happen, it would have happened already. Personal responsibility is a lovely thing, but when you're talking about things that take a societal toll, you can't just tell every snowflake in the blizzard that they need to be personally responsible for not causing a storm. If you just want there to be fewer fat people and to shame those who're currently fat, have fun with that. But it's not going to result in social change.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:23 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, there are a lot of urban neighborhoods where it's hard to find a fresh vegetable that's 1) actually fresh 2) not prohibitively expensive. Even in cities where there are supermarkets. My brother's neighborhood Safeway, the produce department has collard greens for a dollar a bunch, butternut squash with moldy spots for $4 apiece, and browning green beans for three and a half dollars a pound. Sure the collards are a good deal, but everything else is just terrible.

Chips are plentiful and $1.59 a bag, though.
posted by KathrynT at 7:31 PM on November 17, 2010


Have you ever tried to carry a week's worth of groceries from the store, six blocks away, in a cardboard box on a sweltering summer day, because you haven't got a car?

All through college and graduate school (except we used backpacks or an old lady rolling grocery cart, I think it cost $20). Oh yeah, and the last three years because, really, who drives 6 blocks to the store? I don't, I walk. So most of my life basically. It's no big deal.
posted by fshgrl at 7:31 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Borrow one of the store's shopping carts.

As others have indicated, some areas use locking buggies to stop people taking them. This was, I believe, the case at the No Frills at Main St. East and Tisdale in Hamilton, Ontario. In addition, I try to avoid taking things that don't belong to me.

The anecdote was, moreover, something of a self-deprecatory aside. I am fairly young and fairly strong and I was able to get my groceries home, albeit with a few pit stops at friends' houses along the way. The point is, not everyone has the luxury of strength, resources and time to haul their groceries from the nearest supermarket to their home, and then the time and energy to plan and prepare a nutritious meal.

This is not a minor quibble. There are entire neighbourhoods in the city where I now live (Chicago) which have been labeled 'food deserts': areas where there is neither an Aldi's nor a Wal-Mart, let alone a Jewel's or a Meijer. It's just shitty corner stores with shitty, over-priced, over-produced food, or fast-food restaurants.

People who live in these neighbourhoods literally Do. Not. Have. Access. to decent food. And until we begin to deal with this and the many other interlocking issues facing many of our fellow citizens and neighbours, we will not be able to fix the problem of poor nutrition.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:34 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Oldest of the bowhead whales in the Arctic Ocean have lived for two hundred years. We know this because when they are killed and examined today, we find ivory harpoon heads lodged in their skin. The implication is that they were large enough to be hunted prior to the arrival of the Hudson Bay Company and its steel harpoon heads in the 1830s. Isotopic analysis of the whales’ eyes confirms the point: these whales were calves during the Napoleonic Wars.

I know it doesn't have to do with the meat of the article, but this is absolutely astounding. Much of what he said was old news to me, but this is ... Well. It's certainly a thing that puts things in perspective.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:00 PM on November 17, 2010


A cure for diabetes? Sure, there's a cure. Eat like a caveman.

At least, it works if you still have beta cells in your pancreas.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:11 PM on November 17, 2010


Perhaps despite all of the evil forces out there people can accept responsibility for their own decisions and accept the fact that they are eating too much and try to reverse the obesity curve by…

…allowing something "socialist" like propagandize good nutrition.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:49 PM on November 17, 2010


A new 14-minute documentary on america's obesity problem was just uploaded to youtube.
posted by lahersedor at 3:43 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Culture doesn't make people fat, food makes people fat.

Food doesn't make you fat. Food keeps you alive. Excess food makes you fat. What defines excess? Ah, there's the rub. For the marathon-trainer? Excess is near-impossible. For the sedentary office-drone? Three meals a day is excess.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:08 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


So I used to be fat. Like, really fat. Remember that episode of the Simpsons where Homer decides to gain weight to get on disability? At my peak I weighed more than that. That's right, I was at a Homer muumuu level of fat.

We often discuss the social stigma of being being fat, but we rarely mention the social benefits. People tend to think you're funny, for one thing. And there's also Fat Father Syndrome, which is nice when it works out in your favor. Eventually, however, I reached a point where I realized that the path I was on was unsustainable, especially since diabetes runs in my family. The problem was that after a couple of decades of eating like a fool I had no idea how to eat healthily, much like electroboy's roommate. So I started looking around at people older than me and examining the long-term effects of their diets. Doing so lead me to one clear conclusion: the hippies got food right.

Now, I'm no hippy. I still have a Hank Hill-like strained relationship to the whole organic food culture (the puns really do get tiring). But damned if it isn't good food, and the more of it I eat (and the more I stay away from HFCS-laden ultra-processed crap) the healthier I feel.
posted by joedan at 6:43 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


One group should eat complex carbs. While the other gets refined carbs of equal caloric load . . . I'm really interested in what effects insulin spikes cause on the body regardless of the total calories or carb load over time.

As a Type 1 diabetic, I have closely monitored how carbs affect my blood sugar. A complex carb like oatmeal jacks my blood sugar up just as much as 2 slices of refined white bread. They're both carbs and they both increase blood sugar levels. But I'll stick with my brown rice and oatmeal.
posted by bobber at 7:22 AM on November 18, 2010


KaizenSoze - I don't have anything but a personal anecdote to share but you should look into the paleo diet (i hate the name, but that's another post). Pre diet I was in very good shape and had a terrible time trying to cut weight. I would say I was the healthiest eater around, but I was definitely in a higher percentile. Within one week of starting the diet I had lost about 10 lbs, and had a TREMENDOUS increase in energy. I was completely addicted to processed carbs, especially refined sugar, and as soon as I cut that out of my diet I stopped falling asleep immediately after eating, which sounds sort of funny but was seriously becoming a problem. I would eat lunch, get home, sit down for a minute on the couch and wake up an hour later feeling like shit and having no idea what happened. I was on a sugar/carb roller coaster peaking and crashing multiple times every day, paleo was a life changing experience for me.

Paleo Diet try to ignore all the talk about cavemen and hunter gatherers and focus on the actual diet which is basically: meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, maybe some dairy = good and sugar, starch, grains, corn, processed foods = bad. The first week or two is miserable, I woke up dreaming about coca cola and pasta and was a seriously grumpy asshole, but after that I felt 100% better than when I started.
posted by youthenrage at 8:39 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Sorry for the length, here. Self-indulgent weight loss story ahead.)

I used to be fat. Not as fat as Homer got that one time...but almost 300 pounds.

I got down to 200 in about 8-9 months by realizing one simple thing: I was addicted to food.

There have been references in this thread already to the evidence that high-sugar, high-salt, high-starch foods produce a chemical reaction in the brain that can cause withdrawal on a magnitude comparable to crack cocaine. No one disputes this.

When someone takes crack over and over again because their brain is used to the high and they want to avoid the withdrawal, we call it addiction.

My experiences have made me pretty confident that obesity has nothing to do with the kinds of foods being consumed--it has to do with motivations of the eater. Healthy people eat for sustenance. They take similar amounts of pleasure from eating as most of us do from crapping. Obese people eat, usually when no one's around, to unleash the natural opiates from their brains that come from calorie-rich foods.

Since food is a fundamental activity of staying alive, it doesn't have the same negative stigma as does alcohol, tobacco, drugs, anonymous sex, pornography, or any of those other (awesome) activities we've come up with to make our bored, modern lives a little more bearable. But, just like those overtly stigmatized vices, the comfort of food can become a compulsion.

All my life, I used to think things like "I'd like to lose weight, but I have no idea how. Society has programmed me wrong," or, "I really don't eat all that much more than my thin friends, I must just have a slow metabolism," or, "I am too intelligent to bother exercising. My time is too valuable to waste on something so unsophisticated. Besides, my life has been made miserable by all those dumb jocks who exercised all the time, and I am better than them." So many equivocations, justifications, to let me avoid the hard realization that I needed to accept that I eat way too much food, or it would eventually kill me.

So, I started very, very reluctantly realizing how often I was eating food. How I would eat almost nothing when in the presence of others, but when alone, usually late at night, I would just sort of prowl around the kitchen, eating without even tasting, swallowing in rapid-fire these half-chewed boluses of pure shameful relief from a day-to-day life which I felt helpless to control. And, because no one was around to see me in this frenzied state, it was very easy to 'forget' that it even happened later (which is pretty typical behavior for an addict).

It was the hardest thing I ever did, to allow my ego to absorb the blow of total honesty. But, weight is a function of calories. To be that fat, you have to be eating way, way, way too many calories, every single day. There is no other reason for being that fat. No thyroid problem, no metabolism sluggishness, no societal suggestion, no crisis of convenience can possibly explain it. Too many calories. That's it. So, I figured out my BMR (with my weight, it was something like 2500 calories a day or more) and started counting calories.

Counting calories is not all that hard, and when you're very fat, even a slow, waddling jog/walk for 15 minutes can burn several hundred of them.

Since a pound is 3500 calories, I figured that with exercise added in, I would lose 2 pounds a week by eating less than 2000 calories a day. So I shot for 1400 a day to give myself room for lapses of willpower.

I ate a few simple foods all the time that I knew the calories of: turkey sandwich, 400 calories. Nature Valley oat bar, 180 calories. Apple, 80 calories. Banana, 100 calories. Lean Cuisine meal, around 400 calories. Food became very boring, but that was okay. Eating for pleasure was my problem in the first place. When it was time to eat, I made myself resist any excitement or joy whatsoever. Eating was like fueling the car--a brief break from driving, nothing more. My joy, I decided, would come from exercising and reading the scale.

I carried around a Sharpie marker and tallied my calories on my left shoulder, under my sleeve, where no one could see it. It made the exercise fun, like I was hiding in an elevator shaft writing down the names of terrorists in Die Hard. The Sharpie fumes were also a nice bonus.

The pounds seriously just melted off.

Because, while it's true that food addiction can have similar neurological mechanisms as crack addiction, the thing no one seems to tell us is that when you quit food addiction, you very quickly achieve an indescribable new chemical high from having the proper diet. It doesn't even take that long; 2-4 weeks I'd say. Ride out the sugar withdrawal, and soon your body seems to cry out with relief, thanking you for letting it do its thing properly.

It's just getting over that denial that's the hard part. No one likes to admit they're at fault for things that are wrong with their lives. But the reality is, that you can blame society for setting up this food abundance and then encouraging you to buy as much of it as you want, but only by blaming yourself for falling for it will you ever free yourself from it.

We have a tendency to justify our vices by saying, "You know what, I work hard, and life sucks. I deserve this." But any narrative that hinges on the assumption that life is fundamentally bad is probably not helpful. It's just as easy to tell yourself, "I work hard, and that makes me awesome. I deserve to be healthy. Modern life makes it hard, but I'm awesome. Let's do this."
posted by silentpundit at 9:28 AM on November 18, 2010 [20 favorites]


Healthy people eat for sustenance. They take similar amounts of pleasure from eating as most of us do from crapping.

I'll bet that people who eat healthy typically have good poop quality, and take pleasure in both eating yummy food and excreting it later.

IMO if your guts are healthy and your food intake is healthy, crapping is pleasant. If you aren't having a good time on the toilet, maybe look at your diet.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:41 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Healthy people eat for sustenance. They take similar amounts of pleasure from eating as most of us do from crapping.

I ate a few simple foods all the time that I knew the calories of: turkey sandwich, 400 calories. Nature Valley oat bar, 180 calories. Apple, 80 calories. Banana, 100 calories. Lean Cuisine meal, around 400 calories. Food became very boring, but that was okay. Eating for pleasure was my problem in the first place. When it was time to eat, I made myself resist any excitement or joy whatsoever. Eating was like fueling the car--a brief break from driving, nothing more. My joy, I decided, would come from exercising and reading the scale.


So well put. Thanks for sharing your story.
posted by docpops at 2:27 PM on November 18, 2010


I've lost 50 lb in 3 years and I appreciate food more now that I have to make choices. I used to assume that getting fatter was just a part of getting older until I went on holiday to Greece and found how easy it was to pick the Canadian, British and Americans out of the beach crowds.

It struck me that for at least ten years I hadn't had even a passing acquaintance with hunger.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:43 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right now, we do not know how to have a non-Western diet while still enjoying cars and 2000sqft houses and Netflix and the internet and iPhones and vacations and new wardrobes every year and the ability to work 50+ hours a week in an office and still be able to take care of your home and family and dietary needs...

Interesting point. On the other hand, South Korea and Japan.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:29 AM on November 20, 2010


Right now, we do not know how to have a non-Western diet while still enjoying cars and 2000sqft houses and Netflix and the internet and iPhones and vacations and new wardrobes every year and the ability to work 50+ hours a week in an office and still be able to take care of your home and family and dietary needs...

Seriously though, is this lifestyle still viable in today's world/economic conditions etc?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 8:40 AM on November 20, 2010


This thread will unfortunately devolve into another obesity debate, I fear, but I was impressed on a recent visit to Spain by the sheer absence - not reduction, but absolute absence - of obesity on the streets of Barcelona and Granada. These people walk their asses off and as far as I could tell have a couple small meals a day. It was the oddest thing to walk down a crowded street and not have to steer around an infinite number of 300 pounders.

European men are so much more romantic than American men!
posted by Snyder at 11:44 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older Everybody hates cancer.   |   T-shirts Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post