April 29, 2007

The children will lead us

It starts with the children.

The nation is starting to realize what we eat away from the home is important; so important that it needs to be managed for the benefit of society.

And it can't be left up to even the schools, and definitely not left up to the food industry. In the past 10 years, we have seen what Coke and Pepsi will do. They'll serve up to 5th graders the most sugary, most calorie-laden drinks in the biggest, baddest portions possible.

Now it might stop. Congress is demanding the Institute of Medicine to set food standards in schools. And surprise, surprise, the Institute is recommending more fruit, vegetables and whole grains. What they can't do is provide the money to make it happen.

Local school boards must treat the cafeterias as a place of learning. In that "classroom" we are teaching food nutrition for the rest of our childrens' lives.

What lessons are you demanding from your schools?
Nutrition Standards Urged For School Food: "(AP) WASHINGTON Millions of children soon could be saying goodbye to regular colas, candy and salty snacks during school hours.

Concerned about the rise of obesity in young people, Congress asked the Institute of Medicine to develop a set of standards for foods that would be available in schools.

The Institute responded Wednesday with a two-tier system designed to encourage youngsters to eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and to avoid added sugars, salt and saturated fats.

'The alarming increase in childhood obesity rates has galvanized parents and schools across the nation to find ways to improve children's diets and health, and we hope our report will assist that effort,' said Virginia A. Stallings, chair of the committee that prepared the report.

'Making sure that all foods and drinks available in schools meet nutrition standards is one more way schools can help children establish lifelong healthy eating habits,' said Stallings, director of the nutrition center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

And don't think their recommendation applies only to children. The committee also urged that Parent Teacher Associations adhere to the same standards, as should food items sold at school fund raisers.

April 28, 2007

Obesity goes shaking along

USA Today.com reports today milkshakes are going chic.

It's working: Sales of milkshakes, malts and floats rose 11% in 2006, says NPD Group, an industry research specialist. They're picking up steam at odd hours, too: Nearly 1-in-10 of the dairy drinks is sold at breakfast and 3-in-10 are sold as late-night snacks. The drivers: nostalgia for the customer and profits for the restaurant.

For restaurants, milkshakes are easy money. "They're enormously profitable," Muller says. The average price of a restaurant shake in 2006 was about $3.38, reports Technomic, a market research firm.

About 75% of that is profit, Muller says.

•Twinkie shakes. For $5 to $7, 5-month-old BLT Burger in New York serves a Twinkie Boy shake — made with a Hostess Twinkie, vanilla ice cream and caramel syrup. "We sell a lot of those," says Tim Murphy, manager.

•Hand-scooped. Since launching hand-scooped shakes nearly two years ago, shake sales at Hardee's and Carl's Jr. have tripled — even though the price jumped nearly a buck to $2.99, says Brad Haley, marketing chief. Coming to the chains in May: Orange Cream (Creamsicle-like) shakes.

•Bottled shakes. Ben & Jerry's has taken three of its most popular ice cream flavors — Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey and Chocolate Fudge Brownie — and put them into $1.99 bottled shakes that are sold mostly through convenience stores.

But most shakes, particularly candy-filled shakes, are full of calories and fat, warns Amy Lanou, nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina.

A large Health Bar shake weighs in at 2,160 calories, she says. "That's the total calories many adults need for a day."

April 25, 2007

Why coffee is not your friend

Some of your favorite foods are causing you to pack on the pounds and you don't even know it, says Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Find out why coffee, salads and applesauce are not as good as they might seem. And why wouldn't shouldn't pick up a granola bar or a sports drink after exercising.

Go to Top 10 Diet Busters - AOL Diet & Fitness.

April 23, 2007

Obese workers cost businesses money

Does your place of work have a cafeteria?

And does it offer a plethora of healthy options?

Probably not, and that costs businesses billions of dollars a year.

One of the hidden costs of obesity is injuries.

Duke University researchers found that the fattest workers had 13 times more lost workdays due to work-related injuries, and their medical claims for those injuries were seven times higher than their fit co-workers.

By no means am I advocating that we start discriminating against obese workers. It's the opposite. I think we should help them with better food and drinks in the workplace. And let's create meaningful incentives for workers to get thinner.

CNN.com reports:

Obesity experts said they hope the study will convince employers to invest in programs to help fight obesity. One employment attorney warned companies that treating fat workers differently could lead to discrimination complaints.

Overweight workers were more likely to have claims involving injuries to the back, wrist, arm, neck, shoulder, hip, knee and foot than other employees.

The findings were based on eight years of data from 11,728 people.

The most obese workers -- those with BMIs of 40 or higher -- had the highest rates of claims and lost workdays.

Study co-author Dr. Truls Ostbye said the findings should encourage employers to sponsor fitness programs.

"There are many promising programs," Ostbye said. "We'd like to see more research about what is truly effective."

James Hill, who heads the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado, said managers will pay attention to the findings because injuries mean more immediate financial losses than the future health-care costs of diabetes and heart disease.

"When you see that claims rates double, I think that's going to get people's attention," Hill said.

Corporate America: are you listening?

April 22, 2007

Our Congress forces the poor to be fat

In the history of the world, obesity was a problem that only the rich had.

In America and in the last 30 years, obesity has become a problem with many poor people.


Read no further than Michael Pollan's article in today's Sunday New York Times.

Why, you may ask is the worst food, also the cheapest food? There's just one answer: your government. The federal government gives billions of dollars to "farmers" to keep twinkies cheap; and it gives no money to help grow spinach or carrots.
A public-health researcher from Mars might legitimately wonder why a nation faced with what its surgeon general has called “an epidemic” of obesity would at the same time be in the business of subsidizing the production of high-fructose corn syrup. But such is the perversity of the farm bill: the nation’s agricultural policies operate at cross-purposes with its public-health objectives. And the subsidies are only part of the problem. The farm bill helps determine what sort of food your children will have for lunch in school tomorrow.

But as powerful as the food consumer is — it was that consumer, after all, who built a $15 billion organic-food industry and more than doubled the number of farmer’s markets in the last few years — voting with our forks can advance reform only so far. It can’t, for example, change the fact that the system is rigged to make the most unhealthful calories in the marketplace the only ones the poor can afford. To change that, people will have to vote with their votes as well — which is to say, they will have to wade into the muddy political waters of agricultural policy.
Be powerful. Tell your Representative today that you want a farm (food) bill that supports local, small farmers to grow healthy foods. And that you don't want your $25 billion dollars going to corporations that just grow corn syrup.

April 19, 2007

Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

"I have a doctorate in public health, and I failed this quiz," said Dr. Harold Goldstein. "Common sense does not help ... who would think that a large chocolate shake at McDonald's has more calories than two Big Macs?"

I have been telling you for many months now restaurants need to explicitly tell you how many calories are in every item and in an entire meal.

If a Ph.D in public health can't help you figure out the number of calories in a Big Mac, what can?

Only black and white text right next to the menu item.

Reuters is reporting a poll that nobody can pass.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Picking the healthiest item on a restaurant menu is not as easy as it seems, according to a new poll that found most respondents were unable to identify the dishes lowest in calories, salt and fat.

In the poll, which was commissioned by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, 523 respondents were given a choice of four menu items from popular restaurant chains and asked to select which were lowest in fat, calories and salt.

The first question asked people to choose which Denny's dish was lowest in calories: a ham and cheddar omelet, country fried steak and eggs, three slices of French toast with syrup and margarine, or three pancakes with syrup and margarine.

The answer? Country fried steak and eggs.

The poll's other three questions asked respondents to make similar choices about menu items from Chili's, Macaroni Grill, and McDonald's.

None of the respondents answered all four questions correctly, and 68 percent failed all of them. Less than 1 percent answered three of four questions correctly, and education and income levels had no impact, the CCPHA said.

Why aren't politicians and business owners listening? (Are they spending that much time figuring out how to prevent obese people from suing them?)

It's clear that every state (because the federal government is still in a State of Denial) must pass a law dictating that restaurants need caloric information on the menu.

Get involved.

In Connecticut, Senate Bill 686 would require retail restaurants and other food establishments with 10 or more locations nationally to list nutrition information for all standard menu items. On printed menus, this information shall include total number of calories, saturated plus trans fat, carbohydrates, and sodium per serving. Nutrition information on menu boards may be limited to total number of calories per serving, provided additional information shall be made available to customers in writing upon request.

Check out this list and get your state moving in the right direction.

April 18, 2007

How often do you equate healthy and fast food?

The Wall St. Journal asked its readers: How often do you purchase the healthy offerings at fast-food restaurants? (read all the comments)

The results, above, are not surprising. Almost 35% of people who eat at fast-food restaurant have never ordered a healthy meal. Could it be that WSJ readers are not fooled by any fast-food restaurant that panders to critics by calling a pile of iceberg lettuce, healthy?

Here's one sample comment from the poll:
Hmmm. Last November, on the way to Las Vegas, I stopped at a McDonald's, used the restroom, then sat outside and ate my own packed lunch. On the way back, I stopped at a Wendy's and had a (small) hamburger and a green salad. I was shocked at how big the dressing packet was!! I just use enough to taste, not to drown.
Typical of Wendy's and McDonald's. Even when trying to fool the public with "healthy" options, they can't help themselves with appropriate portions.

April 17, 2007

Eating no trans fats may be bad for you

There's only one healthy way: the RightSize.

I have been telling everyone for a while now, that away-from-home eateries MUST start serving the RightSize of calories, fats, carbs, salt...everything. Or else we will be a completely obese nation.

Just changing one bad ingredient for maybe a little less bad ingredient is not going to save America.

But that's how politicians are attacking the problem. Instead of facing up to restaurants, they simply dictated that the fast food chains remove "trans fats". What's going to replace them? And will a supersized order of french fries suddenly be healthy for you. You know the answer.

Here's a story from CNN that lays out the problem with eliminating "trans fats": the substitute fat may be just as bad for you.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A major change in the national diet is under way: Heart-damaging trans fat is rapidly disappearing from grocery aisles and restaurant food, too. But are its replacements really healthier?

It's a tricky time for consumers, because the answer depends on the food -- and some are losing trans fat only to have another artery clogger take its place, that old nemesis saturated fat. more...

April 16, 2007

Nutrition is an orphan at Wendy's

The critics are starting to cause changes in America's restaurants.

Unfortunately, Wendy's is responding by confusing, if not deceiving, its customers.

Last year, the chain did away with its "biggie" and "great biggie" portion names.

But that doesn't mean sizes are getting smaller. The Biggie portion size — the equivalent of almost three 12-ounce cans of soda for the drinks — is called a medium. It didn't get smaller, just a name change. Who in their right minds calls three cans of Coke, medium? When you go into 7-Eleven and ask for a medium Pepsi, do they give you three cans of soda? Of course not.

A "medium" drink is 32 ounces and the "large" drink overflows its banks with 42 ounces. Wendy's calls it a "river of icy-cold refreshment." Critics say it's a setback in the battle against obesity.

NYU professor Lisa Young, who wrote the book The Portion Teller, warns that Wendy's subtle name change may encourage customers to eat and drink more than they should.

Wendy’s International Inc. research shows demand for big drinks, but people were confused by the designation of Biggie and Great Biggie, the former extra-large size, spokesman Denny Lynch said. Switching to a more straightforward small, medium and large sizes made sense, he said.

"When something is called 'biggie,' you know that it's big and maybe you shouldn't finish it," Young said. "That's a quart of soda for one person. My worry is that calling it 'medium' gives people the illusion they can drink without guilt."

Even a "small" soft drink at Wendy's is now 20 ounces. That's 25 percent bigger than before the name change.

As for the new 42-ounce soda, with up to 100 more calories than the old '"biggie," Lynch says it's not really intended to be drunk in a single sitting, but rather consumed throughout the day.

Again, who do they think they are fooling? How many people do you know, sip a Wendy's drink "throughout the day"?

That was last year. This year, Wendy's decided to totally confuse its customers in New York City. You cannot find out how many calories are in those "medium" fries. Not in the store. Not even on the website.

They stopped providing calorie information on their website for New York City residents. Because the Dept. of Health requires restaurants -- with info on its website -- to post product calories on its menu boards. And surprise, surprise. Wendy's doesn't have "enough room" to put that information on its menu.

Straight from Columbus, Ohio hypocrisy headquarters:

We fully support the intent of this regulation; however, since most of our food is made-to-order, there isn't enough room on our existing menu boards to comply with the regulation. We have for years provided complete nutritional information on posters inside the restaurant and on our website. To continue to provide caloric information to residents and customers of our New York City restaurants on our website and on our nutritional posters would subject us to this regulation. As a result, we will no longer provide caloric information to residents and customers of our New York City restaurants.

Ironically, nutrition is now an orphan at Wendy's.

April 15, 2007

What's fare? Time for the Sunday smorgasbord.

When it comes to weight control, everyone is looking for the magic bullet — the effortless secret to a svelte figure. But for participants in VTrim, the University of Vermont’s six-month research-based behavioral weight management program, there’s more commitment than magic in the two basic principles they follow to achieve lasting weight loss: Eat less; move more. “I bristle when people call it a diet because it’s not a diet,” said Polly Allen of Huntington, a participant in VTrim. “To me it’s important that it’s long enough to settle into a different lifestyle.” more...

If I switch to a vegetarian diet, will I lose weight? Answer: Research has shown that, on average, people who follow a vegetarian diet eat fewer calories and less fat than nonvegetarians. Vegetarians also tend to have lower body weight relative to their height than nonvegetarians. However, switching to a vegetarian diet doesn't guarantee weight loss. The basics of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight are the same for everyone: Eat a healthy, well balanced diet and limit your portions. Vegetarians — like nonvegetarians — can make poor food choices that contribute to weight gain, such as large portions of high-fat, high-calorie foods or foods with little or no nutritional value. more...

Maybe you think that means eating like the French, but that's so last year. Now it's all about Japan. As our collective girth keeps growing, some experts suggest we take a cue from other cultures to control our weight. It's true that Japan has one of the world's lowest obesity rates. Only 3 percent of Japanese women are obese, compared to 13 percent in France and 33 percent in the U.S., according to the International Association for the Study of Obesity. more...

Eateries to trim fat from menus. Walnut Creek may be the first city in the state where restaurants will voluntarily agree to cut out trans fats and offer healthy menu options. Dozens of downtown restaurants, cafes and cafeterias are expected to join a pilot Healthy Restaurant Association to fight obesity, heart disease and diabetes by tweaking food selection and cooking methods and helping diners choose nutritious meals. more...

April 14, 2007

Restaurants can do the right thing with food

Restaurants could easily do the right thing. T.G.I. Friday's is soooo close to serving the right portions. But for some known reason -- money -- they just can't get over the hump and help Americans.

On the NY Times opinion pages today there are some examples of how making the "default" option, is the path most people take.

...if T.G.I. Friday's is really serious about helping to change American eating habits, it can do more. Specifically, it can offer the smaller portion as the “regular” and allow customers to order “supersized” portions for a higher price. Although the two portions wouldn’t change in size no matter what they were called, research evidence suggests that labeling the smaller portions “regular” will move far more people to order them than if the portions were labeled as they are now.

...the “paternalistic” decision to make the small portion the standard one would almost certainly increase the number of customers who “choose” it by a wide margin. And the availability of the “supersized” portion would give people an alternative that satisfies libertarian concerns about freedom of choice. I suspect the same is true when it comes to the choice between mammography and M.R.I., though of course the stakes there are much higher.

Check out the article, it clearly states the case for making the "healthier" option the regular option and most people will choose it. If works with 401(k) contributions.

It will work with food.

Obese people have their own restaurant site

If you are overweight and still hungry, then we've got the perfect website for you.

It's called RoadFood.com. This is a place where they have combined just about everything wrong with food in America.

It's got big, big portions (more later). It's cheap. It's "on the road". It's poor quality pictures of big portions. It's nutritionally poor. And did I mention it's got big portions.

What is RoadFood?
Great regional meals along highways, in small towns and in city neighborhoods. It is sleeves-up food made by cooks, bakers, pitmasters, and sandwich-makers who are America’s culinary folk artists. Roadfood is almost always informal and inexpensive; and the best Roadfood restaurants are colorful places enjoyed by locals (and savvy travelers) for their character as well as their menu.
If you can't find fried food in your town. This is your website.

If you can't find:
  • 16-inch sausage sandwiches
  • fried chicken
  • cinnamon rolls with your fried chicken
  • fried lamb (featured restaurant this week)
  • fried dill pickle (Blue and White Restaurant)
  • chicken-fried steak
  • fried clams
  • cracklins (fried pig skin)
  • pan-fried pickerel (in Ontario) or catfish (Mississippi) or perch (N. Carolina)
  • Fritos pie (fried corn chips in a pie)
  • fried oysters
  • fried green tomatoes
  • fried eggplant with crawfish etouffee
  • deep fried pickles (W. Virginia)
  • fried pie (skip the Fritos all together at Arizona's Cotham's Mercantile)
  • fried grit cakes (South Carolina)
  • fried perogies (Pittsburgh)
  • fried hot tamales (Mississippi, again)
  • fried kreplach
  • fried okra
  • and my favorite from Amherst, New York, fried bologna and onions
then you will love RoadFood.com. This site proves that all bad food doesn't come from the fanchised fast-food places. It proves that mom-and-pop, medium-fast food can be bad for you.

Only in America can we take any seafood, any vegetable, any fruit, anything and turn it into the worst food for you, then put it on bun, throw some red-colored corn syrup on it (ketchup), and call it "good eats".

Today's favorite restaurant happens to be in Connecticut, proving, even in the healthy states, we can't help ourselves.

Doogie's 16-inch hot dog is nothing short of astounding. While one of them, in its long, long bun, looks like a hero sandwich fit for four, especially if it is loaded with sauerkraut, chili, onions, bacon, cheese, etc., you will see some big boys walking into Doogie’s at lunch time and ingesting a pair of them (that’s over two feet of frankfurter!) with a large soda and an order of jumbo French fries with cheese sauce on the side
It's a killer sandwich. In more ways than one.

April 13, 2007

Fat people chose the wrong food portions

EarthTimes.org reports "in a study of 51 U.S. college students, those with a higher body mass index tended to consider larger food portion sizes as typical.

"The study in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that among students allowed to select their own portion sizes, BMI was a very strong predictor of larger-than-recommended amounts of food.

"Researchers at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and San Diego State University found those participants chose substantially larger portion sizes of 10 out of 15 foods and drinks, which included potato chips, rice, tortilla chips, pudding, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, water and soda.

"In addition, participants chose significantly larger portion sizes for high-carbohydrate foods when compared to high-fat foods," the authors said in a statement."

April 12, 2007

Sooner than later: Oklahoma City is now the heaviest user of fast foods

Oklahoma City residents are the "heaviest" users of fast foods in America.

CNNmoney.com reports,
While Greenville, North Carolina earned the dubious honor as the No. 1 market for heavy users in 2006, with 59 percent of its fast-food patrons grabbing burgers and fries 12 or more times a month - versus a national average of 42 percent - only Oklahoma City made the top ten list in the years 1999, 2003 and 2006. (Heavy users, usually young men, are defined as those who visit a fast-food restaurant at least 12 times a month.)

Over the past several years, Oklahoma City has consistently been home to more so-called "heavy users" of fast food than any other American city, according to data compiled by Sandelman & Associates, a San Clemente, Calif.-based market research firm that tracks consumer trends for the $537 billion restaurant industry.

"We're always excited to be in the top ten of things, but not this," says Christine Berney, a spokeswoman for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

Last year, well over half (55 percent) of Oklahoma City fast-food patrons dined in establishments like McDonald's or Wendy's a dozen times or more per month, placing it tied for No. 3 with Memphis and Charleston/Huntington, West Virginia. A similar percentage of Oklahoma City residents earned "heavy user" status in 2003, while in 1999 that figure was 47 percent, still well above the national average of 38 percent at the time.

When ranked by the number of trips, fast-food users in McAllen, Texas, led the nation last year with 25 monthly visits per person, on average - yes, that's almost once every day - but Oklahoma City was right behind with 21. Three other Texas cities - El Paso, San Antonio and Dallas - also made the top ten. None of the leading fast-food gobbling cities is north of the Mason-Dixon line, Sandelman reported.

There's other places where these states lead the nation: in obesity. West Virginia residents are the 3rd fattiest state in the nation. Oklahoma residents are the 13th. Texas is the 11th. North Carolina is 17th and Tennessee is 8th.

Do you think there's a correlation between heaviest fast food usage and heaviest people? I do.

April 11, 2007

The 30 minute meal (just a half donut)

Sometimes two stories just naturally come together.

Here's a joke. What does a 1/2 donut and Rachael Ray have in common? 30 minutes.
Dunkin' Donuts announced that it will be working with best-selling author, Rachael Ray. As its new brand representative, Ray will appear in a multi-platform marketing campaign for Dunkin' Donuts. Ray will also lend her perspective to the Dunkin' Donuts culinary team in the development of new, "better for you" food and beverage options. In recent years, the company has introduced several new products, including Smoothies, Latte Lite and the reduced carb bagel; in addition, the company has been working since 2004 to remove trans-fats from all of its menu offerings.

Adored by millions for her originality and down-to-earth style, Ray is best known for her "30-Minute Meals," recipes that answer the needs of busy Americans - great tasting, easy-to-make meals with inexpensive ingredients.

"Everyone always asks me how I manage my schedule, and the answer is coffee," said Ray. "Having grown up in the Northeast, I have a long-standing and deep appreciation for Dunkin' Donuts' coffee. In addition, I am excited to work with Dunkin' Donuts' team of chefs as they expand their menu to include new items for customers looking for more health-conscious options."

Now Ray has had "trouble" in the past with her weight. How's she going to keep it off eating all those donuts?

Well, Brian Wansink of Mindless Eating has an answer.

Consider the Four Mile Donut. If we were to walk as fast as we could for an hour, we’d cover a breathless, heart pounding 3-4 miles. If we then decided to celebrate our workout with coffee and a donut, we would eat more calories in a minute than we burned off in an hour.

People who often start exercise programs claim to gain weight in the first couple weeks. My Food and Brand Lab has started investigating what we call Calorie Compensation. We’re finding that almost all of us believe that we burn more calories exercising than we actually do. The problem is that after we excerise we often try to reward ourselves with that pint of Ben and Jerry’s, and that’s where things go wrong. If we pat ourselves on the back, we should also pat ourselves on the stomach because that’s where all those calories are going.

Exercising is an important part of our life and of good health other than just our weight. But for most of us, it will probably be easier to eat one less donut today than to walk four more miles.

Rachael's goin' have to use a little less EVOO, and after all those Dunkin' commercial she's need be walkin' a lot more miles.

April 10, 2007

Humongous increase in fat bodies

If you are 100 or more pounds overweight, then you are not alone. And that's not a good thing.

About 3% of people, or nearly 7 million adults, were morbidly obese in 2005, up from 2% or 4.2 million people in 2000, said Roland Sturm, an economist with the RAND Corp., a non-profit think tank.

In a study reported by USA Today Tuesday says the evidence of such a significant increase in the number of Americans who are extremely heavy "is mind-boggling."

Sturm's study, which was released Monday on the website of the journal Public Health, shows that 24.6% of people were obese in 2005, up from 20% in 2000. That's an increase of 24%.

People usually under report their weight, so the percentage of people who are morbidly obese is actually higher than 3%, Sturm says. A large government survey in which people are actually weighed and measured suggests that about 5% of U.S. adults are morbidly obese and a third are obese, Sturm says.

Who thinks this is not a crisis? This is not a scientific issue. This can only be a political issue.

Those people in Washington are in a State of Denial. Those people in America are in a State of Denial.

April 9, 2007

Fat: What No One is Telling You

Fat: What No One is Telling You gives TV viewers a window into the intense human dramas that exist inside people who have been labeled obese, and the difficulties they encounter in solving their weight problems. The program , narrated by Meredith Vieria, airs Wednesday, April 11 at 9 p.m. on PBS stations across America.

Fat is a thing you can’t hide. Everyone who has ever struggled with a weight problem knows this. There is tremendous frustration with diets that don’t work and a painful stigma to being fat in a society that worships “thin.” Is it genes? Is it metabolism? Is it stress, evolution, or the lack of willpower? Why can’t the brain control hunger? What drives us to keep eating when we know we’re full? As the number of seriously overweight Americans climbs to frightening levels, the quest for answers is becoming even more urgent. Obesity experts have a growing — and sobering — awareness of the complex human puzzle that is driving this epidemic and creating so much personal anguish.

FAT: What No One Is Telling You, gives viewers a window into the intense human dramas that rage inside people who are overweight and explains why their weight problems are so hard to solve. Even the most disciplined effort is beyond the abilities of many people — not because of weakness, but because of the complex mix of environmental factors and biology that make it a lot easier to gain weight than to lose it. “Blaming the victim has kept us from seeking fundamental solutions to this epidemic,” says broadcast journalist Vieira.

“Being fat is not a moral crime and not just a matter of personal responsibility,” explains executive producer Naomi Boak. At 5-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Boak has waged a personal war on fat since childhood. “I couldn’t have made this film without the intimate experience of growing up fat,” she says.

Like that landmark special, the last thirty minutes of this two-hour evening event on PBS is devoted to practical advice. Immediately following FAT at 10:30 p.m. (ET), Take One Step for Your Family’s Health is hosted by Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC News chief medical editor, who brings together pioneering medical researchers as well as community activists and public health leaders to explore what needs to be done on the personal level, the family level, the community level, and the public policy level to help kids avoid the lifelong health trap that is obesity.

April 7, 2007

Getting sick in hospitals...by eating the food

Doctors and nutritionists tell us that obesity is a crisis.

They recommend eating very healthy foods and lots of exercise.

And when you go to the hospital what's the first thing you see? McDonald's. That's right 4 out of 10 hospitals have a fast food restaurant right there. And the hospital cafeterias aren't much better.

Money talks, health takes a hike.

All that education, all those fund-raisers, all those doctors' admonishments, and yet hospital administrators and boards take the money and run. "Do as I say, not as I do." That motto has replaced, "Do no harm."

McDonald's has a right to sell food and every individual has a right to eat it.

But don't hospitals have an obligation to provide healthy foods? It's a free country but they don't allow smoking. It's a free country but they don't allow guns. It's a free country but they don't allow dirty sheets and filthy instruments. Then, why, oh why -- with 2/3 of Americans overweight or worse, obese -- would the bastion of health allow fast foods right in the lobby?

"It sends a bad example when fast-food restaurants in the lobby are undermining what cardiologists are telling their patients upstairs," said Jeff Cronin, a spokesman for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest. "There are plenty of fast-food outlets in America, without putting them in schools and hospitals."

He should have said, there's plenty of WrongSize fast-food outlets, and they shouldn't be anywhere in America, let alone schools and hospitals.

Government regulates everything in your life. We all know government regulates liquor, driving, insurance, airline security; but, they also regulate hunting and fishing. Think about that. They protect fish more than they protect our children. They protect spotted owls before stopping Americans from eating themselves to death.

Not only won't the government stop McDonald's from overfeeding Americans. But even hospitals can't get off mainlining junk food.

The entire country needs to check into rehab.

April 6, 2007

Super foods: Try finding them at a restaurant

We get lots of good food advise. But unfortunately, there's a breakdown between what nutritionists recommend and what restaurants serve.

Below are three lists of super foods. There's no doubt we should make these foods part of our daily diets, however, many restaurants don't know how to spell them, let alone prepare them.

Don't despair. Start ordering them. Talk to your favorite restaurant chef. Ask them to prepare them for you. Change your life and all Americans.

Oprah.com website lists these "super foods":
  • Acia fruit
  • Anything in the "Allium Family"
  • Barley
  • Green foods
  • Buckwheat
  • Beans and lentils
  • Hot peppers
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sprouts
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
EverydayHealth.com lists 13 super foods including:

  • avocados
  • apples
  • blueberries
  • cabbage
  • fish
  • garlic
  • mushrooms
  • almonds
  • eggs
  • flaxseed
  • pomegranate
  • red wine
  • dark chocolate
WebMD.com lists:
  • Beans
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Oats
  • Oranges
  • Pumpkin
  • Salmon
  • Soy
  • Spinach
  • Tea (green or black)
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey
  • Walnuts
  • Yogurt

Find them, order them, eat them.

April 5, 2007

Foundation puts its money where our children's mouths are

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said Wednesday it would spend $500 million over the next five years to combat an "epidemic" of childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity is threatening the health of one-third of the nation's young people. Nearly 25 million children age 17 and younger are considered obese or overweight, costing $14 billion a year in medical expenses, the foundation said.

Childhood obesity is one of the most urgent and serious health threats confronting our nation. It deserves a serious response.

That's why the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will commit at least $500 million over the next five years to fight childhood obesity. The Foundation's goal is to reverse the epidemic in the United States by 2015.

This is the largest commitment any foundation has made to combat childhood obesity. As we embrace this new challenge, we expect to build on the lessons drawn from our past work on other critical health issues, such as preventing tobacco use and helping to roll out the nation's 9-1-1 emergency response system.

Childhood obesity affects all of us—every race and ethnic group, all income levels and every area of the country. It's going to take all of us—government, schools, food and beverage companies, health care providers, families and other foundations—to turn the tide.

Foundation President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., calls the situation a real and present danger:

Q: Is childhood obesity a real epidemic?
A: Yes. The prevalence of childhood obesity is excessive and rapidly escalating, with severe clinical consequences. All communities and populations are adversely affected, particularly low-income communities. Left unabated, the epidemic will overwhelm health care delivery and financing systems and destabilize health programs and other services for children, the elderly and the poor.

April 4, 2007

NY Times asks: Should government regulate your eating habits?

Do you think government should play a role in trying to change people’s eating habits? That's what the NY Times asked today.

And the thoughtful responses are on the side of regulating people's eating habits.

On the other side are the typical arguments that basically government has no right to regulate anything.

Here are some samples:

Public health issues are a huge expense to the community from provision of services to lost productivity.

Yes Government has a right to “dictate” policy on this just as it has a right to dictate policy on drugs, alcohol, road-rules, safety and other health issues.

USA has a high proportion of unhealthy people due to poor diet and exercise. Time to fix it.

— Posted by Dean

It is not necessary to dictate how we eat, but gov’t could require that restaurants display information, like labels on packages.

— Posted by Realist

As the mother of an overweight child, I believe that her problems began in school. There is no mandatory Physical Education program in Florida. The cafeteria’s menu is appalling; soda and junk food snack machines everywhere; candy as reward for work well done. Something needs to be done. If the government would mandate meaningful P.E. programs from elementary thru high school. Make cafeteria food healthy. Ban soda and junk food machines.

— Posted by Debra

I don’t see why not. Someone’s got to tell us what to do in this area since we Americans have shown ourselves unable to 1)make the right choices; 2) get off our very large lazy asses and make a proper dinner with nutritious meats and vegetables and 3)critically think about the “food” products that are being pushed on us by large manufacturers.

As a world traveler, I’m constantly amazed that the quality of food eaten by the majority of the people in many developing countries is much higher quality than here in the richest country in the world. We are pathetic.

— Posted by Gail Porter

If people want to kill themselves through a lifetime of gorging on fat and fast food, that’s fine with me, as long as I don’t have to pay for or subsidize their health care–but we all know that’s not going to happen. I don’t think the government is dictating anything. It’s a public policy issue. The Mayor has every right and, some would say, responsibilitiy, to set this policy. It’s really no different than the smoking ban. In fact, some would argue that poor diet (coupled with decreasing levels of exercise) cause more health-related problems that tobacco smoking. Personally, I say cheers! to the man for calling it as he see’s it.

— Posted by Doctor D

April 3, 2007

Being green and red meat free

Besides being bad for your waistline, here's another reason to avoid the fast-food hamburger: it's bad for your environment. That's right. Eating hamburgers contributes more to global warming than driving a car.

Time Magazine this week lists the 51 things you can do to stop global warming. On the list at #22 is "Skip the Steak". Believe it or not, the Big Mac is more responsible for causing harm to the environment than your Honda.

The international meat industry generates roughly 18% of the world's greenhouse-gas emissions—even more than transportation. Much of that comes from the nitrous oxide in manure and the methane that is the natural result of bovine digestion. Methane has a warming effect that is 23 times as great as that of carbon, while nitrous oxide is 296 times as great.

Because of fast food proliferation throughout the plant, global meat production -- already 1.5 billion cattle and buffalo -- is accelerating, doubling in the next 40 years.

Time says, "given the amount of energy consumed raising, shipping and selling livestock, a 16-oz.T-bone is like a Hummer on a plate."

If you stopped eating meat today you'd save up to 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year.
Trading a standard car for a hybrid cuts only about one ton.

You can be green by skipping the red meat, saving yourself a lot of calories (and maybe, the planet.)

April 1, 2007

Let's outlaw food buffets!

Ramsey Campbell reports in the Orlando Sentinel on March 31 a disturbing sight:

It was hard not to stare at the couple at the next table. They must have each weighed close to 500 pounds.

Needless to say, it was an all-you-can-eat Lake County restaurant. And management looked understandably worried.

Admittedly an extreme case, the scene still exemplified this country's growing battle with obesity.

Restaurants here tend to pile on food and drink without limit, sensing correctly that we see gluttony as a good thing.

And the fast-food industry has grown because of competition among restaurants over which could serve the largest portions.

What if Philip Morris was allowed to have a smoke shop where -- for a prix fixe -- smokers could have all the cigarettes they wanted? Or, how about, the more they smoked, the cheaper the price got?

Why...we'd outlaw that practice in minutes.

But someone eating themself to death, or worse yet, eating just enough to get diabetes or heart disease, is allowed -- even, encouraged -- to do that daily.

Obviously, some people cannot control themselves. The definition of an addict.

It's clear: We must outlaw food buffets!