Thursday, March 25, 2010

On food and fat

My friend Scott Gunn over at Seven Whole Days posted an entry yesterday about why your salad costs more than a BigMac. The chart below shows the amount of federal subsidies for various food groups compared with the recommended servings we should actually eat.

This reminded me of a very interesting video I had seen a while back with Michelle Obama talking about "food deserts." I'd never heard this term before. This refers to areas where people (23.5 million Americans according to this source) have limited access to grocery stores, requiring a greater dependence on convenience stores and fast food restaurants. The First Lady is spearheading an effort to eliminate food deserts in the U.S. over the next seven years, which would be really something.

Here's a video from the White House blog with Mrs. Obama talking about this:

Meanwhile, on another blog I read there was very thoughtful discussion on the topic of shaming the obese, asking how much obesity in this country is a systemic problem and how much is a cultural/personal responsibility issue.

Here's one thing I know: during the three months I was in Uganda, I lost 10 pounds. I was not trying to lose weight; it just happened. Partly because I was walking everywhere. Partly because I could buy fresh fruits and vegetables from vendors on the streets near my home. Partly because snacking simply wasn't an option. I can tell you one thing: it wasn't because I was a better person or more self-controlled. It was simply what happened.

I know full well that I am one of the lucky ones with access to healthy food options all the time and that I can do a lot better at eating healthfully. I guess I'm saying that I'm tired of having obesity viewed as simply a personal moral lapse. I'm glad to see that we are taking steps to address some of the causes of obesity on a structural level. I know I can do better. But I also know that I'm the same person who lost weight in Uganda. This gives me some confidence to know it's not just me.

Update: What do you know! Today's NY Times has an editorial about this very topic.


Anonymous said...

I lose weight every time I go to France for the same reasons, and this in spite of the fact that I typically add a morning pastry to my regular diet. I once knew someone who dropped 2 dress sizes after a year of living in Sri Lanka - lots of walking, lots of fish, lots of vegetables, lots of rice, lots of coconut milk, but no meat at all. Happily, there are ways to duplicate this effect in the United States - I recently lost 10 pounds by participating in a work challenge to walk 5 miles and eat 5 fruits and vegetables daily. If all our cities were more walkable, of course, this would be a great deal easier!

TexasRed said...

Definitely think there are some systemic problems at work here -- not the least of which is that our food is now being produced based on what is most shelf-stable and has the highest profit margin, not what is most nutritious.