Sunday, May 23, 2010

David to be Returned to Italy

After a two year loan to the United States, the statue of David is being returned to Italy, or so the not-so-funny email that is circulating goes. Sad but not without some truth.

America ranks #1 in obesity according to major studies which compare obesity statistics in different countries. It's no wonder that Michelangelo's David has become so rotund. Huge portions, an overabundance of fatty foods, high sugar and sodium contents combined with a sedentary lifestyle contributes to American's obesity epidemic.

I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) to foreign students. They come from all over the world for our language immersion program; Europe, Asia, South America, etc. and the majority of them comment on how large everything is in the U.S. - the cars, the people, the portion sizes and vast quantities of fast food restaurants. The age range of my students is anywhere from 16 to 70+ and there is rarely an overweight student among them. A number of them return home after a few weeks or a few months, several pounds heavier than when they arrived. They get "suckered in" to the American style of eating, living with host families, sharing American family meals and finally returning home with stories of fat Americans and their love of junk food, as well as the tasteless yet expensive fruits and vegetables and the aisles of sugar laden snacks in the grocery stores. They bring home stories of how lazy Americans drive everywhere, even to the corner store.

One of the most wonderful things about the Internet is how it ignores international boundaries, we don't need a passport to cross borders. Many of my readers come from across oceans; Ireland, England, Australia, Germany and even Iceland, to name just a few. Hopefully, the majority of your countrymen and women are like my students, fit and athletic, and unlike the U.S., obesity isn't such a widespread problem.

Fortunately, I have chosen to step out of my role as a "typical" American and get on the path to healthy eating and exercise. For those of you who are not American, perhaps you'll share your take on the obesity problem in your country. And for us Americans, do you think we deserve our reputation?


Certifiably Fit said...

Sadly I think our reputation is pretty spot on. A large majority live up to it. I used to fit the typical description and now that I have changed I kind of feel like I am a minority because I'm active and eat healthy.

Friend of the Bear said...

Hi Ellen. Our own home grown statistics here in the UK suggest that 1/3 of the population are obese, 1/3 overweight and 1/3 normal or underweight. Roughly the same as in the US. Of course the number of super obese is lower here. I don't see anybody going round the supermarket on a scooter because they're too fat to walk.

But I remember a time when people were not so big in the UK. In the 70s and 80s even 1 stone (14lbs) of extra weight was a big deal.

So what happened? A far greater proportion of women working meaning less time to cook proper meals = more ready meals, more takeaways, more fast food, supermarkets open much longer hours (opening up the possibility of food any hour of the day or night), people buying their lunch rather than taking something from home. I'm not antifeminist or anything, just stating facts.

The invention of the microwave had a major impact too.

An old fashioned evening meal would take a minimum 1 1/2 hours preparing and cooking. Fine when you have a whole afternoon to do it in - and no other option given that the only fast food in most of the UK in the 70s was fish and chips - very boring.

And then 1/2 hour or more making up packed lunches for the family for the next day.

Then most women did baking on top of that for scones/ cake/ biscuits. And such things are consumed at a far slower rate when you have to make them all yourself from scratch.

And many made their own jam and pickles.

And then all the washing up by hand from all these endeavors - and nothing was easiclean in those days.

These days most people buy a cake - so rather than it being a process taking hours of deciding on ingredients, mixing, preping tins, cooking, cooling, making icing/ buttercream, final assembly - it only takes a couple of seconds in the supermarket to decide which cake to buy.

A meal is 3 mins in the microwave not 90mins of prepping and watching pans simmering etc.

I know that my binge eating just would not have been possible 40 years ago - not in my country.

Bearfriend xx

Anonymous said...

I think we do need to do something to change our nation's relationship with food. I also think we need to change the media's concept of "beauty." Emphasis hard work, sweat, and femininity rather than fashion. Women are beautiful and I think if more of us believed that then we would want to care for our bodies better. I know emotional issues is what got me on this path, not laziness. So, for me, being healthy is about changing my relationship with food. Viewing it as fuel rather than comfort. It's certainly a challenge. Okay...I am getting off my soapbox now.

Mimi said...

We're up against so much. It's really tough to be a healthy person these days! As a 21st century woman following a 1970's weight loss plan, I can tell you it seems like things have gotten so much worse. Even though so many of the recipes I make are scary, at least they are made from "real food" and not processed junk. It's hard to know what the solution is, because it seems to keep getting worse as time goes by.

Rapunzel said...

Great post! I hate to think that poor David would become an "after" pic but agree that it's quite likely.

Jennifer@womanvfood said...

I think the US does deserve the reputation. It's such a tough subject. On the one hand you have out-of-control-portion sizes...but to pass a law that forces restaurants to decrease portion sizes is anti-capitalist and brings up a slew of political issues, and this is true for all the other obesity issues facing Americans.

The only way I was able to begin to appreciate non-processed foods was to live abroad in countries where those weren't the norm, then I was able to see what I was missing. In Korea most of the supermarket is taken up by fresh meat/fruits/vegetables...the freezer section is remarkably small.

Friend of the Bear brought up some valid points about woman in the workforce as well. Although I take the time to cook as many of my meals as I can, it is extremely time consuming and I could see why someone who does not enjoy cooking would prefer a convenient meal over a home cooked one.

Big Clyde said...

Great post. That pictures tells a great story of how we, Americans, get seduced by inexpensive junk food...all to our detriment.


Bobbie's Babbles said...

Yes - go to disney world or on a cruise. It's disgusting and embarassing. Ok, I'm off my high horse, but really. We sadly deserve this reputation and something must be done so that our children and our children's children don't continue this upword spiral.

Desperately Seeking Thin said...

I dunno I kinda like chubby David. LOL. He was way to skinny before He left for the US. The US def has an obesity problem but I'd take a lil meat on a man's body instead of stick thin anyday. We could get in shape together.


Linda Pressman said...

I know it's a serious topic but I do think that before and after of the statue is pretty funny. And, of course, the idea of the U.S. being able to even make a STATUE gain weight!

When I went on my program 10 years ago that was kind of the end of me and fast food. Other than a grilled wrap at McD's, there's nothing that's on my food plan. But I want to say that now, 10 years into it, I'm starting to think that I'm either going to have to give up restaurants entirely or become much more picky about preparation and contents. Who knows what they put in everything. It's all a guessing game and I guess wrong all the time.

CinciMom11 said...

Great post! The pics of David are too funny! Yes, I think we have earned our reputation. While I admire the efforts to fight the obesity epidemic, I don't foresee anything changing. If we're lucky, we'll maintain our obesity rates instead of increase them.

Nona said...

Truly I blame capitalism.

1. Greedy corporations working people so hard for so little that they have no time or energy for self-care.

2. Greedy corporations creating bad food to sell cheaply to tired, stressed, depressed people who have no time for self care so settle for comfort.

3. Greedy corporations controlling advertising which brainwash people into buying s**t they don't need in exchange for surrendering their individuality, ability to think for themselves, make choices which truly represent their own interests and exercise their power to dissent and revolt.

4. Greedy corporations who then make a "reality show" out of helping same overworked, depressed, in-debt, brainwashed and now obese people lose weight all for the entertainment of other overworked, depressed, in-debt, brainwashed obese people who desperately cling to entertainment to help distract them from the sorry state of their lives and the world around them.

5. While I'm at it I might as well lump the government into this equasion because they have ALL (well almost all) sold out to the said greedy corporations who are running America ... and the world actually into a hellish nightmare.

But everyone is so busy "God Blessing America" that no one can see what's happening except maybe the"foreigner" who get's told "love it or leave it" if they dare point out the the emperor has no clothes.

But the really depressing news is that this is model every nation seems to now aspire to as an indicator of progress and development and is/has become the way of life for the global elite.

That my dear is my two pence. Hope you're not sorry you asked!!! :)

Juli's Journey said...

I think we are living up to our reputation as American's. I am on board, though, for change. You always have such great blogs.

Jess said...

We definitely deserve our reputation. The portion sizes are HUGE here. Although America may be #1 in obesity right NOW, there's HUGE issues with developing countries, such as China and Japan, which have started becoming more westernized. Chinese people, and Asians in general, love fried chicken and McDonald's. They really, REALLY do. And the obesity rate has increased drastically since becoming westernized. So has the development of type 2 diabetes.

Not only are we affecting our OWN citizens, we are influencing the world with our eating habits, particularly the fast food industry.

JourneyBeyondSurvival said...

Hmmm. Having lived abroad and visited a few countries as well I have a different perspective than my family and friends.

1. Many [most] families abroad have dual incomes
2. They do not eat out during the week
3. The shop hours are drastically smaller

Excuses are culturally more acceptable here. As are the lies we tell ourselves. 'I can't walk around the store because of my bad knee, or my asthma, or my arthritis' We validate the can't part.

The truth is that it IS the weight.

Political correctness helps our denial as well. We're gonna kill ourselves with our own tactful lies!

Alexia said...

Great post! We are a country of over consumption, no? In practically every way possible.

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