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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Why are Americans fat? (Page 3)

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Author Topic: Why are Americans fat?
dkw
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Fitz, my snort was specifically in response to your claim that anyone can find time to exercise because you work a whole eight hours a day and you can easily spare 30 minutes to take a walk.

Bully for you. I know people who work longer hours than I do, so I'm not quite so dismissive of the argument that some people can't find time to exercise.

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Fitz
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Alright, I accept your snort. It still doesn't change my opinion. Those who are willing to put forth the effort to lose weight will find the time. Perhaps it's just a matter of priorities.
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TL
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I wonder what it would take to make someone like Fitz say to himself, "Maybe I *am* being a jerk, if I'm offending this many people," and just stop it.

Probably a lot.

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pH
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Yes, Fitz. Let's put "exercise" above work, sleep, and sustenance. That's healthy.

-pH

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Omega M.
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I wonder, though, if anyone's made a scientific estimate of the percentage of overweight people who are that way due to their own laziness.
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katharina
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I wish people would stop using the word lazy. It could be due to their own choice to do other things than exercise, but exercise is not the only way to measure industry or work ethic.

Lazy is a pejorative term. Stop using it in this context.

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Fitz
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TL, I simply try to make it a point to respond to any post in which I am addressed. And pH, you can set your priorities at any level with which you feel comfortable, it's no skin off my back. I'm just stating some ideas, and if you don't like them, again, you're free to simply ignore me.
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pH
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So, you think it's healthier to focus on exercise than the methods by which you are able to feed your family and keep a roof over your head?

-pH

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Fitz
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Well, I don't think you have to make exercise the main focus of your life in order to stay healthy. Also, you're speaking as though I've suggested that exercise is the only way one can lose weight. A small amount of exercise everyday, even every other day, plus eating well and in moderation, will usually do the trick.
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katharina
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What is a small amount? 30 minutes of excercise can take an hour when you factor changing clothes and, often, driving to the gym. Add in taking a shower afterward, and it is no small matter to exercise. You could exercise lightly so you don't need other clothes or break a sweat, but that isn't as effective and has to be done for much longer to be useful.

An hour or slightly more than an hour every day is a huge committment. It means someone can't go straight from work to anything that night, cutting back on work, or waking up much earlier. Quid's already talked about how cheating sleep to exercise to lose weight is a dumb idea - that doesn't work.

I do think it is possible, and it is actually simple, but it is NOT easy.

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Fitz
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When did I ever say it was easy? I know it's hard for people to lose weight. I'm not suggesting that it's something which is undertaken lightly. I've said many times that it's something which requires "effort." From my perspective, with some good time management exercise can be an extremely joyful and rewarding activity. I like to spend as much time with my family and friends as the next guy. So I'll go play tennis with my brother. Or I'll go for a walk with my girlfriend. If you're unable to exercise without a long trip to some facility, there are certainly ways in which you can be creative. A lot of exercise can be done right inside the home. Go to bed an hour earlier than usual, then you can wake up earlier, do some exercise and then have your shower. I'm not suggesting that these ideas work for everyone, but you could probably come up with your own regiment that suits your schedule.

Listen, I'm sorry if I seem judgemental. I'm not trying to harp on anyone. If you don't have time, then you don't have time.

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BaoQingTian
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Fitz may be annoying many of you and even passed the line into rudeness, but the number of "What ifs" is really getting kind of ridiculous. All he is saying is that for people that really do value their health, then perhaps an examination of their priorities would be in order. I mean, since many low income people I know find a way to stretch their dollars to afford 200 channels on the Dish, perhaps the poor in time could find a way to budget some of our extra minutes to our health. There's an old Arab proverb that goes something like, "He who has health has hope; He who has hope has everything."

I've gained 25 pounds in a year due to a change to a more sedentary lifestyle-and its all gone to my belly. I also work a salaried job. This thread has helped motivate me to get going to the gym again. Weight loss is not my goal--good health is.

So now I'm a 6'3 skinny guy who looks like he's 4 months pregnant. I could make excuses about stress from my engineering job, moving, and other major problems in my life creating cortisol and locking the fat in about my midsection, and that its really not my fault. Or I can accept the fact that its my life and I can do something about it.

Bottom line I guess is if you don't want to accept the generalizationsthat Fitz and ET have made then thats fine. But they've both said they're aware of the generalizations, and that there are exceptions. I found whether its abuse, rape, or most other things (obese is a new one to me though) as long as someone has the mindset that they are a victim, they will remain so. Those that overcome such trials change from victims to victors.

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imogen
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Someone said earlier that they believed that skinny people ate the same as other people but just had faster metabolisms (and I know they said it slightly tongue-in-cheek).

I just thought I'd share my experience: I was skinny through high-school and the first few years of college. Size 4 skinny. And I ate what I wanted and didn't really exercise.

I have gained 35 pounds in the 4 years since then. I'm not happy with my body at the moment - I'm short, and I am overweight for my height. I have a high body fat.

The thing is, I kept saying to myself "But I'm not doing anything different - it must just be my metabolism changing".

Until I decided to actually do something about it and started keeping a food diary. Turns out I am eating (and drinking) about 800 calories more a day than I used to, without even realising it. One day I ate 3000 calories and thought I was being healthy! (Uh, no.) I've gotten into bad habits, I'm eating bigger portion sizes (I'm sure moving in with my husband didn't help with that one) , my previous "occasional" treats have become more like weekly treats and I'm moving even less than I used to.

But I managed for four years to fool myself that that wasn't the case - that I was still eating as healthily as I was.

I think what I'm trying to say is two-fold:

1. You might not be eating as well as you think you are. Obviously if you are counting (all) your calories, fat grams and sat fat grams and know they're within good limits then this isn't the case. But if you're not, and you're overweight, give it a go. You might be surprised. I certainly was.

2. For me at least, to stay at a healthy weight I have to eat healthy. Really healthy. And that kind of sucks because I love some unhealthy food - good cheeses are a particular weakness of mine. But if I go buy some good french brie and roquefort every week and eat it, I will get fat. If I have an afternoon chocolate fix every day I will get fat. Being a healthy weight means eating differently to how I am now.

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pH
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imogen, I'm not overweight, but in about three months, I've gone from being, uh, rather underweight (size 2 jeans at about 6') to a bit pudgier than I've ever been (size 10ish jeans). I've probably put on 25lbs. The thing is, I don't think I've made much of a change in my eating habits either, but I recently realized that over the summer, I didn't have access to late-night food. Since I've moved, my eating habits have shifted to afternoon-evening-night-late night instead of noon-afternoon-evening-night. I think that's made a big difference. So I think the time you eat can make a huge difference, too. Also, I think people tend to ignore what they eat late at night.

Another thing that made a difference for me was that I stopped taking some sleeping pills I'd been prescribed, which previously made it a whole lot easier to sleep on a less-than-full stomach.

-pH

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imogen
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I tend to eat more late at night, also.

I am very aware that some people have issues which means losing weight is extremely hard. Heck, I find losing weight extremely hard and my biggest issue is I like food and wine way too much!

But, everytime I hear people say "But I eat so heathily" I think - have you checked?

I know that for some people this will be the case, that they are fully aware and conscious of all that they eat.

But for others, it is perfectly possible to honestly think you are eating heathily when in fact you are eating way more fat and calories than you should.

(It was illuminating when I started actually reading the sat fat grams on things. One of my favourite takeaway pies, from a place that is considered fairly healthy, had over 2/3 of the daily recommended fat grams. One little pie! I haven't had one since I found that out - I have much better things to use those grams on. Cheese.... [Wink] )

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beverly
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Hmmm. I chalk it up to excessive amounts of sugar, particularly high fructose corn syrup, and transfatty acids. They will not only make you fat, they will increase the likelyhood of diseases correlated with weight-gain. Salty snacks don't help either.

I don't think it is excessive laziness. I think if we are moderately active and return to natural, whole foods, we will be a slimmer nation.

There may be an American tendancy to overeat in general as well. American restaurant portions are notorious for being excessive when compared to other countries. We seem to feel that "stuffing ourselves" is a right.

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mr_porteiro_head
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I have an extremely hard time not overeating.

I can eat a *large* meal, and in two hours I am ravenously hungry again. If I eat when I am hungry, I will eat an appalling amount of food -- the equivalent of over six full meals a day.

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pH
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I'm the same way, mph. But one doctor claimed I was hypoglycemic. I'm trying to retrain myself to not eat until I'm completely, loosen-the-belt full. I don't even know how I got into that habit, really.

-pH

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imogen
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quote:
I don't even know how I got into that habit, really.

-pH [/QB]

Me neither. I know I didn't use to eat till I was stuffed (groaning, can't move, belly ache stuffed) but at some stage I started doing it more and more.

And then you get used to it, and just start eating more all the time.

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pH
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Yeah. [Frown] I've been telling myself for the past couple of months that I was going to get out of the habit. Tonight's the first night I've actually made a conscious decision to go to bed hungry.

The first night is always the hardest. It gets much, much less difficult after that, in my opinion.

-pH

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imogen
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We're fat too...

Australia has moved from the second most obese nation in the world to the sixth. We are fourth in the world when you count in terms of both overweight and obese people.

What I find scary is this:

quote:
About 25 per cent of Australian children are obese or overweight, as well as about two thirds of adult males and around half the nation's women.
Two thirds of men, half the women and we're still only fourth ?! That is astounding. And scary.
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pH
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[Angst]

Wow!

-pH

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cheiros do ender
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I'm Australian and am disappointed by that article. They just don't seem to understand it's not a matter of weight, it's a matter of health and how people feel about themselves.
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imogen
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Why exactly are you disappointed by that article?

quote:
In short we need a changed behavioural pattern among our children – more physical activity and a more balanced, healthy diet," he said in a paper presented to the forum.

"And, equally as important, we need changed attitudes among parents and guardians. It's that simple."


I thought it definately portrayed obesity as a health issue, which needs to be overcome as a health issue.

Which is why the Health Minister launched the forum.

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El JT de Spang
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I've stopped listening to my stomach when eating. I'm the boss, not him.

I eat when it's time to eat, hungry or not. When I've had a big enough dinner I stop eating, no matter whether I've finished everything on my plate.

In restaurants, I make it a rule to leave some food on my plate.

When I barbeque, instead of the two or three big burgers I used to eat, I now eat one.

It takes some time for the "I'm full" message to get from stomach to brain. Twenty minutes is the number I heard. In other words, if you eat till you're stuffed, you've actually eaten 20 minutes past that point.

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Belle
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Again, I think we need to stop focusing on weight and focus on health.

If someone did a survey of child medical records and counted the number of children who were heavy based on the chart system, then my daughter is overweight. That would be my daughter the gymnast who is in extraordinary shape for her age.

My overweight aunt has low blood pressure and low cholesterol - by every diagnostic test she's healthy. My size 6 sister-in-law is thin but the opposite - her labs are terrible.

I know I need to lose some weight because my PCOS puts me at a higher risk for diabetes. But that's the only reason I care about losing weight because I'm not all that uncomfortable with how I look. My body carried and gave birth to four children, my husband thinks it's sexy, why would I not like it? I do want to prevent future health problems and losing weight is part of that, but other than the risk for diabetes there's nothing wrong with my health. With the exception of that cancer thing. [Wink]

I really, really dislike relying on weight charts to determine how healthy a group of people are - the whole "Which nation is the fattest?" argument is rather pointless, I think.

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imogen
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Belle - I might agree with you in terms of people being overweight. Certainly I agree in terms of people who have muscle, as opposed to fat.

However, in terms of obesity I really doubt that anyone can be at a weight that is medically obese and be healthy. And being obese is different to being simply overweight.

I think the reason health professionals focuses on weight is it's easy to measure. You can tell people "If you weigh [x] for [y] height then you are obese" and they can work that out at home. But most people don't have access to working out their blood pressure and cholesterol and lung capacity and all the other tests to determine if one is healthy at home.

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Sterling
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I've been thinking about fast food, lately.

Now, I don't think McDonalds and Taco Bell are the sole cause of obesity in America. They're just a piece of the puzzle... Along with the half-hour lunch break, the prioritizing of cars over pedestrians in many communities, the nature of office jobs, the role of computers their video game cousins.

Still, as a periodic caffeine addict (the only drug I've ever taken habitually), I can't help but note: Oh look, with a value meal I can get my addictive substance of choice and a huge amount of food, all for one low price. What a deal.

So... You have a lot of Americans getting seven hours of sleep or less, dependent on caffeine, with a very short lunch hour, all having cars. Hello, fast food.

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pH
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Belle, how tall is your daughter for her age? I've noticed that height/weight charts tend to vary from doctor to doctor. Also, one of my doctors told me that for weight, they are less accurate for people who are tall or short.

I should probably not weigh 170lbs, but by my first shrink's calculations, that was my "ideal weight." He agreed with me that that was ludicrous.

-pH

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BannaOj
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I think, that while mothers do need to make children eat their vegetables, and eat healthy food, most of us don't listen to our bodies enough. In the US culture, we haven't truly been trained to listen to our bodies enough and that's how our appetite gets out of sync with our biological needs. It is also an area where going out of sync can happen very easily, because we have such a complex array of biological appetite triggers.

I suspect that I'm extroardinarily lucky in that in the food arena my body is very good at communicating with me. I don't think my metabolism is any better or worse than anyone else's. (Oh yeah and I have PCOS too.) It just communicates well. Particularly with "Not Hungry" and "I'm Full" when necessary. I used to swim a mile a day. My caloric intake was huge as a result. If I didn't eat enough, I could feel the weakness in my muscles, not to mention my stomach rumbling loudly enough for others to hear in public places.

However, when I stopped that level of excercise, my appetite dropped dramatically, within a couple of months. I was at college, and didn't have my mother yelling at me to clean my plate, so I ate as much or as little as I felt like at meals. Since it was cafeteria food I didn't feel any particular need to finish any particular portion and I'd often throw food away.

Over five years of college, I gained a total of 7 lbs. I was 148 when I entered, and 155 when I left. (For reference, I'm 5'8".) Once major stressors were removed I started slowly dropping lower to 153. Then I had a year of four major illnessess. Particularly with the mono I did more "comfort eating" than I ever had in my life, eating because it was more interesting than being totally bored while crashed on the couch. I skyrocketed up to 168. I had to buy pants in a larger size. Then, after I was recovered I kept up the "comfort eating" habit without realizing it.

In another 4 months I hit 173. All of a sudden my energy levels dropped. But, when that happened, all of a sudden my appetite did too. The desire to comfort snack disappeared. I wasn't hungry enough to justify it. I only ate when I was hungry. (Even though it meant getting teased by coworkers for "forgetting" about lunchtime. I literally wasn't hungry so I wouldn't think about eating regardless of the time of day.) Again the amount of what I actually felt like eating (regardless of the size served) went down. And the pounds started dropping back off. It's been about two years since I was at 173. I'm down to 150.

I haven't done any major lifestyle changes or increased my amount of exercise. And I eat a lot of junk and high-carb food if I'm hungry for it. The only thing I've done is listen to my body, and only eat when I was actually hungry and stop eating when I was full. If I'm a guest and I say "it tastes delicious but I'm full, I can't eat another bite" I mean it. I don't eat two more bites just because it tastes delicious. If I eat a McDonalds meal, when I'm not in an extremely active mode (like at a dog show, I'm going to be running around and burning tons of calories then I'll get hungry again) I'm simply not hungry for 10-12 hours.

AJ

[ December 02, 2005, 05:09 PM: Message edited by: BannaOj ]

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Griffin
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BannaOj, could you tell me more about "forgetting" to eat. My dad "forgets" to eat, and can get very moody when it happens. I've even seen him eat a candy bar in the check out line because he "forgot" to eat for so long. It consumes him.. and I would like to know how it didn't affect you, or at least your post implies it didn't.


Griffin

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Sopwith
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Me, I'm fat as part of my efforts to curb global warming. I just refuse, in these times of global angst and shrinking ice shelfs, to burn more calories and release their heat into the atmosphere.

Somebody pass the nachos, I just can't get up.

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MrSquicky
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quote:
I think, for most people, it is possible to lose weight.

It is also a tremendous endeavor. It doesn't take a little self-discipline. It takes a lot of discipline. It takes time - for most people, to lose a pound, they must create a debt of 3500 calories. That means to lose a pound a week takes the following:

1. Determine normal number of calories burned in a day. For me, that's about 1800. A piece of cake with icing can be 400. That means there's not much room for any yummy stuff.
2. Eat 250 fewer calories than burned in a normal day. For me, that's 1550 calories a day. This is NOT very much.
3. Burn 250 calories with exercise. I can't run because of my knees and because I hate it, so that means 30 minutes to 45 minutes of intense aerobic exercise.

This isn't actually true. You're neglecting the changes to resting metabolism that comes from exercise. Depending on the type and intensity of your workout, you could have a higher metabolism, and thus burn more calories for 4 hours after you finish exercising.

The muscle built from exercise also adds to your overall metabolic rate.

Exercise also acts as a pretty effective stress reliever and anti-depressant, which cuts down on your cortisol again raising your metabolic rate, as well as preventing the urge to eat that often accompanies these conditions.

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BannaOj
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Griffin, what "forgetting" to eat means to me, is bsaically that I'm involved in something else absorbing, and my stomach is not growling or behaving in any sort of uncomfortable manner to remind me that I'm hungry. By contrast when I was a competitive athlete and I had a class scheduled during what was normally my lunchtime, it would complain, both loudly and painfully. And if I went too long without food I would feel weak and shaky.

Now, because my metabolic needs aren't as demanding it rarely makes me physically uncomfortable, but it will make it abundantly clear that I need to eat, if I don't eat by 1 and get to about 2:30 pm... I will feel weak and shaky. At that point I go "oh duh, I forgot to eat" and promptly eat what I brought for lunch and then I'm fine. I would only eat a candy bar under those conditions when I couldn't get anything else, because the sugar rush isn't really what my body needs. It would make me feel better temporarily, and if it would tide me over in an unusual circumstance I might. My body needs actual nutrition!

It is a somewhat hypoglycemic response, and different people's bodies can respond differently. YMMV. I'm not talking about a person *with* diabetes and/or hypoglycemia. Metabolically speaking, if a normal healthy person hasn't anything in 8 hours, a hypoglycemic response is reasonable. It's the body's way of going, "I need energy. I'm feeling weak so you can't ignore the situation any longer! Feed Me!"

AJ

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Shan
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I posted this on a different thread, but I see I should have posted it here!

Think you eat okay?

Check this quiz out:

Portion Distortion

Scary quiz, eh? One of the things I am trying is to just ditch one-half of whatever I'm served when I eat out, drink a large glass of water first (I spice it up with lemon), and eat as many vegies or salad as I want right now.


Also as a side note: Getting 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day does NOT mean going to the gym and getting all sweaty.

Think of how you can add extra steps to your everyday life - how you can add exta bounce to your everyday activities.

For example: Park far away from the grocery store door and walk instead of jockeying for close parking spots. (This is sooooo hard to do in the rainy PacNW)

Take the stairs for at least 1-2 flights rather than the elevator.

Walk twice around the block on your 15 minute break. Get a half-hour lunch break? Walk for part or all of it.

Housecleaning? Put on some music with a quick beat and boogie while you work.

Standing at the stove stirring a slow-boiling pot? Do some leg lifts while you stand there.

The point is - start with what's manageable. Change takes time - and there are MANY phases to change. Thinking about it, preparing for it, trying it - and failure and success are both equally okay.

[Smile]

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Shan
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Hungry Planet

Now, this is a thought provoking article - check out the pictures of a week's worth of food for people from differnt areas of this world.

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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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By most standards, I'm a healthy guy. I'm cyclically poor. (Never on the dole because I have a manly disdain for and fear of paperwork, but sometimes I'm cold and hungry) I've been degradedly poor and and comfortably rich enough in their variances to chart my eating habits.

I'll start by saying that I have a problem cooking for myself seven days a week. Time is precious, and I don't cook well and since I don't have much in the way of a sense of smell, all of my cooking tastes the same.

I grew up an athlete with a romantic's share of paranoia that the wrong bite of food will make me a less of an athlete and thereby not get the girl. My attitude towards food has changed in my 28 years, but the principles are the same, a trim healthy body, decent in strength and agility, comes in handy in saving my black ass. The same can be said of good skin.

The problem is that when I go through a poor phase- or when I see one on the horizon- I find myself eating at McDonald's. It's like crack, cheap and convenient, gets you through the day and tears up your body in the process. But they have that Dollar menu with double cheeseburgers and the mcchicken on it, and when I know that the next months are going to be rough, it looks awful tempting. I'm in good financial stead now so I eat spinach salads and real chicken, but for me anyway, planned disposable income is the most important variable which decides the quality of my meals. Now if I had the will to cook and shop and everything else that goes in to it, then I could eat well for the same price, but I don't.

A reason why I eat better than most is because I only eat when I'm hungry, I don't drink, and since I can't really taste what I'm eating, I haven't developed a lust for fatty foods.

[ December 08, 2005, 04:49 PM: Message edited by: Irami Osei-Frimpong ]

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BannaOj
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Go to Wendy's instead of McDonalds. Much healthier dollar menu. I can eat more cheaply there than McDonalds any day of the week. And it's healthier too.
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Shan
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Broccoli/Cheese Stuffed BAked Potatoes.

Chili.

Frosty's . . . *grin*

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imogen
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Just looking at the photos of the German family and the Sudanese family - wow.

What a discrepancy in food. Of course, I know being in a refugee camp isn't going to lead to a healthy diet, but still.

Looks like the Guatemalan family eat the most healthily - certainly they have the most fresh vegetables.

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Shan
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The interviews on NPR are pretty interesting, too, imogen.
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King of Men
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I found the difference between the Germans and the Americans more interesting. Note that the Germans have a bunch of stuff that needs preparation, veggies to be chopped, almost no bright-and-colourful packaging. The Americans are looking at almost 100% plastic and precooked.
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jd2cly60
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nutrient-empty calorie-ful food in large portions makes any moderately sedentary person fat in the long run.
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jd2cly60
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Belle:
quote:
If someone did a survey of child medical records and counted the number of children who were heavy based on the chart system, then my daughter is overweight. That would be my daughter the gymnast who is in extraordinary shape for her age.

If you read between the lines, it probably means your daughter has exceptional bone density and above average muscle mass for her age--in other words, excellent health.
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imogen
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I thought the Germans would have had more veggies, actually.

Then I remembered German food. (Meat, potatoes, meat, cabbage, meat and bread. [Smile] )

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Shan
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The amount of food for a couple of the families actually made my tummy feel somewhat nauseous.
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Orincoro
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I don't know if this has come up in the thread so far. But what do people think about a little government regulation pertaining to health standards in food

Primarily I would be in favor of some legislation to encourage healthy food production especially for children. It seems the government is in every facet of our lives but this one, and this is where they could really do some good. I remember going to public school in San Francisco and eating things like nachos, chili dogs, and pizza everyday as part of my standard school lunch. Does this seem ok to everyone?

In a time when we don't want to let anyone do anything unhealthy: smoking, drinking, drugs, unprotected sex, we seem to be very lax on what we allow children to eat. I would even be in favor of laws which encourage fast food companies to stop serving the horrifically fatty foods they offer to children, in order to encourage a pallet for health food as a youngster.

Is this too much to ask of our government? Something we would all benefit from in the short and long term? I realize this problem with kids should be 99 percent taken care of by concerned parents... but we must face facts and realize that there are some parents out there that don't know or care how healthy their kids' diets are.

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Juxtapose
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It seems like it all comes down to vices. Some people have a vice for food. Other people have their own material sins, their own addictions. I don't eat a lot, I'm pretty thin, but I'm don't lead a healthy lifestyle, because I smoke and don't exercise much (a coincidence, perhaps?) So I think an important question should be is gluttony more prevalent today as a sin - and I mean sin in a practical, not biblical sense - than greed, alcoholism, or hate? I don't really think so.
America's affluence certainly has to do with overeating. we can afford to eat more, so we do. Any other people in similar circumstances would experience similar results, I think.
As to legislating healthy eating, I think if there can be anti-smoking laws there can be anti-eating laws. If i'm hurting other people through second hand smoke and will be spending taxpayer dollars when I get lung cancer and have to spend weeks in the hospital, then I can live with paying $3 in taxes per pack. But if there are obese people are overeating, and wasting food, denying it to the millions of starving people around the world, and experiencing worse health effects then smokers, then they ccan pay for their vice as well.
When I can see as many god-awful anti-eating ads on TV as I see for anti-smoking, I'll be satisfied.

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pH
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Just tell your mom you weren't watching her because you were stuffing your face with fast food. She'll understand.

R E S P O N S I B I L I TY
My anti-food.

-pH

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Juxtapose
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The mental image that conjures up is just fantastic.
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