Friday, August 31, 2007

Stephen Colbert vs. nutrition

It's always nice when Funny Fridays meets nutrition.

Here are two of my heroes - Stephen Colbert "interviewing" the head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest Michael Jacobson.

Can you guess which one of them said,

"Ice cream’s like medicine, it’s not even’s an antidepressant"
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Performance Chocolate Bars?

So apparently now Hershey's is marketing OhHenry! bars as performance enhancing.

Their new bar, OhHenry! Pro is being promoted for both its protein content and its consequent great fit as a sports enhancement.

Television commercials have folks eating OhHenry! Pro bars suddenly gaining great strength and agility and of course are aimed at teens with their music and content (skateboarding and cycling).

So what is in this rocket propelled chocolate bar?

320 Calories, 21grams of fat (6grams saturated), 5 teaspoons of sugar and 12 grams of protein.

Or to put it differently, pretty much exactly the same stuff as is in a regular Oh Henry! bar just with double the protein.

Wanna know some secrets?

Protein won't make you fast.

Calories will eventually make you slow.

Hershey's marketers apparently lack scruples.

[Hat tip to Rob our fitness director for bringing me a bar]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Did Big Milk Lie to the FTC?

"You don't have to be a hero to feel invincible. That's why I drink milk. The protein helps build muscle and some studies suggest teens who choose it tend to be leaner. Cheers to that"
So I don't know if you remember, but I sure do - the FTC challenged Big Milk to prove their weight loss claims and of course since the studies Big Milk based their claims off of were all pretty much relegated to very small experiments done out of a lab funded by Big Milk where the professor involved has an actual patent on weight loss claims related to milk consumption, Big Milk reported that they would back off the weight loss advertising until the claims were in fact more substantiated.

That was back in May and then Lydia Parnes, the Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection reported milk producers and processors had agreed to change the advertisements,
"until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss."
Now I suppose the word "leaner" may be a means to circumvent the FTC's concerns, but frankly to me the word leaner certainly still implies weight loss.

I read the medical literature pretty carefully and milk is no where near being proven to be a helpful weight loss aid and furthermore no where near being proven to possess any magical lean body mass increasing properties.

Once again, shame on you Big Milk.

FTC, where the heck are you guys in terms of following up on these ridiculously misleading and scientifically unfounded claims and advertisments - advertisements that now directly target children and teens?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Should you send your child to Weight Watchers?

In the comments on the Fat Camp post yesterday was the question, "Why not send a child to Weight Watchers?".

There's some overlap between Fat Camp and Weight Watchers and it has to do with the attitudes and thoughts cultivated in children who have been effectively told they're too fat and that they must lose weight, and that they need professional help.

Putting aside the question of whether or not Weight Watchers or Fat Camps teach healthy weight management practices, my belief is that for most children instead of cultivating healthy behaviours, Fat Camps, Weight Watchers and other direct weight loss interventions end up cultivating tremendously negative emotions, guilt, self-doubt, low self-esteem, sadness, and in most cases, ultimately failure.

My belief quite simply is that unless the child has a major weight related medical condition that requires treatment, that weight loss education should be relegated to the parents and not to the child.

Furthermore I'd state that any weight loss intervention for children that does not explicitly involve the parents is ill informed and worth avoiding.

To illustrate some of what I'm talking about, Rudd Sound Bites back in June posted a fantastic essay by Marjorie Galler who herself had once attended Fat Camp. The essay is a fantastic glimpse into what goes on at Fat Camp. It's a must read - click here.

Any readers out there go to Weight Watchers (or other weight loss program) when they were kids? Any of you remember how it made you feel and whether or not it fostered healthy attitudes and behaviours about weight? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Generation XXL Documentary Review

Don't ever say I don't listen to my readers.

Long term reader Geordie asked me last week if I could watch the documentary Generation XXL and comment therein - here are my thoughts.

The documentary is about a group of children from Nova Scotia being sent to a sort of short term fat camp - only it's not exactly a fat camp and I'll get to that a bit later.

The documentary starts with their current lifestyles and from the beginning it's obvious that their environments' are far from ideal food and weight wise.

Of the 4 featured children, Kat, Greg, Raya and Vincent, 3 explicitly reported not eating breakfast.

Kat's mother when confronted by Kat who said she was not supportive pointed out that since Kat was 12 she had been paying for and taking her to Weight Watchers meetings. This same parent in an earlier scene spends time harping on Kat's choice of french fries as opposed to salad.

Vincent goes for dinner at his father's house and either for a snack or for dinner his father made 6 Pillsbury dough puffs and sat down with Vincent to eat them.

Greg's mother comes home and it's dark outside and Greg hasn't had dinner yet and presumably is pretty darn hungry.

Raya's mother admits to providing her with whatever foods she wants and that she herself has a difficult time with food in terms of using it for comfort and pleasure. There's also a great scene of a school dance for Raya where on the dance floor is an at least 8 foot tall poster of what I can only presume to be a dance sponsor featuring 3 gigantic O'Henry chocolate bars.

So the kids get packed up and off to a place called the, "Fit Intervention Program" which according to the Generation XXL website,

"Its primary goal is to create a context that supports overall healthy living that nurtures individual strength."
It's definitely not a typical fat camp as from the documentary it became quite clear the goal of this immersive short term experience for the kids was not weight loss, but rather self-esteem building.

They were taught to cook by chefs, did art therapy course, did have some food instruction (and unfortunately were taught Canada's Food Guide) and were instructed to exercise.

I had mixed feelings about the camp experience. They did not appear to have been taught anything at all about weight management, though that may be due to editing. I mean if you're already getting sent to a place to discuss the impact of weight on yourself as a person, you should probably be taught about calories, hunger prevention and such, but really, I didn't see any of this. They were also seen by an exercise specialist who provided them with pedometers and the unreasonable goal of trying to get 12,000 steps per day. A much better goal would have been to encourage them to get as many steps as they could enjoy so they wouldn't feel like failures when they resumed their real lives and didn't see numbers approaching 12,000.

I absolutely detested the part of the movie where they spent time giving the kids scary articles about risks of weight on cardiovascular disease and cancer. These kids felt plenty of guilt on their own about their weight before being hit with the articles, and given that there was no apparent weight management instructions provided to them other than follow the Food Guide and walk like crazy, I felt the scare tactics were really counter productive and unnecessary.

What I loved about the camp experience was the fact that the kids were really forced to confront how their weight has made them feel but in a manner that empowered them to try to break free from the notion that their weight defines them.

I think the most grievous omission of the camp experience was that it was for the kids and not the parents. Kat's mother should have been taught that the absolute worst thing she could do for Kat would be to ride her about her food and that sending a child to Weight Watchers may well have long term impact on that child's relationship with weight, self esteem and body image. Vincent's dad should have been taught about calories and healthy eating. Raya's mom could have been taught about the role of hunger prevention in reducing the drive to eat for comfort and Greg's mom could have been taught about the importance of eating regularity.

All of the parents should have been taught to live the lives they want their children to live.

By not addressing these kids' parents, and by not really providing the kids with any real weight management tools at best this camp experience provided the kids with improved self esteem and a new outlook on life, but at worst served as the basis for yet another major weight related disappointment.

If I were to be involved in a camp like this it would be with the explicit requirement of a parallel camp for parents where they're taught how to lead by example rather than by criticism or edict.

At the end of the documentary we're given a few telling glimpses into how little these kids learned about actual weight management.

Greg got a job, lost 10lbs and then reported while grabbing his stomach,
"I might have to get liposuction to get this out"
Vincent blamed habit and said that he's not going to change.

Kat lost 8.2lbs and reported being discouraged because she hasn't lost as much as she'd hoped. She then told the camera she's going to live off frozen fruit juice ice cubes and watermelon for the summer while her mother stood by apparently silently approving.

I give the documentary a B+ because it was compelling to watch, but the content as far as helping these kids out I'd give a D.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dancing with the King

Ok, so it's a bit creepy.

Jib Jab, a longstanding web animation site has created a means to animate you.

My brother-in-law says that watching my video creeped him out.

It made me laugh.

Just click on the link at the bottom of this post and you can creep out your own brothers-in-law.

One note - when "creating" my video I realized that there's a dramatic shortage of female fast food mascots - I couldn't think of any. What's up with that? The only one I could think of was the little girl from Wendy's but then again, they never use her to sell food.

Have a great weekend!

Star in Your Own JibJab! It's Free!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"How to get fat without even trying"

The media is awash about different causes of obesity. Just last week we were bombarded with reports on how diet foods cause childhood obesity. While I was planning to talk about how ridiculously the media handled that particular story, instead I've found something else that I thought was more worth posting. It's Peter Jennings' fantastic 2004 report "How to get fat without even trying", on the role North American governments and the food industry play in the explosive growth of obesity.

Thanks to Dr. Marion Nestle who is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University whose fantastic book Food Politics apparently inspired Peter Jennings to do the piece and thanks to Dr. Nestle as well for posting a link to the piece on her fabulous blog two days ago.

It's a long video (10 mins).

It's not funny.

It's a great watch.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Heart and Stroke's heart-on for refined white flour, ground beef and salt

Here's another example of why you shouldn't blindly trust the Heart and Stroke's Health Check to steer you to "healthy" choices.

Stouffer's meat lasagna!

Given it's new status as a Health Check'ed item that would mean that according to the Heart and Stroke's dietitians refined white flour + ground beef + almost a day's worth of sodium = super-duper healthy!

What? You think there's something not particularly healthy about refined white flours? Could it be their clear cut contribution to the development of metabolic syndrome and diabetes? Beef not good for you? Carcinogenic? Increases the risk of diabetes? Salt increase blood pressure? Increased blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes?

You'd think that perhaps the dietitians of the Heart and Stroke Foundation would know these facts - after all, they're dietitians and they work for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and doubtlessly they should know all about the dietary contributions to heart disease and stroke, right?

Apparently not.

Stouffer's Meat Lasagna where the flour is "semolina wheat flour" (white, white, white), the beef is "cooked ground beef" (wanna bet it wasn't extra lean ground beef?), and the sodium content is 950mg, a short hop away from what a recent Heart and Stroke Foundation press release recommended as a total daily allowance of 1,260mg now has a Health Check.

I know, I know, it's probably better than non-health checked lasagnas, but to endorse an unhealthy option as healthy simply because it's healthier than some other options doesn't make it a healthy choice and certainly shouldn't buy it an explicit endorsement from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Stouffer's of course is milking it for all it's worth on the product's webpage,

"Look for the Health Check logo on STOUFFER'S meals – it's like shopping with a dietitian from the Heart and Stroke Foundation."


"Enjoy all the taste that’s made STOUFFER’S Lasagna the #1 selling lasagna in Canada for the past year – especially now it’s got the Health Check mark."
I can't really blame them, after all they paid the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check good money to apparently sell out.

Fat March: TV Review

Monday nights there's a new obesity reality show on ABC called, "Fat March".

The premise is simple. 12 obese Americans join two personal trainers and "march" 570 miles trying to lose weight. There's money involved of course. $1.2 million dollars to be split 12 ways at the end. The catch? Anytime a person is voted off or quits everyone's prize money goes down by $10,000.

So how do I summarize this monstrosity?

Take every stereotype you can think of about overweight and obesity, roll it into one, mix it with two wooden, idiotic trainers, shake, add inappropriate exercise and voila both you and the cast members get to go to the hospital. You, for your new found brain damage and the cast members for the myriad of injuries the show has cultivated.

Yesterday's episode had marchers calling each other derogatory obesity slurs, had a big plate of doughnuts that the marchers were supposed to "resist", had one marcher try to eat a doughnut off the ground, had shots emphasizing how whiny, lazy and will-less the marchers were, had the second of thus far two emergency room visits due to poorly designed exercise and over-training, had marchers whinging about how much they missed food and eating, and had a preview of future weeks' episodes where at least one more of the marchers is taken to hospital and told that he'll need knee surgery.

What upsets me more is the fact that the show is setting the marchers up for failure. They are being taught a ridiculously non-sustainable lifestyle and are being given the expectation that they'll lose weight, get rich, go home and stay skinny when in reality they're just on a crash diet where the word crash is quite apropos - people tend to get injured in crashes.

Unless these marchers plan to keep marching for 4-8 hours a day and continue adhering to a blindly restrictive low calorie diet, the weight they lose will come back as soon as they revert back to their old lifestyles which I would predict will happen the very moment the show is over because the lifestyle the show has given them no one in their right mind would want to live.

Bottom line: The show is awful. It will not only not help educate you in means to manage weight but it will promote all that is wrong about "dieting" as truth and do so with cameras whose jobs it apparently is to perpetuate and exploit cultural obesity stereotypes.

I give it an F.

Monday, August 20, 2007

How much weight will you lose with a gastric bypass?

I'm not a surgeon and therefore I don't perform gastric bypasses, but I sure get that question a lot from folks who are interested in having one.

Came across an interesting report on a paper that was presented by Dr. Daniel Leslie at the 89th meeting of the Endocrine Society. The paper reported on a number of variables that predicted bariatric surgical success and they came up with an "equation" that you simply plug into to answer the question of how much weight a gastric bypass patient can expect to lose.

Ready for it? Here's the equation,

"Weight loss in lbs = [(age in years) x -1.79] + [(preoperative weight in lbs) x 0.36] + [(1 if patient if African-American, 0 if European-American) x -16.56] + [(1 for peripheral weight distribution, 0 for central) x 7.45] + [(1 for type 2 diabetes, 0 for no diabetes) x -7.28] + [(1 for obstructive sleep apnea, 0 for no sleep apnea) x 7.15] + 106.63"
Of course there are many other variables.

Basically the surgery provides patients with a tremendous anatomical advantage for weight loss. The average patient's weight loss may be describable on the basis of the equation, but you need not be an average patient.

What the equation doesn't and cannot account for are the personal intangibles. The changes a person makes to their lifestyle will also have a tremendous impact on their weight loss. Some patients tend to take gastric bypass as a fresh start of sorts and get more involved in things like exercise and healthy eating. In my experience, those patients tend to lose more.

Just in case you've forgotten my take on bariatric surgery I'll remind you. I tend to call it, "a fabulous last resort".

: My original post was off by a factor of 100, the new equation ought to work

Friday, August 17, 2007

Toughest Interview Ever

Today for Funny Friday is the toughest interview ever.

I learned two things from this video:

1. What the word Scombridae means
2. Pre-interviews are good ideas for television producers

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Horseman of the Nutritional Apocalypse

I had no idea that this existed.

A patient of mine returned from a trip to Syracuse where she kept on getting asked the following question when she ordered meals in restaurants,

"Would you like that smothered?"
She didn't know what the waiters were talking about so she of course asked what "smothered" meant.

Apparently smothered means that for an additional dollar or so you can have your whole meal "smothered" in smokey bacon, fresh sauteed mushrooms & Monterey Jack cheese.

At Fresno's this privilege will cost your $1.19 extra.

And yet people go on and on about the "mystery" of why the world is gaining weight so quickly.

Any readers out there with smothering stories?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tim Horton's Liquid Big Mac

A Big Mac has 540 calories, 10 grams of saturated fat and 0.5 grams of trans fat.

What wonderful new Tim Horton's beverage has more calories, more saturated fat and more trans fat than the Big Mac?

The winner is, Tim Hortons 18oz Butter Caramel Iced Capp Supreme!

With 560 calories, 17 grams of saturated fat and 1 gram of trans fat it's a tall, cold glass of why it is we absolutely need calories posted on menu boards.

Hat tip to CSPI for raising the red flag.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Calorie's a Calorie, or is it?

Certainly that's what we preach. A calorie's a calorie - if you were to eat the exact same number of calories daily it wouldn't matter where those calories came from they'd have the same effect on your weight.

Or would they?

I'm very comfortable saying I'm wrong, and while I'm not quite willing to do that in the a calorie is a calorie case yet, I'm a bit closer today due to an article I read yesterday in the journal Obesity.

The article looked at 42 green monkeys who were followed for 6 years. They were fed one of two diets that were designed to "maintain" their study starting weight by providing them each with 70 Calories per kg of green monkey weight. What varied in these diets was the percentage of fat that came from trans fats with one group of monkeys getting 8% of their fat from trans fat sources while the other group had less than 1% of fat from trans fat sources.

Otherwise, the sample diets were pretty much the same.

The results were surprising. The trans fat group's weight increased by roughly 7% while the other group gained less than 2% with the trans fat group having gained more fat intra-abdominally (the less healthy place to gain it). The researchers also found that post meal insulin levels in the trans fat group were 3x higher than in the non-trans fat group and there was a reduction seen in tissue biopsy of the trans fat group's insulin receptors' abilities to trigger a response.

The authors conclude that trans fats are in fact independently associated with both weight gain and the preferential distribution of weight intra-abdominally resulting in an impairment of glucose tolerance which in turn is of course a risk factor for the development of type II diabetes.

This was definitely a neat study and while I'm not yet ready to stop telling people a calorie's a calorie, I'm eager to see some studies that try to tease out whether this is applicable to humans or just to green monkeys.

To be sure however, this study is yet one more piece of damning evidence against the inclusion of trans-fat in our diets.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Do-it-yourself Gatorade

Can't take the credit for this one - it's from a guy whose got a blog named "Yaniverse" but unfortunately he's apparently locked his blog to registered users only.

Ages ago I bookmarked a do-it-yourself recipe that he posted for a Gatorade/Energy Drink substitute. Thanks to the magic of the internet, even though my recipe link no longer worked, I was able to find it online in someone's Google notebook.

First I'll give you his recipe (makes roughly 2L) and then some brief comments:

2 Tea Bags
6 level teaspoon sugar (24 grams)
A pinch of salt (0.5 grams)
2 oz lemon juice (about 55 grams)
30 oz boiling water

100 calories
200 mg Sodium
60mg of Potassium (from the lemon juice)
Caffeine varies, est 100mg-200mg caffeine (depending on the tea used and infusion duration)

Estimated Cost:
Lemon juice: $0.10
2 Tea Bags: $0.06
Sugar, Salt, water, etc: negligible
I know, my first reaction was, "Isn't that just tea?", and frankly it is, but the thing is, you don't need to buy fancy calorie laden energy drinks to help with sports hydration just like you don't have to buy fancy energy bars either - a whole wheat tortilla, smeared with some peanut butter and wrapped around a banana's a cheap and delicious alternative to a Powerbar anyday.

If I remember correctly from Yani's readers' comments (before he locked his blog), obviously the type of tea matters dramatically in regards to taste and according to Yani, you can double the lemon juice if you want. I would suspect that if it's not sweet enough, you can either increase the sugar or add some Splenda - if your activity is longer than 45 minutes straight it may be worth adding more sugar as your body will need the fuel.

Yani, if you're reading, I'd love to link and credit you more formally, but I couldn't figure out how to find you through Blogger.

Update: Thanks to eagle-eyed reader Robert who calculated that 0.5grams of salt would contain roughly 200mg of sodium. Have changed the above to reflect same.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Conan meets Industrial Light and Magic

Wow, a lot of angry posts this week.

To try to sooth my frayed nerves I did some Conan surfing on youtube and found a great clip of him visiting George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic (the special effects folks).

If you've never seen C3P0 drunk, it may be a worthwhile click.

Have a great weekend!

(New subscribers to my email feed - if you want to see the clip apparently you have to visit the blog)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Eat Stupid!

My readers in Ontario may be familiar with the Eat Smart! Ontario's Healthy Restaurant Program.

I think it should be called, "Eat Stupid!".

Here's what their website says it's for,

"Through its "Award of Excellence" program, Eat Smart! Ontario’s Healthy Restaurant Program offers recognition to Ontario restaurants that meet exceptional standards in nutrition, food safety and smoke-free dining. This program was developed in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario; Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario Division); Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; local public health units; heart health programs; the food service industry and consumers."
So what do you think most folks will think about the restaurants who meet the Eat Smart! criteria? I think most folks will think they're healthy restaurants to go to - restaurants whose health is endorsed by folks like the Heart and Stroke Foundation and our government's Ministry of Health.

In fact, that's what the Eat Smart! people themselves say will happen in their own promotion of their website,
"In addition to the free promotion available to you and your establishment, there are other important benefits:

  • You will strengthen your image in your community as a health-conscious restaurant.

  • You will belong to a province-wide program endorsed by both the Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario Division) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario."
  • So why am I calling it Eat Stupid!? Isn't this a great idea?


    Let's go through the basic criteria for being included as an Eat Smart! restaurant and being endorsed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Ministry of Health:

    It requires that on the menu, anywhere, regardless of what else is on the menu, that:
    1. There is a single whole grain product OR a source of fibre and all comers need apply: 400 Calories bagels, 450 Calorie "low fat" (read high sugar) muffins, pizza crust (they actually think pizza crust qualifies?), pancakes, cereal, pasta, rice.... basically anything.
    2. There are at least 6 choices of vegetable or fruit. Including, amazingly, vegetable sandwich toppings (the lettuce or tomato on my sandwich counts as a vegetable?) and juice count too.
    3. Milk is available as a beverage
    4. There are 1-3 meat options cooked in a "healthy" way which basically includes every manner of cooking with the exception of deep frying. That would therefore include carcinogenic broiling and trans-fat creating pan frying.
    5. The availability of a "healthier" dessert choice yet frozen yogurt, milk puddings, "low fat" muffins, crepes and waffles count and I certainly wouldn't count any of those as particularly "healthy".
    6. If a children's menu is offered, milk and juice must be options and there has to be a vegetable or fruit included.
    As a consequence any restaurant who bothers to apply for Eat Smart will at least meet the "nutritional" needs assessment, which is why restaurants such as Denny's, Kelsey's Manchu Wok, Mexicali Rosas, Montana's, Lone Star, Red Lobster, and East Side Marios all have joined Eat Smart!.

    What this means for the restaurants is that they get to brag about how healthy they are (they get a decal for the door and I believe brochures for inside), they get included on the Eat Smart! brochure that's often handed out by well-intentioned but misinformed health professionals, they get a tacit endorsement by folks like the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and they get to push their high calorie, high sodium, high fat, nutritionally deficient food at you under the guise of health because you see, Eat Smart! doesn't bother to identify the items on the menus that it thought were healthy and actually when you get right down to it, Eat Smart!'s criteria don't even require the availability of healthy meals, just the availability, somewhere on the menu, of healthy ingredients.

    Canadians need to be steered to specifically healthy menu choices, not to restaurants where in their kitchens somewhere or other there is a healthy food or two.

    The fact that Denny's serves milk, uses parsley, lettuce and tomatoes as garnishes and places an orange wedge as an accompaniment does not make their Fabulous French Toast Platter replete with 1261 calories, 30grams of saturated fat and 2,495mg of sodium a healthy choice.

    What a clear cut example of where best intentions are definitely not good enough and maybe even worse than nothing.

    Wednesday, August 08, 2007


    No, McCarrots don't exist, but if they did, you're kids would be more likely to eat them.

    In a study published this month in the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine we can see proof of the vulnerability of children to advertising.

    The study had children taste 5 pairs of identical foods and beverages in packaging from McDonald's and in matched but unbranded packaging and were then asked which one tasted better.

    Bet you can see where this is going.

    The participants by the way were between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. The foods were McDonald's hamburgers, McDonald's fries, a Chicken McNugget, 3 ounces of 1% milk and baby carrots.

    Yes, even carrots wrapped up in McDonald's wrappers were rated as tasting better by this group of children.

    As far as I'm concerned there should absolutely be a ban on advertising targeting children and given a child's proven inability to discern truth from advertising that ban should extend beyond simply junk food advertisers but rather to all advertisers. This elegant study certainly confirms that need.

    It also makes me wish McDonald's sold baby carrots.

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    The Primary Cause of Obesity

    I'm constantly amazed by quotes detailing how complicated it is to pinpoint blame in the obesity epidemic. In my mind, it's the treatment that's complicated, while the problem, well I think it's pretty obvious.

    As everyone on the planet knows, the world is getting heavier - fast. So what's changed?

    Have our genetics changed in the past 100 years? Of course not.

    Is there a terrible virus, bacteria, fungus or parasite that we can blame? Nope.

    Is it genetically modified crops, or pesticides or us using the air conditioner more frequently? Good grief no.

    So what's changed in the past 100 years? For lack of a better term - our foodscape.

    Sure genetics, hormones, learned behaviours and maybe even the temperature you set your thermostat on have a bearing on weight, so do thousands of other variables, but without any question whatsoever the environment is to blame.

    I read an article yesterday in a Big Food tradezine that had a fabulous quote by a food marketing big wig named Harry Balzer (I swear I didn't make up the name),

    "Americans now use restaurants like their parents traditionally used grocery stores"
    This particular article looked at how our use of restaurants has changed in the past 50 years. It stated:

  • Americans spend 48 percent of their food dollars on restaurant fare, up from 25% 50 years ago.

  • The average American ate 208 meals prepared outside the home last year.

  • Americans gobbled down an average 127 to-go meals per person in 2006, compared with 81 eaten inside a restaurant.

    To live in 2007 and maintain a healthy body weight while eating out an average of 208 meals outside of the home would border on the impossible. The calories associated with restaurant portions and foods are ridiculously high and while certainly it is possible to make some healthy or lower calorie restaurant choices, eating out 4 times per week, you're almost certainly going to make quite a few that are less than ideal. Furthermore you're also going to train your eye to expect the restaurant sized portions that we have seen evolve over the past 4 decades.

    Now I'm not blaming solely restaurants, I'm blaming food in general because that is what has changed - how we eat has changed, where we eat has changed, what we eat has changed, how often we eat has changed, and why we eat has changed.

    Rich Rojko, a manager at the high end Ruth's Chris steakhouse chain that now offers takeout had this to say,
    "Eating has become something that people do while they're doing something else."

  • Monday, August 06, 2007

    Don't Eat at Wendy's Part II

    Imagine my surprise.

    Wendy's, the fast food chain that is refusing to comply with New York city's new calorie disclosure requirements, the chain that insults the intelligence of consumers by reporting that their online nutritional posting of calories applies to everywhere but New York and who apparently feels you're too stupid to understand a menu board that includes calories and prices, has apparently also refused to comply with New York's trans-fat free laws.

    Last week the Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report detailing their study of New York fries. Through an independent laboratory analysis they demonstrated that McDonald's fries were virtually trans-fat free, Burger King's had 3.3grams and Wendy's topped their charts at 3.7grams - almost twice the daily recommended limit.

    CSPI does give credit where credit is due and reports that the fries in New York, even those from Wendy's, are lower than the trans-fat content of fries fried by Wendy's in every other city in North America, but where CSPI has difficulty is the claims made by Wendy's website,

    "Depending on the serving size, trans fats in French fry offerings will range from zero to 0.5 grams."
    So basically Wendy's lies to you and apparently thinks you're stupid.

    Stop giving them your money.

    Friday, August 03, 2007

    Mmmmmm Catnip

    Sorry for the late posting. Probably will be late on Monday too.

    Today for Funny Friday - Catnip.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    Don't eat at Wendy's

    Regular readers here will know that in NYC Big Food is fighting legislation requiring them to put calories on menu boards.

    Regular readers will also know one of Big Food's "arguments" is that it's toooooooo complicated to put calories on menu boards in a manner that would be both easy for consumers to understand and in a manner that wouldn't clog up the boards.

    As part of the case, the Center for Science in the Public Interest had its artists create a rendition of what a Wendy's menu board might look like with calories on it. Click the picture above and you tell me if it's too complicated or too cluttered.

    Anyhow, Wendy's sent out cease and desist letters to the court and CSPI stating that CSPI is misrepresenting their menu and breaking trademarks by providing it to the court.

    This is the same Wendy's who has a ridiculous disclaimer on their own website that states that their Calorie information is not available in NYC with the hope that this will allow them to slime their way through a wormhole in the existing legislation that limits required calorie menu board laws to those restaurants who have pre-existing nutritional information,

    "We regret that Wendy's cannot provide product calorie information to residents or customers in New York City. The New York City Department of Health passed a regulation requiring restaurants that already provide calorie information to post product calories on their menu boards -- using the same type size as the product listing.

    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.
    I love the made to order argument as well given that Subway has already complied with the regulation and they're as made to order as you get in fast food. Talk about misrepresenting!

    My recommendation - vote with your mouth. There are plenty of fast food outfits out there. Stop giving your money to one that apparently thinks you're stupid (too stupid apparently to discern between the price and the calories on a menu item), tries to weasel it's way out of adhering to the law and then tries to legally muscle out the non-profit good guys.

    Don't eat at Wendy's.

    (To see more "doctored" and "misrepresented" menus, including Starbucks and McDonald's at CSPI head over here.)

    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    Attention Government of Guyana

    Anyone out there know anyone high up in the Guyanese government? They need some help.

    According to the Guyanese Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, obesity is becoming a problem over there. An article in the Stabroek News has Dr. Ramsammy quoted regarding their new crisis as well as provides some context for it.

    Context wise, turns out just as in North America, it is abnormal in Guyana for someone to have a healthy body weight with 53% of the population being overweight or obese. The survey also revealed that in urban areas 68% of the populace ate out daily.

    Their survey also looked at calories. Apparently the Guyanese' average daily caloric intake is 2,849, up from 2,269 in 1963.

    Perhaps not so surprisingly given what seems to be a global culture of fear surrounding the talk of calories the Guyanese government's response to their new found crisis is to ignore the calories and instead to promote two things:

    1. Increased physical fitness
    2. Consuming more than 400grams of fruit and vegetables daily
    Um, Minister of Health Ramsammy, do you have an inkling how much exercise a person would have to do to burn the additional 600 or so Calories a day they're now consuming? That's of course also assuming that the estimates are correct, and given that 68% of your urban population eat out daily, and that restaurant food is pretty much always underestimated calorically, that's a stretch. So back to the question, 600 Calories burned = how much exercise?

    Well, for mild exercise (walking, gardening etc) it'd be anywhere between 2 and 3 hours daily. Moderate exercise up to 2 hours and intense exercise between 1 and 1.5 hours daily.

    Shame though that in your recommendations you've actually suggested to the population that they should strive in fact to eat more not less. Did you know that fruit had calories in it too?

    If there were a way to buy obesity futures in Guyana, I'd be calling my broker as I type.