06 August 2010

the city of giant shoulders

Chicagoans are large. and getting larger.

since i've gotten down to BMI-category "normal", i've really started looking around me. what i'm seeing, in nearly everyone in this area, are guts, double-chins, bulbous butts, puffy faces, and arms and legs that look like encased meats.

and really massive people, as well. in excess of 300, 400 pounds. several examples there, just in the past 3 days. i'm amazed to see people so heavy, they look like they've been poured into the driver's seat of their oversized SUV. how large do you have to be to dwarf a large SUV?

at the supermarket, i see baskets carts with sugar. much of it is perceived as healthy, as some carts are overflowing with fruit. or fruit accompanied by bread, skim milk (or soy), rice cakes, frozen Weight Watcher dinners, and a regiment of 2-liter diet soda bottles, all lined up and ready to go.

today i saw this:

The number of obese people in the United States has increased by 2.4 million since 2007, according to a CDC special report released Tuesday.

The report also says that 9 states – up from 3 in 2007 – now report obesity levels at 30 percent or higher (in 2000, no states were in that category). Not a single state has reached the 15 percent goal set in the CDC's "Healthy People 2010" initiative.

yikes. i bet Illinois is one of those 9 states with > 30% obesity. that's staggering, especially if that figure doesn't include the "overweight" category (i'm guessing they're using BMI definitions, but the article doesn't say).

i want to walk up to some people, the ones i see doing useless cardio and packing their carts full of even more sugar, grab them by the shoulders and say, "you're doing it wrong!"

but i know it's hopeless. i've come to discover that diet/nutrition is even more divisive than politics. caloric deprivation as a weight-loss strategy is so ingrained in our minds, people can't even imagine that there are alternatives. it's such an alien concept, most can't even begin to question it.

i've discovered that the words "low carb" will elicit an immediate shutdown in others. "Atkins" is spit through clenched teeth like it's an expletive. i try to not lecture, or be That Guy On The New Diet Who Can Talk Of Nothing Else But The Diet, but people do ask about the weight loss, and i try to sum it up succinctly.

"it's Paleo."

"it's a high-fat, low-sugar diet."

"we avoid sugar and grains, and eat grass-fed meat, veggies, and butter."

"just go to Mark's Daily Apple."

"it emphasizes local foods from farmers, and avoids most anything packaged."

Anything like that eventually leads to, "oh it's low carb", or "you're doing Atkins." I think from now on I might just say, "Atkins," knowing that it's not really that and that the conversation will end. But maybe it will change a few minds. or at least let me get on with my day.


btw, clothing labeled "medium" isn't what it was 20 years ago, according to me. i think it's bigger now.


zim said...


according to the report, nearly 27% of IL residents are obese. and it is indeed defined by a BMI > 30, so that figure doesn't even include those who are simply overweight.

pyker said...

Someone kept referring to my diet as "high protein". I finally corrected it, saying it would be more accurate to call it "high fat". Like people want to give the benefit of the doubt, or apologize for you -- you're not *really* eating all that fat...

Anyway, I had same experience in the US. I was at a small grocery store down south, and the woman ahead of me in the checkout line was easily 100 lbs overweight. Morbidly obese. She was buying a case of sugar-free drinks, some fruit, and some takeout from the hot deli counter, which I think was pasta with sauce. No doubt low-fat. So this poor woman was, and likely has been, doing everything that every magazine, talk show, morning news show, etc. has been telling her to do for 20 years. She has a broken metabolism but every year she'll see some idiot on oprah telling her that if she switches to one can of diet soda instead of regular soda, she'll lose 10 lbs/year; telling her to eat more healthy pasta with nonfat tomato sauce. Totally broken metabolism.

People know more about cars than about how their own bodies work. If her mechanic told her to use water to lubricate the engine instead of oil, she'd tell him he's an idiot. But if her doctor tells her to eat starch she tries to do it, maybe suspecting something's wrong if she's always hungry even though she's carrying a 150-day surplus of stored energy. And most people view the malfunction as her fault, a moral failing -- gluttony and sloth. So she's given bad advice, follows it, and implicitly convinced that the fault is not in the advice but in herself. It pisses me off now.

zim said...

yes, that's my "favorite":

a slice of bread has X number of calories. A pound of body fat has Y. If you eat a sandwich a day, but have one slice of bread instead of two, at the end of the year you'll have lost Z pounds.

yeah, right.

JustJoeP said...

I agree with some of what you've both said, and I strongly disagree as well. On my recent (June) trip to Chicago, I noticed more in-shape people than I could recall in the past. Of course I was taking the L train everywhere, and walking a great deal, not observing gigantic SUV drivers. In my perspective, both the SE (South Carolina, Southern & Western North Carolina, Georgia) and Arizona (usually Hispanic or native American here if much larger) have larger populations of extremely heavy people, morbidly obese. I am not saying all Chicagoans are in shape - I saw many a large person. Germany has quite a few Really Large people in it too, and they vacation often - easily spotted on french & Italian beaches.

I have to admit, on the anti-Adkins thing, until last year I used to have the same reaction. In fact, 6 years ago, I worked in an office for 6 months across from a guy who lost 100 lbs on Adkins and who ate handfuls of nuts constantly, and I used to scoff at him. SO I am guilty of the same ignorant reaction in the past.

And in defense of fruit, in moderation, it's great. It's NOT HFCS, nor is it pure sugar injections. Much of the sugar is bound up in the fiber (depending what type of fruit it is) the and it digests more slowly, naturally. I am decidedly not anti-fruit.

Perhaps a better way to explain Paleo to people is what I've adopted: "I no longer eat grains". People invariably respond "so what do you eat then?" I tell them 'meat, veggies, nuts, cheese, fruit, hard liquor, wine, and an occasional Guinness.' So can you eat noodles? I can, but I choose not to. Rice? I choose not to. Hamburgers? Use Romaine for the buns. Cereal? No, I don't want to be diabetic again.

In addition to the talk shows and pop culture advice incorrectly telling people to eat a starch based diet, there's Medicare dietitians and physicians who are providing the worst possible advice to the older generation. It's insidiously pervasive.

My approach is one convert at a time. My father's dropping weight and is taking 1/3 the insulin he used to, as he avoids carbs, just like his son did. O

ne convert at a time, and let the data speak for itself.

Ame said...

We continue to make the same mistakes because no one in the medical/scientific community is willing to admit that the experiment has failed. and failed badly.

Here are the rankings for this year's obesity numbers.

Here is a article from Huffinton. It's sad when 21.8% is considered low.

As far as getting people to understand about the diet... well, you know how many times we have told my family... and you know we go through it over and over again all the time. It takes time for people to escape the crap that has been programmed into their heads by media and propaganda. The only thing you can do is say primal and point to Mark's blog. :) easier than any of the other options. I don't even bother telling people what I eat or what I don't ...

And you know that Atkin's is a dirty word because the medical community has tied it to heart disease. Hence you are going to die because you only eat meat.. and meat is BAD.

Ame said...

Joe: hence the difference between Paleo/primal and Atkin's.

Atkin's in the starting phases does not allow for fruit. Paleo/Primal does - in moderation. But, I think the major difference for me between Paleo/primal and Atkin's is the type of meat eaten. Ideally we try to eat grass fed/finished because it is so much better for you. And, for the animal. Which is more of a paleo/primal focus than it is in the Atkin's.

However, I don't think the issue that Zim has with the food cart is the fruit .... but the amount of aggregate sugar that people are consuming (sometimes unknowingly). People have lost basic understanding of food and how it processes in your body, how it's produced, and in some cases -- what it is. I hate to pick this article since I'm not a fan of Jamie's show -- but here is a quote: "failure of a group of schoolchildren to properly identify tomatoes -- mistakenly thinking they were potatoes"

How do people not know the difference between a potato and a tomato? unless you have never seen either ... which is very very sad and telling about what American's eat.

JustJoeP said...

Agreed Ame, very sad indeed.

pyker said...

I think the paleo/"primal" narrative and Mark's style make it all very accessible and beginner-friendly. I prefer panu as a source of information, as it's more rigorous, but would likely leave many cold. So MDA is an excellent recommendation. I also appreciate that the "primal" advice includes things such as moving around, napping, playing, not snacking all the time (if you're hungry constantly, something's wrong) or even going without food for a bit, etc.

On the subject of fruit -- I think it's gotten way too much good press. More than the science warrants. Fruit is fine for people without broken metabolisms. For obese people with metabolic disorder, it should be eaten in moderation rather than treated as a magical health-giving staple that you should eat lots of. A handful of blueberries is one thing, a banana-mango-pineapple smoothie is another.

Finally, I try never to use the "Atkins" word. It's too vague and ambiguous at this point. Plus I've never read Atkins' work. Plus the now brand-name Atkins sells a bunch of vile factory-extruded, processed crap and should be avoided like the plague.

JustJoeP said...

"if you're hungry constantly, something's wrong" - you're in America (or indulging in an Americanized diet), rich in HFCS, refined sugars or artificial sweeteners, starch, low in fat, low in protein, highly processed franken foods that leave your stomach empty, endocrine system revved up, and brain confused.

Before embracing no grains, high protein last year, I WAS constantly hungry, for decades. Each hour of my life, governed by reduction of hunger. Always carrying "emergency food" on even short trips - when I look back at that now, I think how stupid & ridiculous! I was drinking calcium depleting diet coke like it was going out of style, with only 1 or 2 days of more-than-sedentary activity each week. I'd always choose the "low fat" option, and it wasn't doing me any good. The whole US nutritional system is upside-down / backwards. It's driven by consumption - mass consumption, to support corporate America, where the customers and the cows & pigs & chickens & farms are treated as statistics, disrespectfully, impersonally, to be herded efficiently.

I just hope I didn't start "too late" to undo 43 years of really terrible dietary habits. This month (August) is my 1st anniversary of my divorce from carbs. Hooray!