Saturday, October 30, 2010


I'm doing my best to lose a load of the weight I've put on since being here. What with not walking or cycling, indulging myself in yummy Southern food, and eating huge American portions, I've put on a few pounds. I've finally got around to making good on my New Year goal to do something about it. I'm even going to the gym most days, and if you know me, you'll know how much of an achievement that is.

Of course, it's easy to point at the ridiculous food you see on Web sites like This Is Why You're Fat, or the absurd (but wonderful) treats like fried cheesecake or the Monte Cristo sandwich. But really, that's not the problem. The fact is that the basic serving size is enormous, and verging on the obscene.

On Wednesday, we went to a restaurant for a birthday dinner. I went with the dieter's meal. For $12.99, they gave me a small Caesar salad, a half-size portion of what was basically a burger, mashed potatoes and broccoli with some cole slaw, and a half-size dessert. In other words, half a regular meal.

I couldn't finish it. I managed the salad, half the main course, and none of the dessert, and went home feeling full. On Thursday, I ate most of the rest of the main course and half of the dessert for my lunch, and still felt full at dinner time. Then yesterday, I finished the main course and the cole slaw for lunch, had a small dinner in the evening, and the rest of my dessert.

In other words, a half size meal fed me for nearly three days. A whole normal meal works out as practically a week's worth of food for an average middle-aged man. In some places, a frickin' salad contains more calories than I need for the day! So even when you try to stick with the healthy options, they're still way in excess of what's necessary, or even sensible.

Compare recipe books from the 1930s with modern recipe books, and what used to be 8-12 servings is now considered 4 servings, even though we're all much less active these days. The smallest latte in Starbucks is three times the size of what you'd get in a French cafe, and contains about a third of my daily caloric needs. I could go on, but there's no need.

And that, my friends, is why I' m fat. And why most Americans are fat, and why there's an epidemic of diabetes.

Let me just reiterate. A half size restaurant meal fed me for nearly three days.

The answer's simple. Put less food on the plate.


Will Shetterly said...

My simplest piece of dieting advice for Americans is to get rid of your dinner plates and use your salad plates instead. They're the size that dinner plates used to be.

My wife and I often split meals or bring half home for later. Tip well, and no one seems to mind.

J.R. LeMar said...

Don't worry about it. You're an American now. You're supposed to be overweight.

anaglyph said...

There's something about the food too...

I'm here working for six months and I've put on weight. My routine is not too different from home - I don't eat huge amounts, and not too many 'bad' things. I haven't been eating out much (cooking for myself) and I do my usual amount of walking. Not able to cycle here, which is a drag, but I don't think it can explain the weight gain. But the food itself is very different. For instance, many things here are sweetened - cereals are sweeter, bread is sweeter and even milk tastes slightly sweet to me. And the sweetening is often done with corn syrup which I believe metabolizes differently to sugar.

In addition to that, if you do eat out, the food is often fried or cooked in a lot of fat. Tasty, for sure, but really bad.

Another thing is that there is access to food everywhere. I think this is probably odd in the grand scheme of things. When I was a kid the biggest temptation one faced when out and about was going past the cake shop on Auburn St. Other than that, there was none of the constant food-in-your-face situation that you have here in America.

And as you say, the portions are enormous.I've gotten very good at not eating everything on my plate (a habit that was completely drummed into me by my Depression-survivor parents when I was a kid: 'There's some child starving in Africa...') Even so, when you're dining by yourself it's hard to just leave half a plate or more at the end of a meal.

Matt Kelland said...

It took me a while to get used to the idea of the to-go box. I'm used to the "don't waste food" philosophy, and so I'd always clear my plate. Now I'm learning to eat what I want, and take the rest home for later.