Raise a Little Green

Fat Chance

The steady rise of agribusinesss profits mirrors our rising national BMI. Doesn't feel like comfort food to me.

By Darren Kaulback
Published January 24, 2010

Yet another new study was just released last week that says Canadians are too fat. The information is pretty much the same as the last "new" study on the topic.

Of course, no one is really that surprised by this revelation. It makes sense. We eat a lot of meals out of the house. Restaurants, fast food, more fast food. The meals we do "prepare" at home are often highly processed. A round of golf on the Wii now passes as an acceptable form of recreation.

We're stressed out - both physically and financially. And don't get me started on the drive thru thing.

First, let's talk food. A great deal of trust is placed in the corporations that feed us. And I have to ask: why this is? We don't trust our politicians or overpaid CEOs or even our utility companies.

Like any publicly traded company, food manufacturers and chains are in business to make a profit, using the most efficient means that governing bodies will let them get away with.

Their lobbyists don't fight for our right to have healthy, nutritious food, they fight for the rights of the food giants to make more money.

Unfortunately, the steady rise of their profits mirrors our national BMI. Doesn't feel like comfort food to me.

Michael Pollan, in his book, In Defense of Food, calls this the age of nutritionalism. We've gone from foods to nutrients when evaluating what we eat. The basic premise is that we compare whole foods, like fruit, eggs, legumes etc, to their manufactured counterparts based solely on nutritional values.

But the science is still not conclusive on how these nutrients work together and whether they hold the same value when extracted and rolled into processed food.

The fact that most of us trust implicitly the current nutritional system is a concern, given its origins were influenced by "Big Food." "In Defence of Food" is a great read if you're interested in knowing how the nutritional data on the side of our food boxes has come to be.

Food isn't the only thing holding us back from that guest appearance on Baywatch (I'm sure there's a remake in the works). Our 1950s vision for a Utopian world with servant robots and spacey melodic gizmos was not without its flaws. We may not have flying cars but we've come pretty close to alleviating our burden of physical exertion.

Other than prying our fat asses from out between the couch cushions to get a snack or the daily trek from the house to the driveway, many of us have few opportunities to burn off those pesky calories.

It's predicted that the current generation of kids will be the first not to live as long as their parents. Has our quest for technological advancement robbed our bodies of the daily exercise needed to stay healthy You be the judge.

Then there's the mixed messages: Take public transit. Buy more cars. Conserve energy. Shop more.

Whether it's rising tides, polluted air or the health of humankind, we seem to be at odds with the natural world. As a society, we may be able to turn things around, but are we willing to make the tough decisions?

What's that line about a "pound of flesh?"

This essay was first published on Darren Kaulbeck's blog, Raise a Little Green.

Many of us have our own take on what it means to be green. For Darren, "green" goes beyond just the mechanics of living lightly on the earth, to a more soulful understanding of ourselves as part of nature. He authors a weekly blog, Raise a Little Green, where he highlights the "mis-adventures of turning green," challenges our cultural ideologies and assumptions, and asks the deeper questions of purpose and fulfillment. Darren is a TV director and filmmaker who lives in downtown Hamilton with his wife and two children.


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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted January 25, 2010 at 06:15:12

This subject...and those attached to it...is one you'll hear me getting very passionate about. The obesity pandemic. Our detachment from our physical forms, how we regard our bodies and using them. What we eat. Our basic value system.

I loved Pollan's book. And adapted his motto; here's mine:

'Cook fresh food. Be active. Have fun.'

-What we choose to eat is vital. (Literally) And actually 'cooking' filters out so much crap. 'Cooking' means just that; it's NOT 'preparing'. If it comes in a box, ready-made, just heat...then you're not cooking. People need to take back stewardship of their lives...and yes, this means cooking..and yes, this means re-ordering your life. You have a problem with the notion? Not a problem; welcome to your decline.

-We've created sedentary society. I won't belabour the point. (Except to say that if anyone offers to sell you something as a means to procure more fitness, more health...RUN AWAY! Everything you need, be it knowledge or regimen or actual setting, you already have access to. Gratis.

-At the core of everything having to do with 'making things better' in this arena is gaining a better Life perspective. Changing our value system. And change really only happens under two circumstances: Crisis...or Something 'Sexier' Being Offered. But if people believe that living a slothful, un-physical, ailment-ridden existence is what they really want...then maybe we do need a crisis. Oh, that's right; we're in the middle of one.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted January 25, 2010 at 21:40:59

Came across this in the NYT, in which the author makes the point that an attitude has evolved that snacks need to accompany every childhood activity. I know when the kids play softball in the summertime, parents have to take turns bringing snacks-- this after playing softball of all things, not the most exhausting of games-- and because everyone's busy, it's often a drinking box and packaged "fruit snacks".

As I write, my husband (after I pointed out "Fat Chance" to him) is regaling the kids with the story of his grandfather, who smashed limestone with a sledghammer for a living, this after having lost most of the capacity of one lung to TB. He never drove, rode a bike everywhere, and was able to butter his bread with bacon fat and live until his late eighties, healthy to the end. Genetics, in part, no doubt-- but still...

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2010-01-25 20:44:13

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 26, 2010 at 09:57:14

Came across this in the NYT, in which the author makes the point that an attitude has evolved that snacks need to accompany every childhood activity.

And toys, sadly. It's hard to go anywhere without someone shoving little bits of plastic into your kids' hands either.

As for the snacks, I blame the Parenting Industrial Complex that has given us the Helicopter Parent as the sine qua non of parenting. I remember the parenting books and magazines (before I burned them all) always reminding parents to haul drinks and snacks with them every time they left the house. This was presumably to ward off low blood sugar induced tantrums, boredom, etc. etc. I was always the only parent in church who didn't bring along an insulated bag full of snacks and juice boxes to amuse the little darlings and keep them occupied. I figured if they ate before they left the house, they could last an hour without more food and drinks, but you're made to feel like a bad parent if you don't always have something on hand to shove into your kid's mouth at the first sign of distress. Nevermind that the distress may have nothing whatsoever to do with hunger, administering food is an easy way to feel like a responsible parent.

This may be the ugly flip side of the notion of food as cure. When diet is touted as the cure for everything from ADHD to autism, it's too easy to slip into the idea that even fleeting grumpiness and ennui must be 'solved' with a dose of juice and Cheerios, and voila, we perpetuate the cycle of teens and adults who self-medicate with food, caffeine, alcohol, etc.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2010 at 18:14:19

And toys, sadly. It's hard to go anywhere without someone shoving little bits of plastic into your kids' hands either.

Ha! And don't forget candy dispensing toys. Or candy making toys, like this way-educational candy making kit of science.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted January 27, 2010 at 13:24:48

i have nothing to offer from the parental side, but i really like the conversation happening above ^^

Maybe because we didn't have a lot of money, I was never able to bring change for the vending machines or get drinks/snacks after activities even when my peers were. Funny thing is... it didn't kill me :)

I just finished giving a copy of my own meal plans and such to a few people - one who runs a budgeting group, one who was looking at their own eating habits.

It's incredibly hard to get information on things as simple as recipes or meal planning that isn't dispensed, sponsored, written, manipulated or otherwise massaged by a certain group, whether that's a company or a group dedicated to ____________ (dads, moms, weightlifting, antioxidants, natural food, the wonders-o-Crisco-an'-Velveeta, you fill in your own blank there...)

I can say, ever since I started living on a third-floor walk-up and carrying my groceries up those stairs, my quads and my arms have never been in better shape - not even when I lifting weights three times a week.... which is amazing.

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