Calorie information in restaurants would be helpful

Being fat is a relative thing. The other day, my lovely — and I do mean that — wife Roselle and I had a discussion about our weight goals. We were honest with each other although most people do not consider either of us fat.

I am 68 years old, about five foot five and weigh, as I write this, 140 pounds. If you were to see me in a suit, you might perceive me as thin but as the lovely Roselle pointed out to me in a fit of uncommon (but appreciated) candor, my tummy leaves a bit of a shadow over my lower extremities. Put another way, I am far from appearing anorexic.

I exercise an hour every morning (I never miss), I have been on every major diet from Pritikin to Atkins and back again and in my earlier adult life had gotten down to the upper 120s. I do not eat bread and I stay away from pasta and Chinese food with their sugar-laden sauces. I eat a lot of protein but even with all my vigilance, I still got up to the lower 150s and, alarmed, went on an all-Atkins (just protein) diet.

I dropped 12 pounds but when my weight started creeping up again, I merged Roselle’s Weight Watcher, calorie counter approach with my own. That has me going in the right direction.

OK, this will not be popular, but we are a fat country and that is not a good thing. We know that fat people are at greater risk for everything from heart disease to diabetes to premature death. As the incredible Dr. Paul Lemanski explained to me, belly fat is a marker for fat around your internal organs and if you have fat around your internal organs, there is evidence that you are at risk for bad things like elevated blood sugar and high blood pressure, to name just two. So the name of the game is to get that belly fat off and keep it off. To me, it is quite clear that this means body fat causes more deaths in the United States than automobile accidents or wars. We drink sugar laden soda by the gallon, we eat tons of ice cream, candy, chocolate chip cookies, unrefined flour, and sugary sauces. The results are a country that is becoming the diabetes capital of the world.

A few sensible people have tried to at least make us aware of what we are doing to ourselves. Governor David Paterson and his health commissioner, Dr. Richard Daines, have tried to get the Legislature to listen and pass laws that would at least help to make us aware of what we are putting in our mouths. In New York City, the large chains like Starbucks now have to list the calories in the products they are serving.

I figure that as a rule of thumb, if I have less than a thousand calories a day I will continue to lose weight. If I eat more than that, I am in trouble. So if I go into a Starbucks and am tempted to look at the board that tells me what I am doing, I simply won’t buy the product. That is an intelligent way of proceeding. We have made marijuana illegal but not foods that will make us fatter and, more likely, dead. In short, we do not have our heads screwed on correctly. If our legislators had our real interests at heart, they would protect us by doing for all of New York what New York City has done. Not only that, we would insist that every restaurant and every food purveyor does the same thing.

Of course, this is politically unpopular. We do not like to do what is healthy. We like to do what we want. We speak and text on cell phones with the predictable dangerous results and we do the same thing with the way we eat. The other day, I went into a gasoline station food store and there was virtually nothing for me to snack on.

Let us think about this on our way to living longer. Of course, you may not be married to Roselle who knows how to tell it like it is. As for me, I am going to eliminate that shadow over my lower body.

Originally Published in the Legislative Gazette, 6/5/09

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2 Comments on “Calorie information in restaurants would be helpful”

  1. Peter Slocum Says:

    Alan, you’ll be happy to learn that the Assembly has now passed (Monday, June 22) a strong statewide calorie label law that will apply to all chain restaurants with at least 15 outlets nationally. The same bill is now pending in the Senate.
    Helath groups like the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association pressed to pass this, as one part of the fight against our very serious obesity epidemic.
    Now we need to get the Senate’s attention!

  2. Alan

    I don’t want to dishearten you but every time you lose weight on a diet, the statistics show that within 2 years you will have gained the weight back again PLUS an additional 5lbs. This is your body’s way of guarding against starvation – laying down a fat store.

    The more you diet – especially using medically unproven “fad” diets which are nutritionally inadequate – the more weight you will gain long term.

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