After much consideration, I am ready to proclaim that I believe we are in the midst of a food revolution. The US is no longer the most obese country in the world (Australia beat us by gaining this notorious title in 2008), but we seem to have woken up to the epidemic rates of obesity and diabetes in our country – and the myriad health effects and deaths (not to mention the financial toll on the nation) that stem from these conditions. We seem to have realized that the last 50 or so years of increased convenience foods (which are mostly highly processed and full of empty calories) have actually inconvenienced us. As a nation, fad diets seem to be increasingly replaced by sound scientific knowledge about our body’s ability to regulate body weight effectively, and the utter importance of nutrition (not simply calories as sustenance). The name of the game is becoming ‘health’ not ‘weight-loss’, per se. And I think it’s a revolution.
Many events culminated in 2009-2010 to create this revolution. A new first lady entered the White House, with a background in healthcare and a keen interest in the health of our nation’s children. She has raised the dialogue to the level of policy decisions and leading the nation by example. Michelle Obama’s recently launched Let’s Move campaign makes great strides in providing free and sound advice for parents on school lunches, nutrition, and physical activity. Obama has even grown a garden on the grounds of the White House with area school children – which I believe is the single best way to begin educating our children about health (and just THINK of all the potential educational lessons from a school or home garden….nutrition, botany, economics at the Farmer’s Market…). The Let’s Move website even highlights the updated USDA atlas, which provides details such as the density of food assistance programs or farmers markets in counties in every state.
This atlas (I’ll call it, AtLast) is a great tool from the USDA, who has been cast in a negative light in Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (airing currently on ABC). The USDA guidelines which Jamie must follow during his attempt to overhaul the failing school lunch program in the most obese town in the nation (Huntington, WV) are nothing but a hindrance – insisting on adding a serving of bread to an already nutritiously sound meal, for example. And get this – French fries are considered a vegetable under these guidelines, and thus are often supplemented into already carb-heavy meals.
Jamie’s previous work overhauling the school lunch program in the UK makes him uniquely qualified to do the same (on television, no less) in the US, but his non-resident status initially bring opposition and resistance in WV. In the end, how can you argue with this sound reasoning and logical approach: teach people to cook healthy, simple, inexpensive meals for themselves; encourage similar meals for school children while they are not at home; and show people how the long-term lack of a proper diet may lead to a shorter (or less enjoyable) lifespan (and maybe even a bigger, custom-made casket).
What else is taking place around the world to support this revolution? Here is just a sampling:
1. Scientific Research. The NIH previously increased the budget for obesity-related funding, and as a result new research is helping to shed some light on the obesity epidemic. In our modern environment of increased calories (and from poor nutritional sources), high stress, less sleep, less activity, etc, etc…genetics are combining with environment to lead to unprecendented levels of obesity (and paradoxically, also hunger and malnutrition). But we still don’t fully understand why two people in the same situation (ie: overeating and underactivity) may not both become obese. This is where genetics come into play, ranging from the brain’s hedonic response to food to the role of inherent gut bacteria in fat absorption. An added layer of complexity is epigenetics – or the traits we inherit outside of our genetic code. Obesity is now well established as a trait that can be inherited (or programmed) due to our maternal environment and our growth rate during early development.
Overeating and drug addiction cause similar responses in the brain:
Programming of Obesity in Mammals
2. Fad diets are being phased out. In conjunction with increased scientific knowledge and an increasingly aware lay press who are spreading the good word, we are also seeing increased debunking of fad diet myths. Here is just one example of many:
3. Grocery stores are getting on board. Whole Foods Market recently launched a healthy eating initiative. While they mostly tout two for-profit diet plans instead of just handing out free scientifically-based nutrition advice, this is still a step in the right direction.
4. Cultural Comment. From the NYTimes, to fat acceptance societies, to OS’s own Jeff Brawer, we’re seeing more and more cultural comment amounting to a Food Revolution.
- The Last Supper portrayals over time show increasing portion size of meals:
- What it takes to Fight Obesity
- Jeff Brawer: All or Nothing in America:
- Fat Acceptance
See also this previous Aliquot Post for additional examples:
JOIN THE REVOLUTION TODAY!