Ditching the freedom fries

It is no fallacy that the greater the population of the United States, the fatter the planet has become. In the U.S., the fattest people tend to be the poorest. As the U.S. diet has spread throughout the world, people everywhere have gotten fatter. A poor diet, more than a lack of health care or exercise, is the primary cause of the planet’s fattening. To avoid global embarrassment, we should probably change this.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this month, foreign-born adults who come to the U.S. “enjoy considerable advantages over their U.S.-born counterparts for many health measures,” despite being poorer and often unable to obtain health care. These advantages include “significantly better physical and mental health, such as lower rates of obesity and high blood pressure.” However, immigrants “become less healthy the longer they reside in the United States.” After five years in the U.S., as they Americanize, these formerly slim immigrants are 54 percent more likely to have high blood pressure and 25 percent more likely to have cardiovascular diseases than when they first arrived.

Today, “The longer you’re here, the fatter you’ll be” could be our national motto, but there’s at least one reason for hope. It is the same reason I can’t wear a scarf without feeling like a pretentious fuck: the French. According to Newsweek, “the French have the lowest body weight per capita in the Western world.” In an interview with the magazine, Michel Montignac, a French health writer, said that the traditional French diet is responsible for their excellent health.

“We use three times less sugar, less milk, more vegetables,” he said. They eat better fats with fewer trans-fatty acids and, because 70 percent of the population makes lunch at home, the French eat fewer refined foods and fewer sandwiches, too.

Weight gain comes not from consuming too many calories, but from an overproduction of insulin from eating nutrient-deficient food with too much sugar, as shown by U.S. weight gain, despite a decade of calorie cutting. “Focusing on calories is a waste of time,” Montignac said.

Obesity is inversely related to income. The difference between the poor and the better off, Montignac said, is not how much, but how they eat. The fatter poor eat a lot of cheaper, lower-quality food on the go. While healthier people spend and eat about the same amount, they eat fresher, higher-quality food.

If we’d like to change our diet, but our love of freedom prevents us from following the French model, we can choose any traditional diet as a guide to better health. Follow your family tree back to your ancestors’ land – it doesn’t matter which land, as all traditional diets were superior to our own – and eat as they did. You’ll eat more home-cooked meals with fresh fruits and vegetables, and fewer refined grains and sugars.

Eliminate sodas and other high-sugar, worthless foods from your diet. If you crave chocolate, get dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa. Dark chocolate has almost no sugar and is high in potassium and iron.

When out, apples, bananas, carrots and cherry tomatoes are all cheap and perfect portable snack foods, and are available all throughout the year. Bananas are so vitamin rich that they’re sometimes referred to as “hobo gold” (if you only have a quarter, a banana is the food to spend it on). If they’re too phallic for public consumption, then have one in the morning before leaving the house.

Because of the modern convenience of buying easily found, pesticide-laden food from corporate farms and agribusiness, we should be more careful in what we purchase. According to the Environmental Working Group, the most contaminated fruits and vegetables – the ones you should always purchase organic (an increasingly meaningless term), if possible – are peaches, apples, nectarines, pears, cherries and berries, imported grapes, spinach, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers.

You can get organic apples at Fred Meyer, pretty often, for 99 cents per pound, and you can get the relatively pesticide-free conventional bananas for about 44 cents per pound at Fred Meyer and Trader Joe’s, among others.

As the French and all the rest have started to eat as we do, this is a perfect time for a national turnaround. We should eat and live as we would tell our children to.