I once had a client in Japan who liked to study the English language. “Why is American English so hard on dogs?” he asked me. I was uncharacteristically speechless. “Your President said he would stay at the party ‘until the last dog is hung.’ And ‘who let the dogs out’?” he wanted to know. It wasn’t until I was sick as a dog this week that I understood his confusion.
I hate to be DOGmatic, and repeat my tirade against American eating habits, but I think my sickness was caused by something I ate in a restaurant. It could have been food poisioning, but it could have just been some additive bothered me that would not have had an effect on anyone else. Every body is different. However, study after study cites processed foods as the culprit for Americans being so unhealthy.
Now that chain restaurants are required to post the number of calories in each dish they serve, a group of researchers were horrified to discover many restaurants serve more calories in a single meal than an adult should eat in an entire day. In fact, 92% of all the restaurants the Tufts University researchers sampled served meals that were too big to eat in a single sitting. Prevention Magazine concludes: the only thing we need to do to lose weight in the U.S. is to cook at home. Back to my dogma: we need to teach home economics! because how can we eat at home if we don’t know how to shop, manage our fresh food, and cook? And where are we going to get the time to do this? Cooking at home is a full time job.
In addition to highlighting the high fat content and preservatives in restaurant food, the Prevention article warns us to be wary of portion size. I was once out to dinner with a group of lawyers who were from all over the world. After we had ordered, to make conversation, I was talking about how big American restaurant portions are. When we were served, the dishes proved me right. The amount of food was even more enormous than I was expecting. One woman from India said her dinner was so big, she lost her appetite. The mother in me came out (inappropriate though it was in the business context) and I moved the plate heaped with food to the center of the table between us, asked the waiter for a luncheon sized plate, and told her to treat the dish like it was a serving dish and just take as much as she wanted. She was very grateful for the help.
A health program that we ran at my office for interested employees gave coping mechanisms for eating out as part of its program. Ask to be given a “doggie bag” (at least this is a good dog reference) as soon as your meal arrives. Figure out right away how much of what you have been served is a proper size portion and then immediately take the rest off your plate so you will not be tempted to overeat. I will try it, but it feels a little bit like the tail wagging the dog.
But we have become so accustomed to “supersized” meals it is hard to know how much we should be eating. Our appetites have been trained accordingly too, so sometimes our satiation level doesn’t kick in. (It usually takes 20 minutes after you reach that level to feel full anyway, which is why our mothers told us to eat slowly.) For help in determining what a proper sized portion should be, read the Prevention magazine article, it gives examples.
Poor health will dog us unless as a nation we blow this hot dog stand and change our eating habits. I am not going to cling to my dining out habits like a dog with a bone. I’m going to try to relish the proper sized portion that I slowly eat, before we all go to the dogs.
© Jane F. Collen April 5, 2016
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