Tuesday, February 10, 2009

too much food

We are, as a nation, being constantly bombarded with the unassailable fact that we are fat. Not just a little fat. Grossly obese. We have become a nation of fatties.

No where is this fat fact more apparent than in our restaurants, where we gather to stoke their bodies with all manner of unhealthy and fat laden foods in gigantic proportions. Yes, there are healthy choices to be made in most restaurants, but we seem to be genetically incapable of choosing those healthy alternatives. We naturally gravitate toward the saltiest or sweetest menu items. We almost always pick the greasiest and most cholesterol laden gut bombs that are there to entice us. Besides being fat, we are stupid.

Of course, we can’t lay the blame for our excess avoirdupois solely on the restaurants we choose to patronize. After all, we do have the choice to stay at home and feed ourselves properly nutritious meals.
We generally think of eating out as a treat, a reward for making it through another hard working day, or an occasion to celebrate one of life’s milestones. When we approach our dining experience in those terms it is easy to forgo the healthy and instead indulge ourselves with the forbidden. Once in awhile that may be ok, but as a general rule, we need to stop celebrating so much and start watching our diets more closely.

I am not opposed to eating out at all. We go out to eat two, sometimes three, times a week. But when we do, we are careful to select what we hope are the less harmful items on the menu. We don’t go to fancy places much. Our eating out is relegated to the “family” restaurant type of establishment. But it is in just that kind of place that we encounter the most egregious examples of portion abuse of unhealthy foods. Those kinds of restaurants want to appear to give their patrons the most for their money, which to them means lots and lots of heaping portions piled high to overflowing on the platter. And then the training we received as children kicks in. “You’re not getting away from the table until you clean your plate,” was the rule drilled into our heads by our well-meaning mothers. So we clean our plates and think we are being good little girls and boys who then deserve to have dessert.

Mary and I have found the best way to conquer the portion problem in the restaurants we patronize is to pretend there is only one of us there to eat. We order one meal and then split it between the two of us. Even then there seems to be more than enough to go around. Have you ever noticed that when you order, say, a chef’s salad you get an entire head of lettuce? There is generally enough lettuce and other ingredients involved in that enormous salad that two people could graze on it for several days and never suffer a hunger pang. We don’t mind that in some restaurants we get charged an “extra plate” fee when we declare that we are sharing one order. It is still cheaper doing that than undergoing gastric bypass surgery in the future.

I doubt that if restaurants were to start providing sensible portions of food at a reasonable price, their business would suffer. People would simply become accustomed to the new reality and continue to eat out. They just wouldn’t get as fat doing so. And an ancillary benefit to those more sensible portions would be the slimming down of our pets, who would get fewer treats of harmful people food from the paucity of doggy bags making it home. If you can’t think of the reform of our restaurants as being good for you, consider it a crusade sponsored by PETA to help ensure the health of our pets. While we get thinner our dogs get healthier too. Talk about win/win.

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