Friday, May 9, 2008

On a soapbox

Still wearing pants with elastic around the waist. I mean, 6 pounds doesn't make that much difference! But they feel better than they did two weeks ago. A bit roomier or so my imagination is telling me. Don't really care if it's imagination or reality-I like the feeling.
Answering a dietitian list serv query earlier today and I thought of something: We cannot change American's eating habits. We can only refine them.
Here's what I mean (and I think I can plug in "my" for "Americans"). People tout the Mediterranean Diet as a healthy one that we Americans should emulate. Problem is, we don't eat that way. That's not our cultural diet. We eat meat and potatoes, pizza and Chinese food. Sure we can switch to olive oil but that's about as far as most Americans want to go into the Mediterranean style. And even then, they misuse the oil by dipping their bread into it with abandon thinking it's good for them.
Sure, I know. What's an American? We're a melting pot and we've all brought our foods with us. Different parts of the country have different food traditions. But as a nation, judging by the proliferation of fast food outlets and chain restaurants, we like certain foods prepared in very specific ways. We aren't a nation of Mediterraneans; we're Americans. Some of us are Mediterranean whose traditional diets have mutated into Mediterranean American diet patterns. And that's what we can expect from Americans in general. I believe we can emulate some of the healthy attributes of many of the diets around the world-we now eat yogurt, use olive oil and eat more fruits and veggies and whole grains-but we should not be expected to switch our traditional diets to "foreign" ones just because the one from abroad is "healthy" according to some study.
And that brings me to the French Paradox. Of course eating small portions of calorie dense foods like cheese and pastries would result in less weight gain. Duh! But in America we like everything BIG. And although wine has gained in popularity over the last decade and become almost a cult food tradition, we don't imbibe the way the French do.
We have to find a way to eat what is true to our tradition while incorporating the healthier attributes of other diets. If we dietitians and other health professionals presented the information that way, instead of telling us to eat like Mediterraneans or Chinese or whatever then maybe we could follow the advice. Don't give it a name. Don't call it Mediterranean. And, please, don't call it
"healthy". That puts me off!

No comments: