Skip to comments.Heavy Questions (obesity)
Posted on 01/02/2005 12:04:52 AM PST by neverdem
The road changes just past the Starr County sign. The shoulder disappears, the grass is left uncut and the black-eyed Susans and big pink Texas sage have to compete with the orange traffic cones set out by the border patrol. Just two counties up from the Texas tip, where the flood plains along the Rio Grande change to rolling hills and eroding cliffs, Starr County, largely Mexican-American, is one of the poorest counties in the nation. Fifty-nine percent of its children live below the poverty level, and in the strange new arithmetic of want, in which poverty means not starvation but its opposite, it is also one of the fattest.
In the colonias on the edge of Rio Grande City -- jerry-rigged neighborhoods that are home to many illegal immigrants and lack adequate municipal services -- houses that look as if they might fall down neighbor houses that look like fortresses, a result of the boom-and-bust drug economy. Little gorditos run around in juice-stained diapers, and as the kids get older, they only get fatter. By the time they are 4 years old, 24 percent of the children are overweight or obese; by kindergarten, 28 percent; and by elementary school, 50 percent of the boys are overweight or obese, along with 35 percent of the girls. The concern is not just cosmetic. Overweight children are at significantly greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, and by early adulthood, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, arthritis and sleep apnea. ''Stop by any time,'' said the local school district superintendent, Roel Gonzalez, inviting me to visit. The child of migrant farm workers, Gonzalez is perhaps the children's greatest advocate and the community's greatest critic. ''I will take you down the hall in any one of my schools, and you will see most of the children aren't slim anymore; they're all beefy. Kids are 30, 40 pounds overweight already, and they're only in high school. We're basically walking time bombs.''
The burden of childhood obesity is one created by adults and borne by children, and while the problem is widespread in America, there are few places where the children are lumbering under the load the way they are in Starr County, the point on the U.S. map where all the vectors that lead to obesity form a tidy asterisk. Some reasons are clear and well documented, but others are less transparent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, rates of childhood obesity are among the worst in the Mexican-American population, and Starr County is 98 percent Mexican-American. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources, also shows that as socioeconomic status falls, rates of childhood obesity rise, and Starr County is desperately poor. Not only is Starr County in Texas -- one of the fattest states in the Union -- but it is also on the U.S.-Mexico border, the fattest part of Texas. The overall effect is devastating: almost half the adults in Starr County have Type 2 diabetes. A child is considered at risk if a close family member -- mother, father, sibling, aunt, uncle -- has diabetes, meaning virtually every child in Starr County is at risk of contracting the disease.
Complicating matters, self-discipline is typically not a hallmark of the school-age years. When you talk to children about losing weight, ''you see a blank stare,'' Gonzalez said. ''They hear you, but there's really not anything they can do.'' Vans of well-meaning doctors regularly barrel down from San Antonio and Houston, feeling the smooth blacktop change to bumpy gravel as they near their destination and knowing that if nothing changes soon, if the children continue to put on ever more pounds, they will be responsible for having watched over the first generation of American children to have shorter expected life spans than their parents.
During the 2003-2004 school year, Peggy Visio, special projects coordinator for the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, made 13 trips to Rio Grande City, the largest town in Starr County. Visio, who specializes in diabetes prevention, worked previously with Sioux Indians in South Dakota, and her university recently received a grant from a private donor enabling her to start a program in the Rio Grande Valley. Beginning last January, Visio screened 2,931 elementary-school children, assuming she'd find about 600 at high risk for diabetes. Instead she found 1,172. Forty-five families volunteered to enroll a child in her program, a combination of weekly nutrition and exercise classes, plus two sessions of lab work to measure each child's height, weight, blood pressure and blood sugar and to examine each child for signs of diabetes. As part of the project's design, half of the families met with Visio and her staff in person, and half met via video link in order to test the efficiency of telemedicine -- that is, seeing a doctor, nurse or nutritionist remotely. (All participants came to the lab in person.) Starr County has 15 physicians; the ratio of residents to doctors is 3,412 to 1. (The statewide ratio is 661 to 1.) There are no behavioral therapists or pediatric dietitians in Starr County. The nearest pediatric endocrinologist lives about 70 miles from Rio Grande City.
One of the first things Visio did when she started the Diabetes Risk Reduction via Community-Based Telemedicine program, or Dirrect, in Starr County was to analyze the food served in the Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District, where all children receive both free breakfast and free lunch; so many qualified that it was easier just to serve everybody. The food service is run by Edna Ramon, who is 80 years old and began her job nearly two generations ago when malnutrition, not obesity, was the district's main problem. Ramon still talks about her memories of the dry hair and bony hands she saw on the children in the district in those early days. Visio analyzed Ramon's menus and quickly established that with breakfasts containing as many as 600 calories and lunches with 800, every child was on track to gain at least nine pounds during the school year. In addition, children were drinking huge quantities of sugary drinks -- sodas, fruit drinks and sports drinks -- which they bought from vending machines and at convenience stores and also drank at home. In the two months between her first two visits -- between initially screening the children and starting the program itself -- the children gained an average of two pounds.
Visio also found at the outset that 13 percent of the prekindergarten and 18 percent of the kindergarten students she screened had acanthosis nigricans, a disorder characterized by dark, thick patches on the skin. Acanthosis nigricans can signal insulin resistance, warning of diabetes, a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, controls the level of sugar in the body and helps the body use glucose as fuel. Excess fat tissue and insufficient muscle, which come from a lack of exercise, predispose a person to diabetes. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to blindness and loss of limbs; many of the children she found with acanthosis nigricans had never been to a doctor.
Visio -- an intensely organized and practical 47-year-old woman who makes spreadsheets of her own children's after-school activities and who cooks meals on Sunday for the entire week -- was deeply worried and deeply frustrated. ''People who were supposed to be helping these children'' -- school nurses, school food-service officials, even parents -- ''were teaching them the wrong things. They wanted to make the children happy by giving them what they wanted. It was making the children sick.''
ccording to Nancy Butte, director of the Viva la Familia Project at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, 40 to 60 percent of the prevalence of childhood obesity in the Hispanic population can be attributed to genetic factors. ''Much has been written about children who are overweight,'' said Butte, explaining her study, ''but little is known about why Hispanic children in particular tend to be more at risk for obesity.'' Many believe that there is, most likely, a set of genes that makes some people more susceptible than others. Butte suggests that at least part of the genetic component may be related to ''the thrifty-gene hypothesis,'' the theory that some combinations of chromosomes create a situation in which cells are more inclined to store calories efficiently for times of scarcity. Some researchers have speculated that because many Mexican-Americans are descendants of American Indian hunter-gatherers, who evolved to store fat more easily for times of famine, those living a sedentary life in modern westernized societies with access to fast food may be more prone to gain weight.
Butte has embarked on a five-year program of intensive metabolic and physiological testing, taking blood samples from Hispanic children and their parents, scrutinizing how children metabolize calories and analyzing body composition. She explained that the self-reported data she collected did not show great differences in calorie intake between children who were obese and children who weren't. But as Butte notes, ''We know they have to be eating more,'' and everyone tends to underestimate how many calories they eat. In order to assess how individuals actually metabolize what they consume, Butte is also gathering data in a ''room calorimeter,'' an extreme measure that involves a sealed chamber equipped with a bed, toilet, sink, desk, TV, CD player and telephone, where children spend up to 24 hours. Here, caloric intake, as well as how much oxygen a child breathes and how much carbon dioxide she exhales, can be precisely recorded.
Outside factors are not helping, either. Throughout America, high-calorie fast food is cheaper than food that's good for you. Starr County has its share of franchises, including McDonald's, Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box and Burger King. What's more, in the Rio Grande Valley, as elsewhere, children are not getting enough exercise, a fact linked by some to the general indifference to exercise along with the misapprehension of risk: the risk of, say, letting your kid run around the neighborhood versus the risk of encouraging a sedentary life by keeping her home.
''If you look at the probability of something that's in the headlines -- that your kid is abducted -- the probability of that happening to your child is very low, though certainly it's a terrible thing,'' said Deanna Hoelscher, director of the Human Nutrition Center at the University of Texas's School of Public Health at Houston. ''But if it happens, everybody hears about it, so the perception is that the risk is very high. However, the probability of your kid being overweight right now is very high, because a lot of kids are overweight. So you have to balance things out. Though of course, providing safe places for children to play would alleviate parents' fears.''
While to date few have studied them, the sociological underpinnings of childhood obesity in Hispanic communities seem to operate on three levels: inside Hispanic -- and American -- culture as a whole, inside specific communities like Starr County and inside families. Visio's most rewarding work has been inside individual families; as she puts it, ''I've got to get to that home, that mom, that family, that grandmother. Get inside that child's world. The child doesn't have the money to buy groceries.''
One afternoon she met with Cristen Gonzalez, who was 9 years old, and Cristen's mother, Gracie, a schoolteacher in Rio Grande City, to discuss the situation at home. Two months before, Christen started Visio's program. At that time, Cristen, the oldest of three children, was well into the overweight range. Cristen has a small, sweet voice, is on the elementary-school drill team and wants to rescue animals when she grows up. She also wants to be a good girl, and in the context of Visio's program, with its focus on healthful food and weekly nutrition and exercise classes, her mother was concerned. ''She's been obsessing about the program,'' whispered Gracie, who was also hoping to lose weight. Cristen drew quietly at a folding table. ''This week especially, she's been so self-conscious. I can't have it anymore.''
Guilt is a major problem in dealing with childhood obesity -- the guilt parents feel in denying their children food or inadvertently making them self-conscious about their weight, the guilt children try to instill in their parents in order to get what they want. Gracie, by all rights, has a lot to feel proud about. The Gonzalez family is strong, loving, disciplined and intact. Gracie and her husband both have good jobs in the school district; they don't eat much fast food, going out for only one meal a week, lunch after church on Sunday; and they are still married -- and that puts them way ahead of most families in the county, where jobs and structured families are scarce. Once, a few years ago, when a friend of Cristen's came to sleep over, the little girl saw Gracie in the kitchen and begged her to make her spaghetti; people rarely cooked in her house. The girl also found it exotic that Cristen had a bedtime; she was used to falling asleep around midnight from sheer exhaustion.
Still, life for the Gonzalezes was not so easy. Three kids plus two working parents did not leave Gracie time each week to plan menus and shop carefully for groceries, which Visio explained she should do. So harried was Gracie that she sometimes caught up on paperwork while her children ate dinner. This meant, to Visio's eyes at least, that Cristen was more or less having to tackle her weight problem alone.
Visio asked Gracie what her past week was like.
''Crazy,'' she replied. ''So crazy. My husband had to take care of his parents, and my little Anthony'' -- who is 5 -- ''lost his two front teeth running into his best friend's head. I walked out of a staff meeting to get here. I've barely had time to eat.''
Visio pressed her, ''Have you been sitting down for meals together at night?'' The Journal of Adolescent Health has reported that families that eat together consume healthier food.
Gracie smiled and shook her head. ''Haven't had time.''
''Do you think this weekend you can make menus again, go shopping?''
''Cristen needs you -- you just told me, she's obsessing on the program.''
''Don't make me feel worse,'' Gracie said. ''I already feel bad enough.''
Cristen looked up from her drawing again.
''Twenty minutes, just 20 minutes,'' Visio said. ''Everyone has 20 minutes. I'm sorry to tell you this, Gracie, but if you're not sitting down to meals together and showing her you eat just like you're telling her to, you're putting it all on her.''
Across town at the John and Olive Hinojosa Elementary School, on an unpaved road beside one of the colonias, 50 second and third graders in red-and-white uniforms spent phys-ed class having a dance party under a big gazebo. It's rare to see children in Rio Grande City being so active outside. The average high temperature is above 87 degrees for nine months of the year, and even in the cooler months, the north wind blows fiercely across the Rio Grande plain. Despite the day's heat, the dance party was a grand success, the kids jumping and shaking and feeling confident and comfortable. But paradoxically, that confidence can create its own problems. Sometimes, explained Olga Smedley, the principal, that self-certainty gives the children the upper hand in dealings with their parents. Starr County has three bridges to Mexico, and countless places for unofficial crossings. Some women who live in the area arrived from Mexico pregnant in order to have American-born children. As a result, many parents are trying to raise children in a country where they aren't supposed to be.
''A lot of these parents give in to their kids too much,'' said Smedley, a pretty and trim mother of three who grew up in the Rio Grande City area and does her best to resist her chubby 6-year-old's relentless requests for shrimp scampi. The upended power dynamics can lead parents to cede authority to children and lead children to bully their parents. ''These children threaten their parents,'' Smedley said. ''They say: 'If you spank me, or if you do this, I'm going to call child protective services. I'm going to call the police.' '' Smedley explained that the kids are just being kids, but the parents, perhaps feeling vulnerable, capitulate. ''Who's in control?'' Smedley asked, her eyes widening and her frustration apparent. ''I told the parents -- it's because you're allowing it.''
The odd power dynamic affects food choices as well. After Visio trimmed back the fat and sugar from the school lunch and breakfast menus -- no more breakfasts of sugar-coated cereals and a bag of cookies; in fact, cookies are no longer served, and cereals are low in sugar -- many teachers were pleased. But the children, not surprisingly, were not happy, a feeling they expressed by staging lunchroom protests and hanging signs outside some cafeterias that read ''No more diet'' and ''We want to eat cool stuff -- pizza, nachos, burritos, cheese fries.'' Visio expected as much from the kids, but what caught her short was how much the children's hounding got to their parents, and how often those parents caved to their children's shortsighted, unhealthful wishes. ''We have one morbidly obese girl, and since we changed the menus, her mother has been stuffing her backpack with three bags of chips and three candy bars, every day,'' Visio said. ''This is in addition to a full breakfast and lunch. Some of these parents are just afraid to say no. They love their children, but their children have them convinced that if they eat a healthy diet, they will starve.''
he issues affecting the Hispanic child-obesity epidemic have been the hardest to talk about, and Roel Gonzalez, the school superintendent, has appointed himself the man for the job. ''I know we always hear sad stories about different groups of people, but this is one group that's very sad,'' Gonzalez said over breakfast one morning.
Many of the concerns he described are true of American culture as a whole and crystallized in Starr County. ''The attitude here is hoard as much as you can right now, because there might not be tomorrow.'' Some health care researchers who are studying obesity and diabetes among Hispanics talk about an undercurrent called fatalismo -- the belief that there's little you can do to alter your own destiny, so why not live for today? ''But we have to change,'' Gonzalez said. ''We don't have more time. This is something we need to get on now, but we're going to go slowly. Like my dad says, if you're in a hurry, go slow, and I'm in an awful hurry.''
Gonzalez grew up in Starr County, left for a time to work in upstate New York and Washington and now every morning puts on a suit and heads to Che's, the restaurant downstairs in Rio Grande City's one elegant old border hotel, where we met one day. Gonzalez sees himself as the children's advocate in the ''Lean on Me'' tradition, the stalwart authority figure, the local boy made good. ''The kids are not negotiable,'' he said in his husky, urgent voice, stopping often to greet every customer who walked in by name. ''You can have my parking space, my office, I don't care, but I will never negotiate the kids. Those children's lives are my responsibility. Not only academically -- their lives physically are in my hands.''
Gonzalez has decided that the children deserve not only positive change -- when Visio approached Gonzalez about revising the breakfast and lunch menus for the kids in her diabetes program, he instructed her to alter menus for the entire district -- but also to hear adults speak the truth about the particular problems in their community. In the past year, he set up salad bars for all the teachers (''the teachers have to model it, because kids idolize their teachers, and if they don't, they're bad teachers''). He also hired Rey Ramirez, a local Hispanic athlete -- a Texas track and field champion -- to try to get his town physically active again. As a farmhand, Gonzalez's father never had to seek out exercise, but Gonzalez himself, like a lot of his neighbors, is packing a few extra pounds. He understands what the children are up against. ''Out here it's 110 degrees at 6 in the afternoon, and not very many people want to go outside and play. Myself, I get up every morning and walk. I get up at 4:45 a.m. or 5, and it's hard. Some mornings, I just want to stay in bed. If it's so hard for me, I can only imagine what it's like for a child.''
Gonzalez also talked about how attitudes toward self-reliance have changed significantly in the course of a single generation. He told a story I heard several times from people over 40 in Rio Grande City. ''When I went to school they gave you colored coupons,'' he said. ''The blue one meant you paid for your lunch. The white one was a reduced price. The pink one was free, and you didn't want to be seen with the pink one. People would tear you apart.'' Now government assistance is a major part of the fabric of society. In addition to free meals for their children in school, many adults in Starr County receive food stamps, health care and utility and housing subsidies. Much of this is beneficial, of course, but Gonzalez also explained that it has contributed to eroding the old norms. A while back, for instance, Gonzalez caught a girl smoking marijuana. ''I told her that's not what I would call normal behavior for a girl of 12, and she said, 'It's normal in my house.' It's normal in my house. We've got to change what's normal.''
The parents in Gonzalez's community are as loving as you'll find anywhere, but, as Gonzalez explained, there is an inclination to overempathize or overcompensate with their children. This is happening across cultures and classes throughout the country. Children are indulged and are obese everywhere, but the conditions in Starr County aggravate the problem. His term to describe this is ''pobrecito syndrome,'' an affliction of parents and other adults, passed down to youngsters, part fatalismo and part a communal throwing up of the hands. Pobrecito means ''poor little thing,'' and ''the pobrecito syndrome,'' Gonzalez said, occurs when parents ''feel sorry for their child and they're doing the best they can but -- they're just so sorry and they really do nothing. All they do without intending to is perpetuate the problem, and so it continues.'' Or to put it another way, some parents can have bad habits -- regarding food, drugs, exercise, financial responsibility -- that they want to change, or say they want to change, but can't. ''Basically, it's an addiction. We just can't get the parents off the TV, and we can't get them to stop eating fast food. We can't get them to do anything. And the kids aren't going to get off the TV if the parents don't get off the TV. It's going to be a long, hard battle, because it's very hard to reach the child if the parent is entrenched.''
Several years ago, Gonzalez and his wife started a Subway franchise in Rio Grande City in order to provide a quick, affordable option to greasy fast food. It was one small step -- like his current efforts to secure financing to build an indoor pool and nice walking paths in town -- but Gonzalez realizes the problems run much deeper. ''We have drugs everywhere,'' he said. ''The cemeteries are full of people who OD'ed. We have kids coming to school who've seen a father or a brother shot, kids who are dealing with a parent in prison.''
Still, when Gonzalez says he's been up all night thinking about a kindergartner who weighs 90 pounds -- the average for an American kindergartner is about half that -- it's easy to believe him. ''We have to catch them between kindergarten and second grade, because after that it gets real hard,'' he told me. ''The ones that are slightly obese, what we call 'chubbies,' at that stage they can change. But once they get too big, it's next to impossible.'' With so many children and parents overweight or obese, there's little stigma attached to being fat. Teasing about extra heft or gentle nudging to eat more healthfully doesn't begin until the problem is quite dire. ''They think, I look good. They don't already see that they're in the danger zone.'' Gonzalez slipped his suit jacket back on to rush off to the high school for the day. ''These kids mean the world to me. We've got to make the first move. If we ask the kids to make the first move, we're going to lose the battle.''
In her pink terry tank top and shorts, Cristen stopped by the Rio Grande health center to be weighed and measured by Visio's team before heading to a pool party for the drill team. By 9 a.m., the morning was scorchingly hot already, and in line at the health center in front of Cristen stood a boy in a dark blue T-shirt and dark blue pants named Alfredo. Daniel Hale, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, and one of the nation's leading experts on childhood diabetes, looked at the blood pressure cuff and said to Alfredo, ''I bet we need a little bit bigger one for you.'' Then he said to the boy, ''So, what have you been doing?''
Alfredo said, ''The kids all went to the pool on Friday, but I didn't want to go, so I just stayed home.''
Hale measured him at 4 feet 11 inches, then he put him on the body-composition analyzer scale, where Alfredo registered 171 pounds and 46 percent body fat.
''The problem is,'' Hale said after the boy left, ''most of the potential solutions rest either on very large changes in public policy or very small changes that individuals and families must make in the context of their own home. There's very little we in the public-health community can do. We don't have very much control over what children eat, we don't have much control over safety, which affects where children play, and we're not in people's homes, where kids are taking part in the major sedentary behavior, known as television watching. And here in South Texas, where you can get an Extreme Gulp, which is 52 ounces of soda, and a bag of chips for a dollar, and there aren't many outlets for physical activity, the kids are at great risk. The biggest problem is not that that kid doesn't feel comfortable swimming. The biggest problem is that the long-term consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle begin to accumulate 15 to 20 years after those lifestyles are initiated. When these kids are in their 20's, the consequences are really going to come home to roost.''
When it came to Cristen's turn, she weighed in at 10 pounds less than two months before, when she started the program. Her mother, Gracie, two younger lean children in tow, said proudly: ''It wasn't until she started school that you couldn't see her neck. Now you can see more of her neck.''
Cristen smiled and stood up for herself. ''I have to say, I have a neck, and it's right here.''
Elizabeth Weil is an author of ''Crib Notes: A Random Reference for the Modern Parent,'' published by Chronicle Books.
I seem to recall that Snapple originally had sugar in it, but the taste changed when they switched to HFCS. Same with Coca-Cola. Although with Coke, at certain times of the year, if you really look for it, you can find "Kosher for Passover" Coke that has sugar, rather than HFCS, and it really does taste better.
Of course I forgot the main reason to use the HFCS and partially hydrogenated fats, they are cheap, cheap, cheap.
I think it is because she follows EVOO up by saying Extra virgin olive oil....every bloody time she uses it during the show.
I counted in one show she said it 6 times.
I like the show but it annoys me so much that I can't watch it unless she is making something I would be interested in.
She is tolerable in her $40 a day show, but can't stand her new show where she interrupts the celebs a lot.
popular in parts of PA.
I like your post. When I was a kid, we ate the same way but did not get fat. Why? Well we went out in the morning, or after school, we played all around town and sometimes forgot to come home at dinner time. Kids can't roam like we did, because society has lost the attitude that kids should be protected and drugs and crime are everywhere looking to hook kids into their downward spiral.
Even in college we joined teams and worked out so hard that sometimes I was too tired to eat dinner. I stopped working out as I aged and now have too much weight for my frame. But I was not a fat kid, because I was busy. Kids need to do more activity, and be busier. And knock off the TV.
Hell I remember it was CRUEL to be trapped in the house as a kid...we were out the door after breakfast and back home in time for dinner...
Valid points. I have "Thrifty genes" I store fat easily and will easily survive a long bout with illness. People with my genes should not be allowed to eat anything we have not run down and killed with our bare hands. Becoming an engineer was one of the big mistakes as I should have been in a job that required physical labor and lots of time our of doors. Of course I am smart enough to know that I need more exercise and need to eat less. (Maybe this year?)
FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.
in looking at a recent book I bought called "Strange days,dangerous nights",(it's about St.Paul and newpaper
photography back in the early/mid 20th century) nearly everyone
smoked in all the pictures and NOBODY was fat.
Maybe we just replaced one vice with another? Chain smokers
ARE generally thin folks.
But that doesn't apply to those in this article ---- they've never likely heard of it. Their diet likely hasn't changed much but the life of welfare just means a whole lot more food and no exercise. Parents teach by example --- if they are just planted in front of a television watching novelas all day long that's what the kids think is normal.
The way the foods are now processed has changed. Foods used to have real ingredients not the much cheaper highly refined ingredients used today.
I'm not crazy about Iron Chef--they don't make anything I'd really like to eat.
But I do like Alton Brown on "Good Eats" for the science of cooking--and Paula Hoh-rn from Sa--vah-in-nah and the pretty Ina Garten. I don't want a blumic model-type telling me how to cook.
Still --- my kids go to the same kinds of schools mentioned in the article --- they're served the same fattening "ethnic" foods (politically correct meals), they play their share of video games --- but they aren't obese --- nor are the more active Mexican kids. What you run across in this area --- the food being consumed is the same for everyone --- the guys out baling hay aren't obese but the housing project dwellers almost all are. Everyone eats the fat and carbohydrate laded tamales and burritos --- but not everyone is fat. Some people replace the lard with small amounts of vegetable oil --- which kills the flavor but they seem to be slimmer. To me that's like eating popcorn without the butter.
I agree that there needs to be more activity as part of the solution. Perhaps if people had to exchange community service for benefits there would be less of a problem in this area.
I do know in my family that several of us have benefitted from making concious dietary changes and the biggest one was simply going back to eating real foods. It takes a little bit more time but the effort is worth it.
Mexican kids would be much better off eating burgers at McDonald's, Wendy's and Jack in the Box than eating traditional Mexican food. Selected correctly, fast food can be healthy diet food.
Have you ever looked at the label on a package of plain burritos? They're almost nothing but fat with some carbs. Refried beans? Huge fat content. And poor quality fat at that. Grease, grease, grease and lack of protein and green veggies are a recipe for disaster.
I lived on the Mex-Tex border many years ago and it was always amazing to me how many overweight people I saw on frequent trips to Mexico. I do not in any way believe it's genetic. But it does seem more acceptable in the Mexican culture to get fat and stay fat.
I cook Mexican food occasionally and know it can be done on a high-protein low-carb and fat basis. But you have to ditch those tacos and burritos and eat only meat or fish dishes with delish Mexican seasoning.
Shrimp? I'll never eat another one. They are almost 100% cholesterol. More than any other fish or meat.
Which is why you don't see too many really fat Chinese --- and I'm not sure they're more physically active. It's both --- if you're going to lead a sedentary lifestyle, then you can't consume the calories an active person does. If you're going to eat a lot of lard and tortillas then you should be working off the calories. Plus it's the amount --- you can eat smaller portions of the bad stuff.
I really don't understand all the blame on McDonalds ---- they were around back in the 60s if not before when childhood obesity wasn't a big problem. And it's silly to think that these people coming over from Mexico were all very svelte until they stepped their first foot into a McDonalds and that made them fat.
I agree it's not genetic either --- it's amazing how fast those bricks of lard go making just one meal --- you start with 3 inches in a pan of pure lard for anything you're going to make --- fideo, rice, enchiladas, beans and then you add lots of pure carbohydrates. I think that kind of meal if fine if you're going to be out doing hard physical labor all day --- but that's not the case for the majority.
'... the first generation of American children to have shorter expected life spans than their parents.'
Lard! No need to eat it. Just glue those red boxes of the stuff to your thighs where 100% of it will end up anyway.
I was good friends with a very clever Hispanic artist who painted a picture showing donuts, cake, candybars, lard, steaming piles of mashed potatoes drenched in butter, everything fattening hanging all over the outside of a fat woman's body. Best deterrent to eating fattening stuff I ever saw.
Which leads me to wonder, why don't obese kids seem to care what they look like? They idolize skinny "stars" like Britney. Maybe today's stars are so skinny they set an impossible standard for kids to live up to.
(Mary Kate is going to die, imo.)
A lot of those Manhattan ladies are neurotic grass-eaters who haven't had a really good meal in years. Not the best examples.
Becoming a competent cook and using quality ingredients is one of the best ways to stay thin, as that will cut an enormous amount of sugar and refined starch out of your diet. You also discover that you like a lot of things that you thought you didn't; many relatively healthy things taste far better than most people imagine simply because they've only had badly prepared versions made with poor quality ingredients.
Even the story was fat!
Have you ever noticed that despite Republican being so "evil and uncaring" about the poor. Many poor people are fat?
As opposed to post-planning?
oh yes, nothing is ever anyone's fault.
Ah, yes, the same people who like to dip their fries in chocolate milkshakes. :o)
Well, I don't know what the beautiful Manhattan ladies eat, but perhaps you are right. I first noticed them a few years ago while jogging in Central Park during a visit to NYC. At the time I was jogging 3 miles most mornings, yet many of the ladies were able to outpace me...'course they were likely 20 or 30 years younger than me...anyway, they were in shape. I figured they were showgirls or actresses, people who needed to look sharp for professional reasons. Anyway, these days, whenever I visit Manhattan, I notice them around.
Agreed with your points about cooking, eating and refined starch. Both me and my wife cook pretty well, neither of us has ever had much of a weight problem.
I wondered about that myself-when our kids were 6 years old, and for much longer after that, the rules were the same as they were for me as a kid-eat what's on the table, or don't eat at all. And "fast food" was something to be gotten on a road trip so we didn't have to stop for lunch-not a common food item.
In Europe, it is common for people to dip italian bread in olive oil, especially in the southern part of Switzerland, and northern Italy. Doesn't everyone know that olive oil is only used in salads?/sarc
It is amazing how culturally culinary narrow some people are.
Best stay home and eat Raisin Bran with skim milk.
Point taken. Sorry for making light of your choices. I know I get annoyed when people criticize my diet.
Aaaaah. Shrimp, and lobster, snow crab, and alaskan king crab in drawn butter. We eat crustaceans at least once a week.
I once tried to eat a McDonalds burger in 1968. I couldn't finish it. The fast food places "serve" up the worst food I've ever eaten.
Just goes to show you how little imagination I have. When I think of pancakes I think maple syrup.
When we moved from PA to CO (where I met my wife from MN in college), that was the first time I put maple syrup on pancakes. It's good. But when Karen tried gravy on pancakes (she wasn't thrilled with the idea), she loves it that way. What sold her on the idea was when I asked her if she ever had prime rib, mashed potatoes and GRAVY growing up in MN. Obviously, yes. Then I asked her if she ever took a slice of bread and cleaned up her plate.
Fast food on a road trip. There are some in this country that pick up road kills. Bambi, Pepe La Pew, Wylie Coyote, Brere Rabbit... Now I know what the fast food joints put in the kitchen.
Good Eats is one of my very favorite TV shows. I don't mean cooking shows: I mean it's one of my favorite shows period!
I agree with you 100% about Iron Chef... I'm halfway convinced that a lot of those recipes came about from losing bets! I remember one where the "secret ingredient" was this super-deep water ocean fish. I don't even remember what it was called, but it played the "deep ocean monster" in "Finding Nemo!"
As for not wanting a model-type how to cook, well, Giatta DeLaurentis can tell me anything she wants, anytime she wants! Yum, and I'm NOT just talking about her cooking!
Phooey. More like it's the result of sedentary lifestyles--computers, television, video games.
Much of the TV, computers, and television is due to overworked parents using them as electronic babysitters.
I think welfare (lower class), high taxes (middle class), and feminism (upper class) have taken away the millenia old system of the mother at home, in one generation. Many, many aspects of life now suffer.
Yes. When I was six, I had enough sense to not eat like a pig.
That's only part of it. Parents in this day and age have to keep a much tighter leash on their kids than they did a generation or two ago. I would be in full panic mode if my kids did a disappearing number like I used to do when I was a kid & my mom was at home full time.
Hispanic people aren't uniform, either - some have more Spanish, some have more Indian, some are a mix of Spanish-Anglo-Indian
No they probably would never get it because they wouldn't be stuffing their face with corn syrup, white flour, soy beans, sugar, fruit and fruit juice, hydrogenated fats etc. They would also be walking.
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