Monday, January 17, 2011

What's Healthy?

I think one of the biggest disservices our society has ever given itself is the idea that fat people are greedy over-eaters.

Don’t get me wrong. The only way you can get fat is by eating too much and not exercising, but our societal norms have made it extremely difficult to recognize when we are over eating.

Think about ‘fat Monica’ from ‘Friends’. Every time we see her she’s either eating, talking about eating or thinking about eating. We’ve been sold the idea that if you’re fat it’s because you spend all day on the couch with a turkey leg in one hand and a slice of cake in the other.

Sadly, that’s not even close to the truth.

For example, let’s say you get up one morning and skip breakfast. Around lunchtime you decide to go to Hardee’s for lunch. You know their burgers aren’t exactly healthy, but it’s taking the place of two meals, so it averages out, right?

What you don’t realize is one Hardees thickburger is around 1200 calories, an order of fries is another 500. Get a large coke and that’s another 290 calories… bringing that single meal to just under 2000 calories. That’s just under a whole day’s average allowance in a single meal. Even if you eat a healthy, sub-500 calorie meal for dinner, you’ve still eaten enough to gain weight.

My point is that you don’t have to eat massive amounts of food to get fat. The truth is that what we consider to be ‘normal’ portions of food are anything but. Think about it. Missing breakfast, having a burger for lunch and then a ‘normal’ meal for dinner hardly seems like overeating, does it? But in the above example, that’s exactly what it is.

But I’m talking about fast-food right? Everyone knows that’s bad for you. That’s why you don’t eat fast food.

Well, that’s another big problem. Everyone knows that going to a McDonalds or KFC is unhealthy, but on the flip side, we assume that ‘real’ food at a ‘sit-down’ restaurant is much healthier. People who won’t touch a burger at McDonalds will happily eat one if it’s brought to their table on a real plate by an actual waiter.

But let’s forget the burger. Let’s say you’re making a conscious effort to eat more healthily. So you go to Applebees for dinner and, rather than order the chicken wings or a burger, you order their California Shrimp Salad.

That’s perfectly healthy, right? Not only is it a salad, it’s a seafood salad…and everyone knows seafood is healthy.

Pop quiz. How many calories in Applebee’s shrimp salad? 150? 300?

Nope. It’s 860 calories… over 150 calories more than a Big Mac… and that’s not 860 calories for the whole meal, that’s just your entrée. Every time the waitress comes and refills your coke, that’s another 155 calories.

Let’s say someone ordered some mozzarella sticks as a starter, you’re watching your weight, so you only ate one of them. That’s another 104 calories right there.

…and because you were so ‘good’ by ordering a healthy salad, it can’t hurt to get a desert, can it? You only had a salad and that fresh apple pie with ice-cream looks really good and you’ve earned it by being so sensible with your entrée. You know the apple pie isn’t healthy, but it can’t be that unhealthy, right?

Wrong, that single serving of apple pie and ice cream is 1086 calories.

So let me lay it out for you. You’ve arrived at the restaurant, had a single mozzarella stick for your starter and had a salad for your entrée, your coke or sweet tea has been refilled twice. That’s 1429 calories in a single meal before dessert. Add in dessert and that single meal is a whopping 2515 calories.

Now ask yourself a question. If you saw someone in a restaurant eat a single mozzarella stick, a salad for an entrée and a slice of apple pie for desert…would you consider that person an over-eater? No, of course not. That’s a ‘normal’ meal…even a ‘healthy’ one, considering they ate a salad instead of a steak.

Basically, it’s not that we choose to eat unhealthy food…it’s just that the average person has no idea what constitutes ‘healthy’.

The other big point to make is that even ‘healthy options’ can be the exact opposite. Take Subway for example.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a subway listening to a guy a few tables opposite talking on the phone. He made a point of telling whoever he was talking to that he was eating at subway because he was ‘watching his weight’.

This would work if he’d ordered a six-inch veggie delight or one of the other ‘light’ subs… but he’d ordered a twelve in Chicken Bacon Ranch. That sandwich clocks in at 1140 calories before you factor in cheese, dressing…and when you add in the bag of Doritos (250 calories) and the two regular cokes he had with it…his ‘healthy’ meal clocked in at 1690 calories.

Not only was that meal spectacularly unhealthy, the idea that he’d been eating healthy is even worse. If you eat something you know is unhealthy and fattening, you tend to take it a little easier for the rest of the day. If you think you’ve been eating healthy, you’re more likely to ‘cheat’.

Of course, none of this is an excuse. The reason we’re all so fat is simply that we eat too much and don’t exercise enough. However, a massive part of that is because we don’t know we’re eating too much.

1 comment:

Sunny said...

I agree- the only way to make a restaurant meal close to normal is to have them bag half of it before it comes to the table- or agree on an entree and share it with someone. As you and I both know- getting two people to agree on something to eat at a restaurant is next to impossible. At home, it's no problem tho....WHY?????