California Slimming? It’ll never happen.

I have heard about this before and expect our deeply caring government to introduce it here before too long.

Ever wondered how many calories are in your food when you dine out?

No. Never.

Or in the snack you’ve just chosen in a vending machine? Or indeed your early morning latte?

Now you’re getting silly.

Well whether you have or not makes no difference.

Thought not.

Because the FDA are now proposing that the amount of calories on each item on a menu be clearly posted for customers to see.

Under the new labelling requirements, restaurant chains, bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores, coffee chains and even vending machines will have to clearly post the amount of calories in each item.

The calorie counts will apply to an estimated 280,000 establishments required as part of a health overhaul legislation signed into law last year.

This will add even more strain to the catering industry. For example, in the UK, restaurant owners already need to check the temperature of their fridges four times a day and keep records. There is a local butcher who admits to checking his a couple of times a week and inventing all the other numbers, so I would trust his calorie estimates as far as I could throw one of his fridges.

They are designed to give restaurant diners information that has long been available on packaged goods cooked at home.

Which I don’t look at. And anyway, a mass-produced, pre-packaged meal can be reliably measured. In a restaurant or cafe, the size of portions will vary, especially if there is more than one chef. Some things, like fish, come in different sizes. Some restaurants put dishes of chips and veg on the table for everyone to dip into. If there is a large group of people, food will probably end up being passed around: “does anyone want my onion rings?”

The move is the latest in a series of changes to battle the nation’s epidemic of obesity.

FDA deputy commissioner for foods Mike Taylor said: ‘We’ve got a huge obesity problem in this country and its due in part to excess calorie consumption outside the home.

‘We see this as part of the overall effort to fight obesity.’

A California law requiring chain restaurants to display calorie counts has been in effect since January, but many counties have put off enforcing the regulation until the release of the federal guidelines.

Although public health and nutrition specialists welcomed the new rules, few suggested that they would make a substantial difference in the epidemic of overeating that adds an estimated $150billion a year to the nation’s medical bill.

I get so tired of reading these (probably made up) figures. Do they think anyone is going to change their lifestyle because unimaginable amounts of money are quoted? People tend to change because they want to – and especially when they have encouragement and support. When I lived in south-east London in the mid-90s, I tried to get help for my alcohol addiction. The first port of call for help was nearly always the GP. I found them generally unhelpful and uncaring, but one in particular – a very fat lady, as it happens – seemed like she was in the wrong job. She so looked down on me because she could smell drink on me that she made me feel worthless and frustrated. She finished the consultation (or ‘insultation,’ more like) by asking if I was going to drink less. I was so annoyed that I told her I was going to carry on drinking, and walked out. She put me off seeking help again for about a year as I recall.

The rate of obesity has more than doubled over the last 40 years. In 1971, an estimated 14.5 per cent of adults in the U.S. were obese, compared with about 35 per cent in 2008.

But haven’t Americans always eaten a lot? I suspect there is a lot more than just the number of calories in the equation. Exercise, or lack of, is obviously a factor for many.

On the rare occasion that I do look at the calorie count on the packaging of a product, it is on ready meals. If there are only three or four hundred calories then I don’t see the point in buying it. I’m still going be hungry and will end up pigging out on biscuits, cake and crisps. Could these “healthy meals” which wouldn’t fill a cat actually be doing more harm than good? Who wants to feel hungry all evening? Who’s not going to snack?

And if the FDA really cared about public health, the first thing they would do is outlaw aspartame. Over 80% of the complains that the FDA receives are said to be aspartame related. Despite being an artificial sweetener, it is claimed that it causes obesity (among dozens of other things).

When I stayed in France for a week in 2003, one thing I noticed when eating out was that although the portions were smaller, the food was tastier and more interesting and varied than we are used to in the UK. The smaller amounts entertained the palate sufficiently to satisfy me. I suppose the enjoyment was in the actual eating, whereas the bland offerings we tend to get in this country mean that the enjoyment is achieved mainly through feeling “stuffed.”

Which is probably why this looks so good.

It is clear that the social changes of the past few decades have seen us spending less time preparing good healthy meals and then sitting down as a family to eat slowly in a relaxed atmosphere. I know that sometimes I can sit in front of the telly and shovel in my dinner and not experience the joy of eating. I was only eating to feel full. I was concentrating on whatever I was watching and probably wouldn’t have noticed if I’d eaten a slug along with the lettuce.

The answer is not yet more facts and figures on food, which we nearly all ignore, but to start eating proper food and enjoy the taste. Our eating seems to be like our drinking – we don’t do it for the taste as much as for the auxiliary effects from overeating/drinking.

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12 Responses to California Slimming? It’ll never happen.

  1. HammerheadDawg says:

    I get so tired of reading these (probably made up) figures.

    It’s just science, dude, science. Your entire blog is made up, calculation of kcals is not.

  2. Stewart Cowan says:

    It isn’t science, Mr Dawg, it’s statistics (admittedly “estimated”) drawn from who knows what data and probably driven by an ulterior motive. “Lies, damned lies and statistics.”

  3. Joanna says:

    right you are Stewart!
    it is much more to it than plain numbers and science…
    I grew up in Poland, spent some time in UK, Germany and live the past 30 years in USA…
    my daughter was always having a problem with her weight…
    we ate in the same kitchen, I cook well, but healthy, we are fairly busy, growing my own garden, picking up fruits and veggies from local farmers, yet I keep the same Am sz 10 for the past 40 years, and my daughter seem to gain weight just looking at food…
    personally I believe has a lot to do with genetical makeup as she is all like her Father’s family…
    and they have/had some serious weight problems…
    she is also border line diabetic…

    so my point is :
    all the restrictions and pain inflicted on restaurants owners is waste of time and money…
    if they are so insisting on food and eating habits they shall direct the efforts toward from-scratch-cooking, educate the general population on the “science ” of eating …
    ….
    eat your breakfast as king
    your lunch like a prince
    and your dinner like peasant….

    with some wholesome snacks in-between you shall not feel hungry…

    :)

    BTW,
    I like your blog!
    Good Job and very interesting issues indeed!!!

  4. lionheart says:

    Depends what part of the country you live in it’s already happened Stewart, I was working in Brighton for a few months late last year and you have no idea just how far along this road they are down there!

  5. Stewart Cowan says:

    Joanna,

    Thanks for that. They admit themselves that it is unlikely to make a substantial difference, but they must interfere and be seen to be interfering. That’s what governments seem to think they are elected for these days – that and giving away all our money.

  6. Stewart Cowan says:

    Lionheart,

    They seem to do a lot of things differently down in Brighton, but I think we’ve covered that subject in a lot of detail recently!

  7. English Viking says:

    I make it a duty to deliberately eat lard and salt, drink more than ‘recommended’ and sniff other people’s cigarettes, on a daily basis.

    I am living proof that the Gov are liars.

  8. English Viking says:

    BTW,

    Thanks for fixing the modding thing.

  9. lionheart says:

    You sound like my farther EV.

    I bought him one of those George Forman grill things when they came out best part of a decade ago after he’d been told to watch his cholesterol and came in one day to find him pouring oil on his bacon as it was cooking because in his words “The bloody thing cooks it too dry” lol

    Welcome back btw.

  10. Stewart Cowan says:

    English,

    The modding seems to have fixed itself. Hopefully it’ll stay that way so that I avoid your wrath!

  11. Stewart Cowan says:

    LH,

    I grill my bacon. I eat a lot and usually have it on rolls with a fried egg. Grilling gets it nice and crispy, so I buy the cheaper streaky rashers.

  12. English Viking says:

    lionheart,

    Ta very much.

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