Ah, our love affair with food. Everywhere you look, the portions in restaurants are getting bigger. From Burger King to McDonald’s to any steak house in town, the size of meals keeps growing, and so does our waistline.
Do we really need that much food? Do we need half-pound hamburgers, huge orders of fries, or shakes the size of oil barrels?
Probably nowhere on earth is a culture subjected to so many mixed messages. One commercial tells us to lose weight; another tells us where to get thousand-calorie soft drinks. Weight-loss clinics are everywhere, while at the same time, we are told how great it is to order pounds and pounds of greasy, fried food.
Of course, right now, we have the COVID-19 pandemic adding to the weight-gain problem. We’re all home more, exercising less, and getting of the house far less often. Then, naturally, we add stress eating to the mix and oh my, my, my.
Figuring it all out
How are we supposed to get it all straight? How are we supposed to be healthy when it seems all we really want is to just shove more and more fries down our throats? On television, we are inundated with ads that create a desire for more food, while at the same time we know how unhealthy it is.
There are numerous studies out there proving to us how unhealthy it is to overeat. We know this. And yet. There are scientists and physicians with absolute proof that too much fat in the diet leads to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and more. We know this. And yet. We continually see evidence all around us of the cost of being overweight. Insurance statistics, medical records, government evidence, and more prove that those who consume too much fat, salt, and sugar, and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables die younger, much younger, than those who eat a healthy diet. We know this. And yet.
But it tastes good! It takes some of the stress away!
There is an old saying that states, “If it tastes good, it’s not good for you.” Some of that is, indeed, true. Unfortunately, that taste is one of the reasons why we like to eat food that is slowly killing us.
There are other reasons, of course, for overeating. For some people, it may be habit. Some use food to relax, or to make themselves feel better psychologically, or they are just unaware of how much they are eating (the unconscious eater).
If you are in the business of selling food, you must make it taste good, be appealing, smell wonderful, be served in an inviting atmosphere, and create a need. The restaurant industry is great at this, especially fast-food restaurants. And that’s one of the deadly combinations: restaurants that must sell food to stay in business, coupled with people who love or need to eat (and we all need to eat—it’s just how much we need that creates the problem).
Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not simply blaming the fast-food industry. They are, after all, just giving us what we demand. We need to learn to demand less.
We, as individuals and as a nation, need to want less food, be happy with less food, and love less food. And yes, I know that goes against some of our most basic instincts. But our health and our kids’ health, even our national health, requires it. We need a national shout: Want less!!
And not only could we lose weight in the process, we might even save some money as well. Want to be healthier? Want to feel better? From now on, when you eat, order the small size. Get the small hamburger, the small French fries, the small soft drink. Save the money, save the calories, save your waistline.
Not just an American problem
Have you ever noticed that when you look at photos of city streets from Asia or Europe or the Mideast, you’ll often see a McDonald’s sign or the golden arches? You’ll see signs from any number of US fast-food companies now. Look at photos from fifty years or more ago and you’ll never see them. Hey, it tastes good, people want it, and we export and give it to them.
Western-style diets are fattening the planet. But it’s more than that—it’s also the reality of affluence. With more money to spend—more disposable income—people eat in restaurants more often, often eat foods higher in fats and sugar, and their weight goes up in proportion.
Japan never used to have problems with obesity. People primarily ate fish, rice, green vegetables, and ate very little sugar or processed foods. That all changed after WWII. Just as the US started opening more Japanese restaurants, so did Japan open up more American restaurants.
Add an increasing taste for Western food with ever-increasing income as Japan became hugely more affluent and a “perfect storm” was created that had obesity skyrocketing. Japanese got to taste French fries and then got to pack on pound after pound after pound. Lucky them.
So, where are you going to eat lunch today? What are you having for dinner? Are you going to eat French fries or rice? Are you going to eat beef or chicken? Are you going to eat a hamburger or broiled fish? Going meat or vegetarian? Or vegan?
What are you going to put around your waist? What are you going to make your legs and feet carry? What are you going to pack into your arteries and veins? I know, I know, I know. I sound like everyone’s mother. We know how to do the right thing, the healthy thing. We know what to do and we know how to do it. Even I do. And yet.
A personal shout-out and thanks to Sim Silverio, editor and publisher of the Asian Journal San Diego. He took me on over twenty years ago and let my column go wherever my heart drifted. He’s as good as it gets.
Still Amazed was finally released! A couple of decades to create, a year or so to edit and design, a couple of months for the line editors to work their magic and voila a book is born. A huge shout-out goes to all the “behind the pages” individuals who worked on the book:
Editor – Paisley Prophet
Formatting – Patrick @ highdef
Promotion – Ken Dustin
Audible Creation – Preston Scott
And a few great sources and companies:
I don’t hate dogs. Really I don’t. As an overall ideal I love dogs. In my family we’ve had great dogs that were fun and terrific companions. And now we don’t.
Currently we have two dogs: a chihuahua and a Cocker Spaniel. We got the cocker first and he was a terrific pet; smart, played well with everyone and didn’t bark at shadows. In other words, a great member of the family.
But then we got a chihuahua. The cocker was mostly our son’s dog. They bonded immediately and were friends from the start. Eventually my daughter wanted a dog that would be more hers. I wasn’t exactly warm to the idea of two dogs but hey, I’m just the dad. One day daughter and her mom went “just looking” and, what a surprise, found a cute little chihuahua at the Humane Society. Well my daughter fell in love and that was that.
It was like bringing a miniature Tasmanian Devil into the house. That chihuahua doesn’t listen, she barks at EVERYTHING, tortures the older dog, and doesn’t like much of anything except food and my daughter.
And did I mention that she barks? We bought every humane bark collar Amazon sells, we read and tried everything we could on bark training and more. Did it help? You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a chihuahua laugh in your face and then run off barking at an ant she might have seen across the patio.
It gets worse. Her barking has unfortunately taught the cocker to bark. He realized that he too could bark – a lot – and now does it right along with her. Now we have two dogs barking at shadows, bugs, neighbors walking across the street, cars on a freeway five miles away, clouds, and so much more.
Oh yeah, it’s fun at my house now. Like I said, I don’t hate dogs. But I’m learning.
I like to observe parents interacting with their children. It’s always a study in frustration – for the kid and the parent both. But you can learn things by watching. Mostly you hear things that make you say to yourself, “I hope I’ve never said that to my child.”
Children are great to watch interacting. I like to see how they work with other kids as well as how they deal with adults. Kids interact differently with kids and grownups. With kids they’re direct, with adults they manipulate.
With adults they might whine, say things like “Prettttttty pleeeeeease?” All the while looking at you, cocking their heads, and smiling. With a child they say, “Gimme that!” and grab whatever it is they want. They’re nothing if not direct with each other.
That’s not to say that kids don’t play well together. They often do. When I take my son to the park he plays with kids he knows and kids he just met. He has a terrific time playing, riding his bike, driving the electric car, playing with kids, swinging on the swings screaming, “faster daddy!” and simply being in the warm sunny park. And that, I suppose, it’s what so much of life is about.
Well, that and giving your parents a nervous breakdown. See, what happened was this, I was watching my son dig a hole in the sand box. It was about eight inches deep, four inches wide and a foot long. He was digging and digging and digging and then he stopped. He looked at the hole and, before I could say a word, put his head in it and did a back flip
Luckily, it was a perfect back flip. Had he fell to either side, with his head in that narrow hole down to his neck, he could have broken something he very much needs.
After the flip he got up, brushed off the sand, and could not understand why I was so upset. Just another day in parenting. Just another day of thousands yet to go.
If you want to know why men act the way they do, at whatever age they are, go back and reread the above.
On a quiet Tuesday evening a few years ago, I was sitting with my father in his room at San Diego Hospice. He hadn’t spoken in a day or so, and I was watching his face and hearing him breathe and just staying close. As I sat there, I saw his hands. Hands I have seen my entire life. This time, they were older; this time, they had more wrinkles; this time, they were paler. This time, they were little more than skin and bones—not the strong, muscular hands I had known. But they also showed the travels and travails of a lifetime.
His hands showed hard work on the salty, slippery decks of Merchant Marine ships during World War II. His hands worked on those ships as an able-bodied seaman during war years when they sailed the Pacific with lights-out in the black of night, evading enemy ships and planes and taking food and medicine to troops and civilians in the Pacific Islands, Northern Europe, and beyond.
More than that, however, his hands showed a lifetime of work, decades of golf, years gripping a wheel and bandaging up kids’ knees. His hands showed a lifetime of living.
That’s what’s so great about our hands. Facelifts can remove wrinkles. Contacts and eye surgeries can improve sight and let you toss glasses aside. Peels, and sanding, and reductions and lifts can change so many things about us, but our hands, well, our hands tell the truth. Our hands tell about every diaper we’ve changed, every tear we’ve wiped, every car battery we’ve charged, every meal we’ve cooked, and every nail we’ve pounded.
A life written in our palms
In our hands, we can see every other hand we’ve held, every animal we’ve petted, every snowball we’ve made, every coconut we’ve opened, and every ice cream cone we’ve hung onto. Look at your hands. Hold them up. What do you see? Whose life do you see?
I look at my hands and see them holding on to a water-ski rope. I see them in gloves holding ski poles. I see them holding my daughter for the first time—just a few minutes old. I see them wrestling with peanut-butter jars, trying to turn screwdrivers, and gripping pliers, squeezing for that last ounce of pressure.
I see them arm-wrestling with my son, helping him build models, bicycles, and so much more. I see them calming him after he broke an arm at school.
I see them wiping my sister’s brow as she lay dying. I see them wiping my father’s brow as he lay dying. I see twelve-year-old versions of them, holding a shovel and helping my father bury a pet somewhere in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico.
I see them trace the ear of a high school girlfriend. I see them putting a wedding ring on my wife. I see them bandage kids’ scrapes, clip dogs’ and kids’ toenails. I see these big old hands ever so slightly grasp the brush of clear, or pink, or pale pink, or clear pale pink fingernail polish and polish the tiny nails of a six-year-old daughter (something I’ve gotten pretty good at, by the way).
Take a minute or two and look at your hands. What do you see? These are the hands of our lifetimes. These are the hands of many places, many stories, many individuals, many joys, many tears. They’re my hands and your hands, my story and your story. Look at your hands and remember one of the majestic, one of the funny, one of the sad, one of the heartbreaking, one of the humorous stories of your hands…and your life.
These are the stories of us—written in our hands.
Ever hear the sound
of an echo
Ok, yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. About three and a half months. I suppose I could tell you how busy I’ve been, how tied up with projects I’ve been, blah, blah, blah. All that is true but we both know that a minute here and there can be squeezed out of the day to blog. I guess the main reason is a sort of semi-block. The newspaper columns, the books, the school, the family, all came together in one big time and creativity-suck. Plus I’ve had interesting photos like the one above of a water drop taken by my son. In the past few weeks I’ve re-prioritized things a bit and plan to get back in this particular sandbox. Or buy a boat. We’ll see which one happens.