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NY Times catches up | Manolo for the Big Girl

NY Times catches up

Someone at the New York Times has finally woken up to the fact that bajillions of us, having realized that “diets” don’t usually work in the long run, are focusing more on nutrition, fitness, and overall health rather than slimness:

  . . . consumers and nutritionists say they are seeing a shift toward “positive eating” — shunning deprivation diets and instead focusing on adding seasonal vegetables, nuts, berries and other healthful foods to their plates.

 . . . . The percentage of those consumers who are on a diet is lower than at any time since information on dieting was first collected in 1985. At the peak in 1990, 39 percent of the women and 29 percent of the men were dieting. Today, that number has dropped to 26 percent of women and 16 percent of men.

The diarists also report eating more organic foods and whole grains, said Harry Balzer, an NPD vice president.

“Instead of trying to avoid things, they’ve started adding things,” Mr. Balzer said.

 . . . . And there are other indicators of a shift in eating habits. In May, the market research firm Information Resources reported that 53 percent of consumers say they are cooking from scratch more than they did just six months ago, in part, no doubt, because of the rising cost of prepared foods.

Sales of organic foods have surged, and the number of farmers’ markets has more than doubled since the mid-1990s.

Nutrition experts and consumers say positive eating trends are being fueled in part by the failures of the past. A national epidemic of obesity suggests that the spread of diet foods, sugar-free soft drinks and low-fat snacks hasn’t helped people manage their weight.

Cynthia Sass, a New York dietitian and author who was a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association from 2001 to 2007, said many clients embrace positive eating after years of failed dieting. “They would much rather focus on what to eat instead of what not to eat,” Ms. Sass said. “Most people I have encountered have a track record of trying different things that didn’t work for them.”

Duh. People are happier and more successful when they focus on delicious, healthy new foods to eat, rather than focus on what they “can’t” or “shouldn’t eat.”

Duh.

And it took a scientific study to prove that if one fills up on fruits and veggies, one is likely to eat less of the high-calorie stuff:

Last year, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a study of 97 obese women, all of whom were avoiding high-fat foods. Half the women were instructed to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables. By the end of a year, the women who were focused on adding vegetables lost an average of 17 pounds, 20 percent more than the women who were just paying attention to fat consumption.

Duh!

Seriously. These scientists and reporters could have learned the same thing by talking to any of us women who have tried dieting for years and years. We could have told them what it feels like to feel hungry, to feel full, to feel satisfied, to feel healthy, to feel too pressed for time to cook at home, to feel too full of juicy peaches to eat that cake, to feel – to know – that diets don’t keep the weight off.

We’ve lived this. Scientists have known it for a while. It’s about time the media caught up.

10 Responses to “NY Times catches up”

  1. Never teh Bride September 18, 2008 at 12:08 pm #

    Seriously gigantic DUH.

  2. Leah September 19, 2008 at 1:10 am #

    Maybe next they’ll start to catch up on seeing the inherent economic discrimination in our perceptions of eating and health habits. We just got our first real grocery store in (largely impoverished) Southeast DC. Tell me how you’re supposed to fill your kids up on fruits and veggies and not processed food when you’re limited to shopping at convenience stores? Let’s not write people off as lazy when eating healthy is a very real economic challenge.

    Yet the quality of foods provided in school free and reduced lunch programs were some of the first things to get cut…

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  4. ChaChaHeels September 19, 2008 at 10:41 am #

    I think the media is so guilty of perpetuating the economic injustices which lead to things like malnourishment–they go on about how “fat” people are just making “dumb” food choices, always opting for junk fast food instead of real food (when junk food is cheap and available, and fresh real food is outrageously out of reach if it’s available, and if it’s not available, it’s not available), but they NEVER write about the fact that big grocery corporations refuse to open stores in less wealthy neighbourhoods; and if they do, they overcharge their patrons for things like fresh foods (something they don’t do in the wealthier neighbourhoods). They never write about how good food programs for kids don’t get implemented in schools where the neighbourhoods aren’t posh–and they never write about how funding cuts to these schools are always happening.

    There is definitely a lot of effort being put into creating the idea of fat people as dumb and poor. That’s the sin arrangement: it’s bad to be “dumb”; it’s much worse if you’re poor, and it’s absolutely the worst if you’re “dumb, poor, and fat”–all sins that are contemptible because they’re always portrayed as voluntary. People are dumb because they want to be ignorant; they’re poor because they choose to be; they’re fat because they choose to be too lazy.

    How much better would the world be if the media actually challenged big food corporations to fix this? Imagine what would happen if the media shamed Whole Foods to fund and supply a breakfast and lunch program in a couple of poor school districts? Or forced a fast talking politician to find usable arable land in these neighbourhoods where people could grow their own fresh veggies, every year, to ensure fresh produce is available and affordable?

    I guess it is far more easy (not to mention lucrative) to foster and promote the prejudice instead. That way articles which deserve a “great big DUH” response look like an occasional breakthrough in journalism.

  5. Z. September 20, 2008 at 1:32 pm #

    That’s an excellent point, ChaChaHeels.

    I was not aware that the stores mark the healthier items up in the less economically well-off neighborhoods as compared to the wealthier ones, but I have long been pointing out that the poor – and the working poor in particular – are generally forced into making those “bad” food choices – not because they’re stupid and don’t know any better (which some of them probably don’t, but it’s probably just as likely that some higher income people don’t know any better, either), but because they just can’t do otherwise.

    You might know that the boneless, skinless chicken breast is better for your family to eat than the hot dogs, but if you’ve only got 50 dollars to feed your family of four for the week, do you get that 8 dollar a pound chicken or do you get the 99 cent package of hot dogs?

    If you get the chicken, what are you going to feed them for the rest of the week?

    I live in an impoverished rural area with a lot of farm land around – which means a lot of produce stands on the side of the road in the warmer months. I like to stop at them to get fresh fruits & veggies that were locally grown, because they taste better, I know where they came from, and they used to be less expensive than going into a grocery store to pick up the same thing that was trucked here from California or whatever.

    Sadly, this year, the prices have all been jacked up, making those items more expensive to buy now than going to get the irradiated, GM, tasteless junk in the stores. I’m fortunate in that I have a job that is not dependent on the area I live in (I work over the ‘net), but most people around here are not that lucky and unemployment is seriously high.

    But if the store produce was too expensive to begin with, and the better alternative is now also too expensive, what do those people with low incomes do? They eat the hot dogs.

    And don’t even get me started on school lunches.

  6. Leah September 21, 2008 at 6:33 pm #

    I love the idea of convincing chains that are theoretically focused on “health” like Whole Foods to support their neighborhoods by supporting healthy meal programs in low-income schools. I’m also doing some interesting research for a class right now on how agricultural subsidies (which go to staple crops, most especially feed grain) impact the pricing and availability of healthy foods. Ironically, support of easy-to-maximize, “staple” crops like grains disproportionately assists large-scale farms and further damages smaller farms, which are more likely to be able to sustain local farmer-consumer relationships around fruits and vegetables that grains or other staples.

    But back to Francesca’s original point, this is definitely part of our larger need to recognize that our focus should be health and giving our bodies what they need. To me, my kitchen is an almost spiritual place, because my body is constantly rebuilding itself, constantly (in a way) being reborn, and it’s my job to give it the building blocks it needs to do that. Not only that, the process of cooking, of devoting time and energy to nourish myself and others, is an act of love that improves the way I view and care about myself, as well as an act of art that both soothes and stimulates all my senses. Diets have always made food an enemy, putting us artificially at odds with something we need for survival. It’s as absurd as if someone started demonizing air and water. It’s encouraging that trends indicate we may be starting to move past that obsession and into a place of health, although it is less encouraging that to the media that has helped to fuel and expand those obsessions seems so surprised to hear that they are false. Tell yourself a lie enough times…

    Although admittedly, I’m not feeling in a place to do much criticism of the Times today, as I dramatically improved the quality of my weekend by making the no knead bread recipe they published some months ago. If you haven’t tried it, do.

  7. ZupaFly September 21, 2008 at 7:30 pm #

    Poor, clueless New York Times. Always the last to know.

  8. LeighB in the ATL September 23, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    Former NYT reporter Gina Kolata wrote a book called Rethinking Thin, about the politics and research around obesity. It was a FASCINATING read. To sum up, dieting does not work and never has, fat people are not fat for psychological reasons but biological ones, different people seem to be fat for different biological reasons, and there are a lot of people invested, financially and otherwise, in making obesity the looming moral health crisis that it is.

    Read this book. In some ways, it’s a bit depressing, but it’s also wonderful to have the info that she presents.