Eating in America

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    Apr 28, 2012 2:30 PM GMT
    I haven't been on RJ much lately, y'all, but I thought some of you might like my latest blog post:

    Eating in America

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    I left two abs in the Carolinas. Lost a couple more in Georgia. Six months in the South means my six-pack is gone. And it hasn’t been lack of exercise. It’s the food—the delicious, but for the most part unhealthy, food I’ve been eating.

    I place a lot of value on fitness and nutrition, so the relative lack of control I have over my diet now has been one of the few aspects of the walk that I have found frustrating. I don’t like fast food, and I try to avoid processed foods and “empty carbs.” On walking days, I subsist on protein bars, nuts, and beef or turkey jerky. The problem with that is that most protein bars are just glorified candy bars, and jerky, of course, is loaded with sodium. Flavored jerky (like teriyaki) is lathered with sugar as well.

    My parents raised me as a carnivore, and to this day I need at least some kind of meat in order to consider something a meal. I have also taught myself to appreciate fresh fruit and vegetables. In general, I believe that whatever doesn’t go bad is probably bad for you, and there is a fair amount of science to back up that belief. Alas, meat that hasn’t been salted stiff would go bad pretty quickly in my backpack, and tasty as some fermented fruit beverages are, my goal is not to drunk-walk across America.

    Then there are the mouthwatering and irresistible dishes I’ve been served on non-walking days. It would be offensive and ungrateful to refuse to eat what my new friends cook for me. But even more than that, I would be cheating myself out of what have been some of the most satisfying culinary experiences of my life. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I visited a town in Louisiana called Opelousas. There, I had the best jambalaya I’ve ever had. I ate more rice that day than I had in the last year—I even had boudin and cracklins for … (blushing) … breakfast!

    But what’s a man to do? I’ve accepted that all I can do right now is damage control. And if I find that no one wants to date me when I’m back in New York, I’ll just lock myself up in a gym for a couple of months. Or I’ll move down South.

    Jokes aside, however, I have been thinking a lot about nutrition in America. The first conclusion I’ve reached is that traditional dishes are not to blame for the much-hyped expansion of the nation’s waistlines. The truth is that barbecue, fried pickles and okra, crawfish, and other regional foods are not as unhealthy as a bag of potato chips or the highly processed meat-like products you get at the drive-thru. So I should apologize, now, for the jab at the South I took in the first paragraph. Southern food is not what has made me less lean, and it is not what is making America fat.

    My other conclusion is that the push we have seen in the last decade toward healthier lifestyles is paying off. Yes, there is an obesity problem. The numbers say it, and the doctors I have met throughout the country have confirmed it. But most people “get it” now. Most people know they need to eat healthier and exercise more if they wish to live longer lives. Of course this doesn’t mean they’re necessarily doing something about it, but they at least think they should, and the optimist in me sees that as a start.

    There is also the fact that I have seen (and used) gyms pretty much everywhere I’ve been. Healthy eating alternatives are also ubiquitous, which means the market for them has grown. All of this makes me hopeful. Adding to that hope is the fact that, true to the entrepreneurial American spirit, there are people across the country who are trying to find healthier alternatives to even traditional dishes. Last weekend, I visited with a friendly young family in Lake Charles, Louisiana. They follow the so-called “paleo diet,” and do CrossFit. They fed me the most delicious meals, including pizza (pictured above) and pancakes, all prepared with whole, healthy foods. And like them, I have met numerous others. Eating in America, I must conclude, is good, and it is getting healthier.

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    Constantino Diaz-Duran is a fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University. He is exploring what it means to be an American in the 21st century, walking from his home in New York City, to Los Angeles. Follow his progress on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 28, 2012 2:35 PM GMT
    Arizona food (more specifically, Mexican Chimichangas and Margaritas) have obliterated my abs as well.

    My conclusion: The further south you go, the better the food is, and the bigger the bellies are. icon_lol.gif
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    Apr 28, 2012 2:48 PM GMT
    paulflexes saidThe further south you go, the better the food is, and the bigger the bellies are. icon_lol.gif

    Indeed.
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    Apr 28, 2012 2:56 PM GMT
    I love your writing. It's probably the most fluid, grammatically correct, enjoyable text I've read from writers in a long time. Your book will be fun to read. icon_wink.gif

    Where are you now?
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    Apr 28, 2012 2:59 PM GMT
    Thank you for the post. I do miss seeing you on here.

    As you journey through the south, you will likely find it very hard to maintain a lower glycemic diet. We southerners love butter, sugar, and carbs of every variety.

    I cannot wait to read more. :-D
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    Apr 28, 2012 3:15 PM GMT
    I am in Tennessee, one of the most highly medicated, chronic disease ridden states in the nation. People know what they are supposed to do in a vague way...most medical professionals have zero idea on how to correctly advise on nutrition and exercise since they are only taught drugs in medical and pharmacy schools, and often, when they do advise they are wrong. AS for the people, most in this area of the country are happy eating crap food constantly an taking pills for it...since that's what they are sold on television.
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    Apr 28, 2012 5:59 PM GMT
    Hope you're enjoying your grits! icon_wink.gif
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    Apr 28, 2012 7:13 PM GMT
    High Fructose Corn Syrup, processed foods, unnatural additives, larger portions, high amounts of sugar, Welcome to Amurica. I REALLY hate the way the food industries and our government allow all this nonsense to occur.
    I advocate open revolt.
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    Apr 28, 2012 7:30 PM GMT
    Is it so much the food itself that's so bad or how much of it they eat on a regular basis?
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    Apr 28, 2012 8:08 PM GMT
    pocketnico saidIs it so much the food itself that's so bad or how much of it they eat on a regular basis?

    Sure, a big mac every other year won't kill you, but it's still gross. :-)
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    Apr 28, 2012 8:18 PM GMT
    19c79 said
    pocketnico saidIs it so much the food itself that's so bad or how much of it they eat on a regular basis?

    Sure, a big mac every other year won't kill you, but it's still gross. :-)
    I just had a double quarter pounder with cheese a few minutes ago. nom nom nom icon_lol.gif
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    Apr 29, 2012 3:48 AM GMT
    So i couldn't read the whole thing. I am very ADHD, and i can't read long articles like that if i lack an incentive. But i did scan it, and u make a lot of good points, but i would like to point out one thing.

    You are correct that the health and fitness market is expanding. However, your observation which occured at a gym was probably not an accurate view of what is really going on in america. In a gym, everybody seems very healthy. I remember i used to go to lifetime fitness, and they had a hair salon with aveda, which is all natural, and i felt so wonderful after i went there. And in the cafe, everything was all healthy, and wonderful, and the menu was apparently created by a registered dietitian. But the goal of any gym is essentially to make money.

    People who work out at a gym are more health oriented then the rest of society. For one thing, obese people might not go to the gym because they might feel insecure next to all the fit healthy people. And not to mention people who can't afford to go to a gym have higher obesity rates.

    Obesity rates are still rising unfortunately. I don't think they will ever go down until people seriously address the cause.
    decreased physical activity (FACEBOOK, hours at the desk, this fucking website) and high calorie diets.

    The way our society is being run, i think obesity rates will eventually hit a peak, and just stay there. Unless there is some advancement in medicine (or the evolutionary process) that causes obesity to go down.

    and like i said, i only skimmed your article. For all i know, this is exactly what you were trying to imply. I just have nothing to do tonight, im a chronic insomniac, and i have lots of vikadin in my immune system. I feel....nice....
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    Apr 29, 2012 3:49 AM GMT
    and i would switch to organic flavored jerkey. It causes cancer. But i think you already know about that, seeing what you said about eating foods that don't go bad.
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    Apr 29, 2012 3:50 AM GMT
    pineappleundertheesea saidand i would switch to organic flavored jerkey. It causes cancer. But i think you already know about that, seeing what you said about eating foods that don't go bad.

    *the regular causes cancer
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    Apr 29, 2012 3:55 AM GMT
    You were in the Carolinas? I swear I saw someone who looked like you a month or so ago at my work in South Carolina... For some reason I imagined you were taller so I figured that it couldn't have been you... were you in Goose Creek, SC at all???
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    Apr 29, 2012 4:05 AM GMT
    I think it's truer than anyone wants to admit that processed foods and substitute foods are what is destroying the health of our people.

    For example, I recently switched from using Smart Balance butter-substitute (used it for about 7 years) to real, whipped butter (just milk and salt) and I continue to lose weight. Since I made this switch, in addition to switching to strictly olive oil (used to use canola oil for light frying), I've lost 2 lbs. This, while eating a bit less healthy recently due to schedules and availablity of healthy choices.

    I truly believe that our bodies are designed to digest and process whole, natural foods, and all the processed and substitute foods are creating such havoc in people's bodies, causing inflammation and obesity.

    Nice to hear from you, Constantino! Love your writing.
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    Apr 29, 2012 2:11 PM GMT
    Yehoshua_B5917 saidYou were in the Carolinas? I swear I saw someone who looked like you a month or so ago at my work in South Carolina... For some reason I imagined you were taller so I figured that it couldn't have been you... were you in Goose Creek, SC at all???

    I was in SC, but that wasn't me. I was there in late September, and didn't go to Goose Creek. I'm not that tall, though. I'm 5'9". :-)
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    Apr 29, 2012 8:50 PM GMT
    ECnAZ saidI truly believe that our bodies are designed to digest and process whole, natural foods, and all the processed and substitute foods are creating such havoc in people's bodies, causing inflammation and obesity.

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  • neosyllogy

    Posts: 1714

    Apr 29, 2012 9:05 PM GMT
    Please. It's called "portion control". I'm a Texan boy.
    Don't blame it on the food. You don't have to eat chard to stay lean and healthy.
  • LJay

    Posts: 11612

    Apr 29, 2012 9:22 PM GMT
    Try apples, carrots, oranges, sweet peppers, pears, celery, hard cheese (like cheddar), cherry tomatoes, strips of country ham, and peanut butter as alternatives to your backpack foods. The trouble, when walking, is getting a reasonable quantity of some of these, but I'll bet a talk with a grocery store with a salad bar could get you less than whole stalks of celery and a handful of tomatoes. Hard cheese will keep a couple of days without refrigeration and it goes well with fruit. A lot of this is on the heavy side for packing, but ther is a lot of water involved and you need that.

    Nevertheless you are probably walking enough to tolerate some big meals and regional eating is indeed one of the joys of the US. I have spent a very short time in Louisiana, but WOW can those folks eat! Wonderful stuff!
  • MarvelClimber

    Posts: 511

    Apr 29, 2012 9:24 PM GMT
    I saw ham and was hooked
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    Apr 30, 2012 12:08 AM GMT
    neosyllogy saidPlease. It's called "portion control". I'm a Texan boy.
    Don't blame it on the food. You don't have to eat chard to stay lean and healthy.


    Its' more than just portion control. Yes, it will control weight, but it does not promote health. Two VERY different things. Even those that are good with portions, but eat junk for the most part, their skin, hair, nails, etc are damaged and it's very evident.
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    May 07, 2012 3:53 PM GMT
    A few asked for an "update" pic to show what Southern eating, and my five months as a roofer did to my body. So here it is:

    http://www.realjock.com/fullphoto/43d2b9b9efc98ef2f746749f508bfaa2?preview=1
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    May 07, 2012 5:02 PM GMT
    19c79 saidA few asked for an "update" pic to show what Southern eating, and my five months as a roofer did to my body. So here it is:

    http://www.realjock.com/fullphoto/43d2b9b9efc98ef2f746749f508bfaa2?preview=1
    *drool*

    ohai icon_biggrin.gif
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    May 07, 2012 5:14 PM GMT
    paulflexes said
    19c79 saidA few asked for an "update" pic to show what Southern eating, and my five months as a roofer did to my body. So here it is:

    http://www.realjock.com/fullphoto/43d2b9b9efc98ef2f746749f508bfaa2?preview=1
    *drool*

    ohai icon_biggrin.gif


    AGREED. Still droolicious, Constantino!