Saturday, April 11, 2015

no sense of history

"I have no sense of history?  HE wears a BROWN TIE!"

[evil grin]  I do love me my movie quotes -- it gives me the flexibility of expressing things that don't come naturally to me, like the non-sequitur above.

But i was more thinking about the poor sense of history i quote here:
Sixty years ago it was quite easy to default into the correct way of eating because we were mostly surrounded by foods that supported such eating.  But, our food environment has changed dramatically and today’s default eating (e.g., high amounts of sugar, grains, highly refined carbohydrates) puts most of us – about 60 or 70% of us – at serious risk of metabolic disease.*
The gentleman is wrong.  For a lot more than 60 years have people eaten high-carbohydrate diets -- white flour and sugar as large proportions of their intake.  Now, his aim was to make the usual tired "it's the concentrated refined carbs that are the villain!" point, but again ... this is ANOTHER oversimplification of a very complex issue.

When sugar became more common, true, so did obesity.  People like William Banting, who are easy to fatten, managed to become morbidly obese on mid-nineteenth-century carbohydrates, but he would also have been one of the fat Egyptians or Aztecs we've heard of, on the most primitive of diets.  It's not JUST the refined carbs.

And those Egyptians and Aztecs weren't likely office workers either.  They walked wherever they needed to go -- no elevators or cars helped them out, even though the very richest of them probably had access to their version of the sedan-chair.  No, modern food and antibiotics in the food supply, too much electric light, televisions and smart-phone use at night didn't contribute to their problems -- in their cases, it HAD to be carb-intolerance or that dangerous mixture of high-carb-AND-high-fat diet.


When people claim that the huge recent increase in overweight in the "first world" is because before 1970 it was easier to pick up a healthy moderate-carb meal, I have to conclude that they don't know shit about history.  They have some rosy image in their minds, of June Cleaver serving up a pot roast with lots of green vegetables ... and forget about all the bread and potatoes and margarine, and the layer cake she served up for dessert.

...Because in post-WWII America, there was a lot of "bad" eating going on.  Coca Cola (sugared) was around every corner, though the serving-size was much smaller than it is today.  White bread was the rule rather than the exception.  Crisco -- AKA transfat -- was in every baked product, and brother did those families enjoy their baked goods, from breakfast biscuits through supper's fresh-fruit cobbler.  Babies got off to a bottle-fed start REGULARLY.  "Everybody" smoked.  It wasn't the wholesome, whole-food paradise that a lot of people envision.  Every meal had its starchy base, and its fatty auxilliary, and its sugary finale.

Yet somehow ... SOMEHOW ... Americans as a whole managed to NOT become obese and diabetic.  The finger-pointers need to find a different explanation than that "...years ago it was quite easy to default into the correct way of eating because we were mostly surrounded by foods that supported such eating."  NONSENSE.

No, what changed were things like this:
  • people weren't told they needed to eat every couple of hours to "keep their metabolisms revved up";
  • people weren't told that fat made them fat -- they "knew" that starches and sugar did;
  • PUFAs and MUFAs weren't idealized nor SFAs considered the devil;
  • neither whole grains nor cardio were yet canonized;
  • wheat wasn't in EVERYTHING on the grocery shelves, nor was soy;
  • the novel proteins now in both those crops weren't a part of the average diet.
There's plenty of change between then and now, including fluoridated water, modern pesticides and antibiotics in the food supply, xenoestrogens everywhere, and superfluous fructose in most people's diets.  It's more likely that modern obesity is a perfect-storm situation rather than a "simple" carbohydrate-is-everywhere problem.  Carbohydrate has been everywhere for a long time.

Stop learning the lessons of history from the entertainment business.  They have a lousy record for mirroring real life.
*  i don't have to name names, do i?  ;-)  of course i can if [DR ATTIA! DR ATTIA! PAGING DR ATTIA!] ....


  1. How can I much of this is true. Sadly..

    1. :-) when the modern world gets me down, i regularly escape into the past via literature, most often fiction from anywhere between the Middle Ages and the Post WWII era. As i've mentioned before, when you want to know about the past the best way is to read what was written THEN, not written now ABOUT then....

      Incidental comments about daily life reveals that bread and butter were a very common meal in America and various European countries throughout the nineteenth century; from Sherlock Holmes to Archie Goodwin, the quick meal-on-the-go was always a sandwich. The exact high-carb meal might have changed from crackers-and-milk to pasta, but they were STILL often high-carb back then. :-)

  2. and snacks? you wanted to snack, you grabbed an apple. but mostly, you just waited for the next meal, because we weren't eating so much sugar, we weren't hungry as much.

    1. physically-busy people don't think about snacking as much, too, i think. when i was working full-time and participating in community-theatre in the evenings, i usually lost five pounds with every show i worked on, sewing costumes or hanging/programming lights.

  3. My British MIL expressed AMAZEMENT at the 24/7 buffet-palooza attitude towards food over here in the States... In her semi-rural corner of the UK, it is still common for the village to "roll up their sidewalks" after 8 PM & while you **MIGHT** eat a late dinner at the pub, there is not this habit of rushing through a fast-food drive-in...