No, fat is not evil. But…

I was sent this link from a friend and my jaw, she dropped. Please go read it and come back.

I do tend to agree that Jamie Oliver is quite self-aggrandizing and can come off arrogant; however, what could possibly be wrong with him trying to help a very unhealthy city? This is his second go-round at attempting to improve the health of children via school meals and I think it’s refreshing that a celebrity chef is using his fame to help others in a concrete way. He isn’t suggesting that kids could be eating better: he is mortified that they are being fed chocolate milk and pizza for breakfast  – daily, no less – and insists on pointing out that this is a travesty. (Oh, wait? The blogger didn’t mention THAT part? What a surprise.)

I have watched a couple of episodes of this show. He does, indeed, tell a mother that she’s killing her children with the all-deep-fried-food-all-the-time meals she makes. Her only kitchen implement is a deep fryer, so every meal she makes is dropped into a vat of bubbling oil. Please, don’t get me wrong: I love me some fried food. But every meal? Is Jamie Oliver wrong in pointing out that this is the most unhealthy way to eat imaginable? The truth hurts sometimes, but it doesn’t make his point any less valid.

I would like to point out that I don’t equate health with being skinny. In fact, if we keep going with the Jamie Oliver theme, he did a one-off special where he did tests on men with three distinctively different body types. It was not the skinniest who was most fit; rather, it was the mesomorph who, if defined only by weight, was borderline obese. He, however, was in the best shape beating out the skinniest man by a large margin. My weight has fluctuated over the last ten years and I must tell you, I feel my best when getting exercise and eating well, regardless of my weight. I have more energy and am in a better mood, even from simply walking the dog after work. I certainly do not always make the healthy choice (cheese, chocolate, bacon and alcohol are delicious, people.  I am not giving those up. Ever.); but, when I have made unhealthy choices – ten years ago and today – I take responsibility for those choices and knew/know that I am not opting for the “best” choice. Would it irritate me to have Jamie Oliver show up and tell me that I’m eating crap? Well, yes. But that doesn’t make him wrong.

Back to the show. I was honestly stunned when I saw what the children were eating daily: pizza, chocolate milk (for breakfast), followed by chicken fingers and pop for lunch.  Daily. When Oliver confronts the principal of the school, she brings out her folder full of paperwork that shows that everything they’re feeding the kids is government-sanctioned. This, to me, is a poor excuse. The US government has been bought and sold by companies that control the production of mass-produced food (corn, beef, chicken, etc.) so of course they would sign off on mass-produced corn-based “food.” But does that mean that the guidelines wouldn’t also be met with…oh, y’know…a salad? Real chicken? An apple, for the love of all that is delicious?

As for the blogger from the other post, it seems to me that Mr. Oliver maybe hit close to home. No one wants to hear that what they’ve put in their bodies could be dangerous, maybe even deadly. I know I didn’t want to hear it, but I’m glad I came around. There is a significant difference between “fat-shaming” and “telling the truth.” Why pick a fight with someone attempting to make your country a healthier place? You can choose to eat what you want, but the children aren’t given options.  They assume that the adults have their best interests at heart and that they should be eating this food.  If the school is going to teach everything they need to know, why shouldn’t health be a part of that? Should it take some celebrity chef from across the world to implement change? No. But if it works, what’s the problem?


~ by foodNURD on April 13, 2010.

9 Responses to “No, fat is not evil. But…”

  1. The thing I find so fascinating is that the fat acceptance movement is generally aligned with what you said up there in paragraph #5 — that body weight isn’t necessarily an indicator of healthiness, fitness or, indeed, lifestyle. Depending on your body type, genetics and metabolism, you could eat quite well and be quite active and still be “overweight”/fat, by whatever aesthetic, scientific or pseudoscientific (the BMI is truly ridiculous) measure one might be using as a yardstick.

    But what is DEFINITELY connected to healthiness, fitness and lifestyle is diet (and activity levels, natch… but that’s a subject for another day!), and if you’re talking to someone (or, you know, an entire town) that eats almost exclusively highly-processed and deep-fried food while apparently entirely missing sweeping categories of healthy food like “fresh vegetables”… fat or thin has nothing to do with it. The fat, where it is present, is a symptom of what is apparently a pervasive lifestyle issue in this particular burgh.

    As for the issues of class as relates to cost of food and time to prepare food, well. Yes. Class exists in America, and pretending it doesn’t won’t help. Those elements are worth considering in how you approach people. And shaming them probably isn’t a great approach to get them to really hear what you’re saying and commit to a major lifestyle change/paradigm shift. But really, what’s the alternative? I can’t believe these people live in a place where the only option is eat disastrously bad food ALL THE TIME or… what, not eat at all?

    Anyway, back to the original blogger’s entry… This isn’t exactly a community that just happens to be populated with larger people: there’s a clear cause-and-effect situation in place and it’s hard to imagine that there wouldn’t be serious health implications (again, not related to the *weight* they carry so much as related to the lifestyle factors of which that weight is the most visible symptom) for most of them.

  2. But really, what’s the alternative? I can’t believe these people live in a place where the only option is eat disastrously bad food ALL THE TIME or… what, not eat at all?

    Unfortunately, I feel that that is actually all too often the case.

  3. I don’t think the people in this town *want* to have unhealthy children and unhealthy lives, but how can they not know what they’re eating is garbage? Is there really that large a gap in knowledge – and common sense? I’m not sure if you’ve seen the show, but some of the children didn’t know the difference between a tomato and a potato. Not to mention, when Oliver attempted to introduce plastic forks and knives into the cafeteria, the lunch ladies had an absolute conniption. Plastic forks and knives.

    Personal responsibility, I believe, is key. But when you are taught that processed food is the best (or only) way to eat, what chance do you have?

  4. I watch the show and it boggles me that people are so resistent to the idea that they could eat better. I know alot of it is cultural. This is ‘their’ food. How dare some limey chef come to their town and tell them that they’re doing it wrong!! When it comes to the food that is served in schools, well the government says it’s okay, so what’s the problem? Doesn’t matter that you literally can see your child getting more and more unhealthy with each passing year. *pfft* Fuck that noise!

    As for the cutlery thing…that actually makes me angry. When your kid isn’t taught basic table manners in school, that’s fucking ridiculous and insulting.

  5. I suspect that some of the resistance is for the camera, to increase the dramatic tension. But much of it feels quite genuine, a mix of xenophobia and willful ignorance.

    I’d be interested in seeing what happens to this city two years from now: whether they’ve kept up with the changes Oliver is trying to implement. The entire city is going to have to alter its mindset.

    As for the cutlery, Petar, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s not like he suggested they give the kids machetes. They’re not cave-children! (Cave-children ate better, anyway.)

  6. My left ventricle hurts looking at that pic above. Over the past five years or so I’ve worked in demographically disadvantaged areas. The people in these areas have the propensity to eat copious amounts of fast foods. The same bad foods over and over. If it’s not KFC, it’s McDonald’s an so on. It would appear to me that intellegiance or lack thereof invariably has an overall affect on health. This was confirmed recently by a study which happened to echo my suspicions. If one does not have the capacity to judge what is best for one’s self, that trait will in all likely hood be passed on to the offspring through geneology or mimicry. It’s unlikley that the Naked Chef(or a clothed one for that matter) will make those responsible for sustanance, be it parent or the school change their ways. Soon as he’s gone I’m pretty certain they will revert to their ways. It’s nobody’s fault. You can’t kick a dog because it’s stupid. It’s simple as natural selection or a thinning of the heard if you will. But I still feel for the young fatties. They should be protected better. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to procreate. “Would you like to up-size that to our condom meal deal?”

  7. Good riddance! I was stunned at the hatred in the other blogger’s blog post. I think there was quite a bit of defensiveness in her writing. People have a hard time seeing things from all angles when that happens. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Another example of the many problems with socialized medicine. Doctors are the leading cause of death in the US; iatrogenic disease per the New England Journal of Medicine, so obviously not the solution to avoiding death and achieving health. Socialized medicine will cause further, and at that point, necessary, legislation regarding food . What I mean is who wants to pay for health care for someone that ate shitty food and then has health problems from it. We would have to address that for sure. I’m sure we can all see how this is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to “justified tyranny” and the setting of very scary precedence that would result from socialized medicine. Educating people about food and their body usually wakes them up to eating food that is food. Who took the health out of food where we have food stores and health food stores? If it’s not healthy, IT’S NOT REALLY FOOD! A little junk to eat is a great thing whether it be fried or sweet or…

    “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates

    Genes don’t determine or dictate anything. 95+% of human beings have perfect functioning genes with no reason for ailments of any kind. Go to , he’s a world renowned cell biologist. Unfortunately he is a socialist too but we all have our faults. ; )

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