Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Trans Fat Rant

Trans fats are the new big thing in health these days. They are what saturated fats used to be…only worse. They are the new thing to avoid, they are the new “hot button” of the food industry. It was required by the FDA to have foods containing trans fats to have the amount listed on food labels but as with all things with the FDA there are “limits” to this great new label and it really makes me ask what’s the point anyway? Foods are allowed to say “trans fat free” if there is less than so much gram, or percent or some such nonsense per serving as indicated by the FDA. So a company could in essence shrink the serving size of something, and make it “trans fat” free without changing any of the ingredients. Scientists and nutritionists still aren’t sure what is the “safe” amount of trans fats for a person to consume, but 0 is held to be the ideal since hey, this stuff is nasty. Anything that can actually lower your good cholesterol while raising your bad is not something to be consumed in any amount in my mind. Of course this is something that has been on the market for a really long time, and has become more and more prevalent in diets as people increase their consumption of fast foods and just eating out in general. When they first “created it” people still cooked, they ate at home, and they ate normal portions. Now they are super sizing at McDonald’s, gobbling down Whoppers by the dozen and eating KFC and walking out to have a heart attack…OK, maybe not literally, but it does happen. I’ve taken to still reading labels even though an item says trans fat free. I look for the key words “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated” and if those words are in it, I don’t buy it, even though it says “trans fat free.” How can it be trans fat free when it obviously has trans fats? Again back to that serving, sure it might only be trace amounts, but I’d prefer to avoid it at all costs. I think I recently heard up to 2 grams a day is OK, I found that Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies (which I do like as a treat now and then) have 8 grams in a serving, and there are two servings in a bag…guess what is no longer on my list of eating!! And with foods all cooked in oils, it really limits on the options of going out to eat. Why is it restaurants don’t have to list the calories, fat (including trans fats) and serving sizes of their portions? Sure on fast food sites you can get that information now, but most restaurants you can’t, even on their websites. Ruby Tuesday, for a very brief period of time had the information on their menu, I think you can still ask for it, but it’s not as easy to get. I did read the menu when they had it though, and it was enough to send me home. I always knew that restaurants had obnoxious portions and out of control calories, but when one meal, even one you think is “healthy” has over 1000 calories and 50 or more grams of fat, there is something wrong. Particularly for someone that tries to consume less than 2000 calories a day, and likes to eat small portions over the course of the day. Appetizers are meant to be for 4 people…one cheese stick had something like 250 calories and 20 grams of fat…I very rarely eat out anymore. I like to control my portions. I like to control my eating. I like to eat healthier, so on occasion I can have a my peppermint stick ice cream that I so love this time of year and NO ONE makes in a light version!! Because of this, I end up opting out of eating at restaurants very often due to portion sizes (and yes, you can take it home, but lets be real, how many things are that good reheated from a restaurant?) not knowing the fat and calorie amounts in the portions I’m served and any number of other reasons. Similar to the way that I avoided going to a lot of restaurants until the smoking ban finally made them smoke free, and now that I have options of non-smoking bars, I continue to only patronize those bars, even though some of my favorites (and closer to where I live) are still smoking. I have a bit of a choice now and I chose to be healthier by not being in a smoking area. People are up in arms because of the “policing by the government” with what is going on in New York right now with the ban on trans fats going into effect. I say good for New York. I don’t want the government telling me what I can and can’t do, but the restaurants aren’t making much of an effort to remove the trans fats or make serving sizes and/or food healthier or offer healthier options either. Of course some of the chains have. Wendy’s has already, Taco Bell says they are, KFC even, the worst offender of all, has made plans to change. McDonald’s is dragging their heels although plans to cut the trans fats in Europe, no plans as of yet in the US, but I would guess the edicts from New York will make McDonald’s do it nationwide. So that covers the chains at least, I mean why make changes to the oil in one place and keep the same elsewhere? But the small places won’t make the changes until they are forced to either by customers protesting and stopping patronage until a change, or government stepping in and requiring it by law. OK, yes, that’s not the ideal, but it took government stepping in to make some changes to the smoking laws, before that non-smokers had no choices, and while, to an extent, trans fats are only killing the person taking them in (unlike cigarettes which hurt the non-smokers too) what about the rise in obesity, heart problems, diabetes and other health risks that have then caused health insurance to sky rocket? Seriously, why do I have to pay for other people’s medical bills? I go to the doctor once a year, I run, I strength train, I do yoga, I eat well, I am moving toward the low end of the “range” for my height and age in the weight department (and have always been in the “healthy” range and my cholesterol is below 200, with my good cholesterol being in the “high” range. I’m healthy, yet my rates are the same as another person in my company that, hypothetically, is 100 pounds over weight, has type II diabetes and already suffered two heart attacks because they eat at McDonald’s everyday. Is this fair? Sure, we can make our own decisions on what we eat, the reason the “policing” needs to be done is because we are apparently incapable of taking care of making the proper decisions:

Obesity Demographics

  • Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
  • Approximately 127 million adults in the U.S. are overweight, 60 million are obese (Body Mass Index or BMI > 30) and 9 million are extremely obese (Body Mass Index or BMI > 40).
  • Currently, an estimated 65.2 percent of U.S. adults, age 20 years and older, and 15 percent of children and adolescents are overweight and 30.5 percent are obese
  • Approximately 62 percent of female Americans are considered overweight.
  • Approximately 67 percent of male Americans are considered overweight.

With those statistics is it any wonder things need to be done?? People are made aware everyday of how bad things are, and they continue the same pattern and make the same choices and then turn around and sue the places for “doing this to them”…Here is my thought, if people don’t care and they want to continue as they are, fine, let them. Unless it’s a family member or friend of mine (who I would get on and try to help them get healthier) I don’t really care. Now that might seem cold, but if you are going to stuff yourself with fast food everyday, you are doing it to yourself and you can’t claim ignorance, but I want a physical for health insurance coverage. I am healthy, I’ve run 5 marathons, a number of halves and I run at least 5-7 days a week and strength train, cross train and do yoga, (I’ve been to McDonald’s 3 times this year, what can I say, I love their fries, but I refuse to go again till the trans fats are gone) I buy healthy things to eat, try to eat as healthy as I can when out, cook with healthier means (wheat pasta, no overuse of oils, low fat meats), although I’m still not perfect on it, but I know I’m healthier than apparently the big majority of this country, so I demand cheaper health insurance. Make those causing the rates to go up, pay for it…same as some insurance that charges higher rates for smokers, charge those overweight and unhealthy higher rates too. Hit someone in the pocket and maybe they will think twice about that monster burger with 9 slices of bacon, 3 burger patties, and 5 slices of cheese with a large order of fries, and monster sized Coke to wash it down…

OK, sorry, that’s my rant for the day. I had this come to me as I read letters to the editor making their opinion about how bad they think the “policing” action is…On a lighter note, I have only 2 more presents to buy, I managed my errand to my running store and got 2 new pairs of shoes, 2 pairs of socks and some sport beans and clif shots to have on hand. They were out of my sport wash unfortunately though…sigh…one more stop I have to add tomorrow. I desperately need to wash some running things!! I think I might get up early tomorrow, do my run in the morning, run errands at lunch (I can get the two presents and sport wash picked up while out running errands) and maybe get a second run that night while doing laundry, then packing, meeting with a friend at my place and doing a bit of cleaning up before I leave for the weekend…Then Friday I can rest a bit before I go to work and decide if I’m driving yet on Friday night after I get done, or getting up Saturday morning and going…

1 comment:

Firefly's Running said...

Nice rant, Danielle. Well said.