I saw recently that the total number of obese people in the U.S. was approaching forty percent. And if we include the number of overweight people, it jumps to seventy percent. We’ve got some fatties in the U.S. Of course, it’s mean to say “fatty” I guess (although I used to be one, so I should be allowed to), so instead I’ll borrow a phrase from the late great columnist and comedian Lewis Grizzard and call them “Abundant Americans”. The problem is, Abundant Americans have become entirely too…abundant. Which has me wondering, how did it come to this?
After doing a little research, I discovered that in the sixties, we ate way less. Now, I realize that implying that we should be more like we were in the sixties is a strange thing to say. That’s a time remote and bizarre by our standards. I mean, really bizarre. Horn-rimmed glasses and bell bottoms were considered fashionable. Sally Fields (A.K.A. Gidget) was every young boy’s fantasy, instead of how it is now. Which is, playing the grandmother of some other actress who’s every young boy’s fantasy. Also, my parents were in their twenties and probably partying like rock stars. Something I try not to think about too much.
Anyway, in those distant days of yore, I saw that the average American ate just over the recommended amount to maintain weight, which is 2,000 for men and 1,500 for women. And back then, we exercised a lot more when we were playing (which I touched on in a previous piece), so even if we went over that, it didn’t make us fat. People would, you know, go to the beach with Gidget instead of sitting at home all day.
We also exercised when we worked. But now that we’ve outsourced our muscle jobs to various communists (which occasionally makes me question whether we truly won the Cold War), we have desk jobs that make us fat. Like me, the CPA. Gone are the days of laboring all day and coming home smellier than when you left. Which is part of the reason we’re in lousy shape.
But this piece is about focusing on what we’ve been eating. These days, we eat an average of about 2,400-2,500 calories per day, according to various fancy people like Pew Research and the CDC. And some men eat as much as 3,600 per day according to some sources. Which is… ridiculous. We eat what an army private eats, but don’t spend our days digging ditches. So, we’re getting fat. Really fat. I’m sorry, “abundant.”. Anyway, I was curious to know why.
I thought we might be drinking too much. I noted in a previous post that alcohol can blow a diet straight to hell. But it turns out that drinking peaked in the eighties. With the exception of millennials, who apparently drink too much wine. Which is all because Game of Thrones. It’s quite normal for people to mimic the behavior of what they see in popular culture, and I think Game of Thrones caused the spike in wine consumption. See my Totally Scientific Analysis below that makes it abundantly clear that young people altered their drinking patterns based on key events in the show.
But for the rest of us, it’s not alcohol. Besides, if alcoholism was the primary cause, Scotland and Australia and basically every former Soviet republic would be worse off than us. Way worse. So I looked into it a bit. There are a variety of things that caused the increase, so I’ll spread these out over several pieces. For today I’ll focus on added fats and oils, such as seed oils.
Now, anyone who spends any amount of time on diet and nutrition related forums and also has a modicum of critical thinking skills probably just gasped when they read “seed oils”. Because there’s a lot of nonsense online about the things seed oils are responsible for. Especially on Twitter. Twitter is not the place to go to get a dose of reality, as shown by my Also Totally Scientific Analysis Below.
Fortunately, since I’m an auditor and spot BS for a living, I’m quite capable of navigating around the faulty info. So rest assured, I’m not some seed oil crank who spreads random pseudo-science in a cheap attempt to sell vitamin supplements and gym memberships. What I’m relying on is info from the USDA (which was analyzed by the Washington Post, amongst others) that shows that a significant portion of that increase in calories is because of added fats and oils. Of which, seed oils are a part.
And these can be very high in calories. One tablespoon of almost any seed oil typically has 100 or so calories. Which means one tablespoon has as much as an apple. This is also true of non-seed oils, like olive oil. Since it’s common to use more than one tablespoon, this can add up quickly.
But one thing occurred to me when I discovered this. Who cooks with seed oils? Or any other oils. Or Crisco or lard or any other added fat. I almost never have. And there is a certain group that I’m a member of (which represents about half of the human population) that, for the most part, can’t be bothered with this stuff. We don’t want to spend all day “seasoning pans” and prepping food. We want to burn our food quickly and eat it. Or buy stuff that’s already made. And yes, I’m talking about…dudes.
But then I remember all of the bizarre ingredients we see in the premade stuff from the grocery store. You know the ones I mean. The ones called “Partially hydrogenated scientific words” and so forth. A lot of the preprocessed foods we get (but shouldn’t get) have seed oil (or other oils) in them, which tends to add to the calorie count. This is a problem for dudes who don’t like to cook. Which is most dudes.
And members of the dudestaff sex like to order in and eat out a lot too. The problem is, restaurants use added fats and oils too. This makes the meals we eat at a restaurant a bit more fattening than anything we might cook at home. Especially when we eat the non-pretentious, manly stuff. I.E. everything that is unhealthy, like burgers and fried food.
Actually, I’ve noted before that the burgers themselves aren’t so bad. It’s the sides that get you. French fries and onion rings and so forth tend to be fried in oil. As is the greatest fried chicken on the planet (Publix fried chicken), which makes it crazy unhealthy (As I’ve noted before. Twice). Publix fried chicken has twice the calories of a chicken that’s not been breaded, drenched and fried, it’s easy to see how this can add up to massive, pants-splitting girth.
Now, seed oils are not necessarily bad for you, as the cranks may imply. They have a decent chunk of Vitamin E (which can be hard to come by, as I’ve mentioned before), and certain kinds also have a decent helping of the vaunted Omega-3 fatty acids that prevent heart attacks and reduce triglycerides. So I’m not saying to avoid these entirely. But keep it to a minimum.
And one easy way around this is to cook for yourself. My assorted dudebros in the world who eschew cooking would be wise to start doing this. If you avoid the preprocessed stuff and the precooked stuff and the constant eating out and ordering in, and cook your own food, you could cut your calorie consumption significantly. Odds are, even if you do use a little seed oil, you won’t go overboard the way the restaurants and soulless corporate food processors do.
And this goes for women too. We don’t want you to get fat either, ladies. Or die of a heart attack. Or get cancer. Or the other things that come with being obese. Cooking for yourself may take a little time out of the day, but it will probably add years to your life. It also makes it easier to attract a man. Which is totally sexist and now I’m ashamed of myself. Except that this is a totally true statement.
One thing I’ve discovered as I’ve been losing weight and researching what to do and not do is just how unsurprising the results are. Yeah, we’re eating more added fats and oils, which is not necessarily the intuitive cause of weight gain. But the reason we’re eating more is we’re eating preprocessed stuff. And eating out too much. And eating the wrong kind of things when we do. This is all stuff I kind of knew already. But until now, I didn’t realize how bad it was for me.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to identify specific ways to lose weight, but everything I’ve found just reinforces things I already knew. So, for someone who isn’t interested in doing a deep dive into the details, the moral of this story is this: The way to lose weight is just to stop doing so much of the stuff you already know you shouldn’t be doing. Such as, don’t eat garbage. Because the thing that appears to make them garbage is added fats and oils. And these are one of the main reasons we’re all getting fat.
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