Pyramids and walking like an Egyptian

Thursday, April 21, 2005

April 21, 2005

Dear Pat,

Every time the government comes up with a new plan for eating better, it makes the mistake of calling the plan a food pyramid. That's why no one pays any attention to the information.

Pyramids are for Egyptians and a little on the mystical side. Americans like rectangles and circles. We like our meals square and our doughnuts round. If you want leaner Americans, give us a food rectangle or a food circle, a shape we're familiar with, like a box of crackers or a bowl of pudding.

The old food pyramid is now kaput anyway. The new food pyramid is actually 12 pyramids differentiated by age, sex and amount of physical exercise. The food pyramid has been personalized.

We like personalization. We personalize our cell phone's ring, our license plates, our bodies with tattoos and jewelry.

At www.Mypyramid.gov, the Web site where the government explains its new food pyramid, I learned a 54-year-old man who exercises 30 to 60 minutes daily should eat 2,400 calories a day. That's eight ounces of grains, three cups of vegetables, two cups of fruits, three cups of milk and 6.5 ounces of meat and beans per day. Interesting, but who measures their food in cups? How many french fries and how many hamburger patties is that?

Where's the beer?

DC and I recently went to see a nutritionist. We hoped an expert could advise us about how to make better food choices. The nutritionist was knowledgeable, but the basic wisdom about nutrition was not new or a mystery: Control the size of the portions you eat; eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods; exercise.

The government now says you must exercise at least an hour a day to keep from gaining weight and an hour to an hour and a half a day to sustain weight loss.

Back when I started running, I figured 30 or 40 minutes a day on the road or treadmill would slim me down. No way. Running at the slow pace I run burns up only about 500 calories. That's just holding your own.

The best exercise for me would be walking 18 holes of golf. It zaps 1,378 calories. But if you can play golf every day you're unemployed or retired.

Saturday I tried a new exercise program at my gym. For an hour, a superbly muscled teacher standing on a platform led a roomful of sweating charges through a nonstop routine of lifting weights, barking her instructions over the hammering beat of high-volume Euro disco music.

Hated the music, but the exercise kicked my bottom. I couldn't walk normally for three days. Remember the old Bangles song "Walk Like an Egyptian?" I did.

Bending over was impossible.

But yesterday I went back for more. I'm glad someone finally figured out how to make weightlifting resemble fun.

Now if someone could devise a recipe for eating that is easy to understand and not shaped like a place where mummies are buried. The fast-food chains understand the importance of easy. "Do you want fries with that?" requires a yes or no.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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