3/20/08

New York Times reports on 'Fat Pack'


Photo credit: Dogwelder

The New York Times today reports that people who eat a lot--especially those who eat out--get fat. Shocker.

The journalists, bloggers, chefs and others who make up the Fat Pack combine an epicure’s appreciation for skillful cooking with a glutton’s bottomless-pit approach. Cramming more than three meals into a day, once the last resort of a food critic on deadline, has become a way of life. If the meals center on meat, so much the better.

Even to those who have been in the game long enough to have seen more than a few cycles of food and diet fads, the Fat Pack culture is a shock.

“Most of us who are in this profession are here as an excuse to eat,” said Mimi Sheraton, the food writer and former New York Times restaurant critic who has chronicled her own battle with weight loss. Still, she said, “I’ve never seen such an outward, in-your-face celebration of eating fat.”

I'm sure Mimi Sheraton is aware of a singular fact: fat is delicious. It makes food taste good, and provides mouth feel that can't be found with any other ingredient (ok, maybe collagen). I'm sure she's also aware that you don't have to eat a meal in order to taste it.

Jason Perlow gets it, to a certain degree:

“The whole foodie lifestyle and diet I used to participate in — I’m not going to say it is unhealthy, but it is excessive,” [Perlow] said. “I think you can still keep the food very interesting, but do it in moderation. That’s what the food community of the future is going to have to be.”

To which many members of the Fat Pack say: Shut up and pass the pork butt. Among a certain slice of the food-possessed, to suggest that indulgence might put one’s health in peril is to invite ridicule.

“I think enjoyment of food has never proven to be harmful to anyone’s health,” said Mr. Shaw, who turned from practicing law to writing about food in the late 1990s with an article for salon.com defending fat guys. He still cultivates a persona in print and online as The Fat Guy, and at 5-foot-10 weighs about 270 pounds.

I clock in at 6-foot-2 and tip the scales at 185. When I get up to 190, I know it's time to integrate some more spinach into my diet. I will say I benefit from pretty good genes: small-boned Jewish folk and tall, thin Scandanavians. But I'm not an idiot, either.

Restaurants usually serve about three portions on every plate they bring to the table. If you finish that plate, you've just eaten three meals. A woman I worked with solved this problem by asking for her to-go box at the beginning of the meal. She'd take half her plate, put it in the to-go box, and eat the remainders. She didn't eat what she couldn't see. And at over 40 (there was some speculation) she stayed thin and fit and dated men 15 years her junior. For her, the portion control seemed to work just fine.

In America, we're trained to stop eating when the food is gone, not necessarily when we feel full. Perhaps it stems from issues of waste that came out of the Great Depression or WWII. The French, on the other hand, have learned that food is a pleasure. It exists to fuel our bodies, yes, but it's also there for enjoyment. And like that anything that's to be enjoyed, you don't want too much of it at a sitting.

It seems like the Fat Pack could use a little self-discipline. Those braised pork ribs swimming in grease, that double-cream sauce, or those delicious cheese fries aren't going to vary considerably from one bite to the next. Well, the fries will. They'll just get worse and worse and worse as they cool on the plate. So, my advice is simple: stop eating so damn much! If you want to review five meals a day, take three bites of each, and fill that gut with vegetables and good, wholesome foods between meals. Your heart (and my ultimate healthcare bill) will thank you in the future.

2 comments:

vanessa vichit-vadakan said...

great post, greg. i'm lucky to live in a city that requires of a lot of physicality and to work in an industry that demands even more. i don't know how people with sedentary jobs manage.

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