Last week, as Michael Phelps splashed his way to a historic 8 Olympic Gold Medals, the media was momentarily flummoxed about how to expand their already-blanket coverage on this newfound hero. After all, Phelps is a blandly affable guy who does nothing but sleep, swim, and eat. Hmmm… eat, you say? Tell us Michael, what exactly do you eat? And that’s how Phelps’ 12,000 calorie-a-day diet became international news, with many publications listing his daily menu along with visual reenactments to emphasize the grotesque amount of fatty and carbohydrate-rich foods that Phelps eats. It’s enough food to make even a glutton clutch his stomach in anticipatory digestive balking.
Michael Phelps burns more calories in his sleep than most people do while walking. What happens if he skips a meal? Do his cheeks concave and arms retract?
Mr. Pinault is a swimmer, too. He swims about 3 times a week, 30-40 minutes a session. His spartan French appetite is consistent, except on days when he swims. Then, at dinner, he’ll have an extra sliver of cheese or a scoop of sorbet. When he read about Michael Phelps’ diet, he worried that he’s not getting enough calories to support his training regime. “You only swim 90 minutes a week,” I point out as he stacks slices of baguette next to his plate.
Just last week, I thought about how much more healthier Americans are these days. Everywhere I go, I see people exercising or eating sanely (or, if eating insanely, with guilt and shame). Of course, where do I go? I go to Boston and Cambridge. I go to the bike path. I go to the mountains. I live a cloistured urban existence among like-minded adults who take great satisfaction in healthy living. We take for granted that Americans in other parts of the country are tired of wallowing in their obeseness and have made commitments to taking daily walks and eating vegetables.
But I haven’t traveled outside of New England in awhile. A recent report entitled “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America” found that the obesity rates are rising in 37 states, and concluded that current policies to promote physical activity and sound nutrition aren’t widespread enough to make a difference. The report made the same damn recommendations that they always do: We need… more wellness programs! Community-based programs, school-based programs, workplace wellness programs, insurance-sponsored programs!
Come on. The American people have seen The Biggest Loser, and they know that the only way that an obese person can lose weight is to go on a drastic crash diet and engage in non-stop low impact exercise… for the rest of their lives. They’re not going to fall for those “programs” that advocate sensible change like taking the stairs and switching to low-fat ice cream. (And lest you think I’m being cheeky, studies have found that after a person packs on extra weight, the only way to lose it is to trick the body into thinking it is starving. It’s the brutal truth about dieting that the “wellness programs” won’t tell you.)
Another brutal truth: No amount of “wellness programs” in the world can combat Applebees and IHOP. In a recent New York Times profile piece on the chains’ new CEO Julia Stewart, the astute businesswoman who gave the world cream-cheese stuffed French toast discusses “Healthy indulgence rebranding” and points out “what people say they want and what they eat are often different.” IHOP’s PR director says, “We can’t seem to make things sweet enough for people.” But rest assured, they’ll keep trying.