Shake Days

Food/diet purists had a twit that First Lady Michelle Obama, a champion for exercise and healthy eating, enjoyed a burger and milk shake (estimated at 1700 calories) last week at a popular burger joint in Washington, D.C. What they over-looked is that she gets up every day at 4:30 am to hit the weights and treadmill, and most days of the week she doesn't drink milk shakes. She's probably the fittest First Lady in history. She frequently wears sleeveless dresses; look at her well-defined arms. Shake days are rare.

We all have our equivalent of Michelle's "shake" days, when we consume cookies, cupcakes, beer, chips, donuts, pretzels, bagels, bread, milk shakes, pizza -- name the sweet, high carb food your brain craves. There's nothing wrong with a shake day now and then, even once a week, but our national problem is that, for many of us, shake day is everyday.

Our economy may not be growing, but our appetites are are, along with the fat riddling many parts of our bodies. A study from U. of North Carolina said that between the late 1970's and and mid-2000's, the average American adult increased caloric intake increased from 3 meals per day to the equivalent of 4.9 meals per day. Of course, we aren't doing this by sitting down for 1.9 extra meals on top of the 3 square meals we ate in the good old days. We're doing it by eating larger portions and snacking.

In the community health center where I work, we formed a Wellness Club. To become more aware of what we eat, many of us keep a food journal. In an inexpensive notebook, we write down what we eat at every meal, and for snacks. Everything we put in our mouths and swallow.

Right now we don't try to calculate volume and calories, though that would be useful. But even lacking these details, the food journal itself is revealing. Over time, each of us will discover a unique, day-in, day-out eating pattern, hopefully aligned with our health and fitness goals, though sometimes not at all. I can see already that I snack too much on high calorie nuts and chocolate. At least these foods have some  nutrient value -- nuts, especially, are calorie dense and nutrient dense.

The hard to swallow fact is that the snack foods most Americans eat too often are calorie rich, but nutritionally poor. Note that the U. of North Carolina also did an interesting experiment with rats. They fed one group of rats the typical snack foods that you can buy at the super market, and fed lard to the other group. The lard group actually stayed pretty healthy. However, the snack food rats got fat and developed metabolic syndrome and prediabetes.

Give Michelle Obama a break. A shake day here and there is no problem. What needs to be eliminated are the junk snack foods full of salt, sugar and fat.

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