Monday, August 9, 2010

Class War in Obesity

Southwest Porch, Bryant Park
On Friday after work I met a friend at the Southwest Porch of Bryant Park - a great place to feel like you are on a neighbor's recently refurbished patio to munch on snacks or have a drink. I met a father and son from Denmark as we were sitting at the same communal table. Although my Irish side is quite dominant, percentage wise I am actually more Danish than Irish (a Czech [Bohemia] paternal Great Grandmother tipped the blood-line percentage in favor of my maternal Scandinavian heritage). So, being their first visit to NYC I was fascinated by their reaction and I of course gave them my suggestions to get the real flavor of the city. I then asked about Denmark and the people. And of course I asked about obesity issues - they were both tall and thin. They bought me a beer as my friend showed up so wanting to avoid an international incident, I obliged. Not to worry the entire weekend was liquor-free and quite healthy (if you remember, it's the weekends that give me the toughest boxing match with moderation).

They mentioned that in their travels of the United States they have seen much heavier people outside of NYC - I tend to notice the epidemic in the city as well.  And as a side note - my cousin is staying with me this week, the one who works for Devo, and they just finished a concert tour. He said the people he saw in middle America (mentioning the Rochester, NY area specifically) were almost to a person quite obese. Very sad. I digress.

So, the Danes answered my question about obesity in Denmark thusly: "The upper class, the educated, are fit, only the lower class and uneducated are obese in Denmark."  Although lacking tact, he was speaking the truth and I think that goes to many things here in the States too, mainly: fast food is deathly cheap. I only insulted them once - I never realized Carlsburg is a Danish beer. I never gave it much thought, but if pressed I would have said German or even the Netherlands. I could tell the old man was hurt, he told me so. Sorry! I was also curious about that extremely fattening piece of pastry some people eat in the morning, and asked them, "What do Danes call a danish?" "Vienna bread." Whoa! Who knew? I was about to launch into a line from the film Caddyshack, as often men my age do - typically on the golf course, but thought better of it. There was also the chance of offending them again ( more likely confusing them - along with you the reader) with the inane line from Chevy Chase pondering, "A flute without any holes isn't a flute. A donut without a hole is a danish."

The rest of the weekend will get its blogging due soon - Turks, Cigars, the Park, Yankee game, etc.


Vegan Epicurean said...

Interesting observation on obesity outside the city. I have noticed that more rural areas seem to be larger, and more so in the south.

I find that the vast majority of Americans have little knowledge about nutrition. I still think that plays a very large role in the epidemic. We have no local friends that are vegan. They tend to look at us like we are the crazy ones which I am used to now. I have found that most people really don't want any honest information about their bad habits. I suppose by ignoring the truth it is easier to continue to kill themselves slowly with food. It is all very sad I think.

BTW, most men love Caddy Shack and most women don't get it. ;-)

Good thought provoking post.


Terrence said...

agreed, education is key. Also, look where all the food is being served in rural areas - fast, unhealthy, overly-processed, cheap food.

Naina said...

I couldn't agree more, education is vital when it comes to changes in ones food choices.

Certainly education in nutrition and how it effects overall health, have been the only reason I have altered my diet.

I can totally understand wanting to buy the chili dog special! :)
If I were ignorant to it's effects on my health, it would seem crazy to spend so much money on food.

However, even knowing it is not good for me, I made pancakes for breakfast! What!?! I know. =)

Anonymous said...

WHAT? You are picking on Rochester NY, where I live? Well, most of my friends are people I met either in the hiking club or in yoga class, so I hang out with slim fit people. I guess the population as a whole around here is not all that fit. I know about a dozen vegetarians but only one other vegan.

But when we go down to northern Georgia, where we have relatives, I am stuck with the large number of obese people I see walking around. It seems to be much worse there.


Terrence said...

Naina - there were plenty of chili dogs at the Yankee game last night. Thinking of writing a letter, the food choices (besides being obnoxiously over-priced) were abysmal.

Terrence said...


So sorry to offend the great city of Rochester, NY! Home to Eastman Kodak, and birthplace of Western Union and Ragu spaghetti sauce. I am sure he was referring to the areas in Western New York more so than Rochester proper. However, where the Danes did not see an obesity problem in NYC, I bump into it every day (maybe because I am in Times Square loaded with tourists). Where you see a parade of obese people in Northern Georgia I bet there are scores of fit, healthy-eating people in that region who would aggressively disagree.