We’re finally settled into our new home in Franklin, Tennessee. My office is now on the ground floor of the house, in what was designed as a bedroom. Franklin is a charming town, and we already love it here. I plan to write more about that topic on my other blog later this week.
During the move, I made some mental notes on diet, exercise and obesity based on observations and two articles I read online – both of which were brought to my attention by readers. So, in no particular order:
Exercising doesn’t make you thinner.
Okay, as Josef Brandenburg pointed out, the right kind of exercise can certainly help by influencing your insulin levels. But the theory that you can burn off your body fat simply by expending calories just isn’t true. The guys on the moving crew spent eight hours carrying heavy boxes and furniture out of the house and into a moving van – 12,500 pounds, according to the truck scales. And we were their second pickup of the trip. In Tennessee, they did it all again in reverse, including countless trips up the stairs. These guys were strong as gorillas and worked hard. They do this all the time. But a couple of them were also significantly overweight.
Keep in mind, I believe exercising is great for your health and sense of well-being. I enjoy my long walks, even though I know they’re pretty much useless for losing weight.
Diet (the right diet, that is) does make you thinner.
By the end of the trip, my clothes were a little looser, even though my only exercise was driving and rolling a couple of suitcases into our hotel room each night. But I skipped the carbs almost entirely.
Road food is 90 percent carbohydrates.
Every time we stopped at a gas station/mini-mart to fill up the tank and buy some snacks, I was appalled at the food offerings. Nearly everything on the shelves was some kind of sugar or starch concoction, often with Frankenstein oils mixed in for good measure: corn chips, potato chips, candies, ice cream bars, sodas, pastries and pizza by the slice. We ended up buying a lot of nuts for the girls.
Sugar makes you cranky.
We also let the girls splurge a few times and buy ice cream or cookies. Bad move. They were good travelers most of the time, but when they had a meltdown, it was always after eating sugar.
Obesity is regional.
One of the articles someone sent me was a Time magazine piece, Why Are Southerners So Fat? I definitely saw a disproportionate number of huge bodies as we made stops in the south. If you’ve seen Fat Head, you’ll recall that in the first scene, I said it took me several hours of shooting in three different locations to find all those big bodies walking by, and that if obesity was such an epidemic, it should’ve taken me ten minutes.
In southern Arkansas, it would’ve taken me five minutes. We took a side trip there to a state facility where you can prospect for diamonds – a fun little outing for the girls. At the same facility, there was a water park where the girls went swimming and splashing and sliding. Sitting near the pool, I tried to spot some adults with well-toned bodies. (This was purely for research purposes, you understand.) I didn’t see any – seriously, not one. The teenage lifeguards were in good shape, and that’s it. A depressing number of kids were already fat.
So why are southerners fat? If you read the Time piece, you’ll notice the author chalks it up to a lack of exercise – you know, not enough walking to the bus stop, too many hot days when it’s no fun to play outside and all that.
That’s nonsense. And if you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll believe Time magazine – because in a different article titled Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin, they actually get it right. The author notes that exercise makes him hungrier and even quotes Gary Taubes.
It’s about the food, period. The earlier Time article mentioned that Tennessee has a high rate of obesity. That may be true for the state overall, but during the week we’ve spent in Franklin, I’ve hardly seen any rotund people at all. If not for the modern cars, you’d think you’d stepped into the 1950s.
So what’s different here? As Gary Taubes pointed out in Good Calories, Bad Calories, obesity and poverty often go together. Carb-heavy foods are generally the cheapest, so poorer people eat more carbs.
But this is a prosperous area. We’ve had a few of our new neighbors stop by to offer advice on the local attractions … southern hospitality and all that. When they got around to recommending restaurants (usually after I confirmed that I will indeed be rooting for the Titans), they all asked the same question: “Do you like a good steak?”
Yes, I like a good steak. I also like a good town, and I’m glad to be living in one.
I’ve still got plenty of unpacking ahead of me, but the office is pretty much set up, so I’ll be resuming the twice-weekly posts.