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The Myth of Food Deserts

This makes sense to me: [1]

It has become an article of faith among some policy makers and advocates, including Michelle Obama [2], that poor urban neighborhoods are food deserts, bereft of fresh fruits and vegetables.

But two new studies have found something unexpected. Such neighborhoods not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than more affluent ones, but more grocery stores, supermarkets and full-service restaurants, too. And there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity [3] among its children and adolescents.

Within a couple of miles of almost any urban neighborhood, “you can get basically any type of food,” said Roland Sturm of the RAND Corporation, lead author of one of the studies. “Maybe we should call it a food swamp rather than a desert,” he said.

Some experts say these new findings raise questions about the effectiveness of efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods. Despite campaigns to get Americans to exercise more and eat healthier foods, obesity rates have not budged over the past decade, according to recently released federal data.

I live in a part of the country where there is a lot of obesity. At our two local grocery stores, you can get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. You always could. And yet, there is a lot of obesity. I have always believed that the idea that people would eat healthier if you only provided them better options was a myth. Most people would rather eat apple pie than fresh apples. Most people would rather eat French fries than steamed broccoli. Most people would rather eat Doritos now than defer snacking  till dinner. Most people would rather eat a lot than reasonably-sized portions. This isn’t rocket science. We infantilize ourselves by acting as if when it comes to what we eat, we have little or no self-control. You have to work at learning to prefer broccoli to French fries, and learning how to say no, I’ve had enough, I don’t need any more. It’s called growing up and not eating like a kid, because it’s killing you.

Walking around Paris, my niece said, “How do these people eat such rich food and stay so thin?” It’s a good question, and an obvious one. The main answer is that if you eat one croissant for breakfast, it’s not going to kill you. If you eat three, you’re going to see the effect. If you eat small portions for lunch and dinner, you don’t have to eat steamed vegetables and be happy with it.

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94 Comments To "The Myth of Food Deserts"

#1 Comment By alcogito On April 18, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

Theodore Dalrymple, in the article mentioned by Ryan D above ( [4]), sums up our discussion:
” If food deserts truly exist—and they cannot in these times of easy transport be very extensive—the explanation lies in demand, not in supply. And demand is a cultural phenomenon.”

#2 Comment By Joseph On April 18, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

I think it would be helpful for this discussion about obesity to think really hard about Jonathan Haidt’s book the Righteous mind and this:

[5]
[6]

The discussion about obesity is not about health or health care. Instead its about Americans that think being fat is repulsive and who want to make the repulsive creatures (a.k.a fat people) go away. The rhetoric about health is a useful rationalization for arguing that fat people should be skinny. But of course peoples weight is almost entirely out of their control.

Thin people are thin primariy because of genetics and perhaps some environmental factors.Your body is wired to be at a certain weight and if you attempt to lose that weight your body is going to try to make you gain it back and with rare exceptions you will. Peoples weight is a fact about their physiology not an indictment on their moral character. So some people are “thin” and others are “fat” and it happens to be the case that in our culture a size 0 for women is considered pretty and size six is considered ugly.

It would be nice if the world fit a neat moral tale about right and wrong, where we can tell a story about how fat people are like that by their choice and poor self control and that to fix the problem they need to address their moral failing and oh btw we aren’t judging people on their looks we are doing it for their health.

I’d like to make a proposal to Rod, who subscribes to this moral tale about obesity. You mentioned that you consider yourself overweight. Why don’t you do the following: 1) start an exercise plan that gets your weight down to what you consider an acceptable level in the next year 2) keep a journal of your weight for the next 10 years. 3) in 10 years time, report back on your current weight. I bet you’ll weigh the same weight you are now.

#3 Comment By David J. White On April 18, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

I will second you that it’s pretty difficult to get decent food on road trips, unless you’ve done some research ahead of time. It’s nothing but fast-food crap from coast to coast. … Our three and a half day trip from Philly to Louisiana left me feeling pretty awful because it was hard to eat anything but fast food the whole way.

When I moved from Ohio to Philadephia in 1984, and started making regular trips via the PA turnpike to visit my parents, I remember that there were still some “regular” restaurants easily accessible from the turnpike. One of the turnpike rest stops actually had a Howard Johnson’s. I realize that HoJo’s isn’t the greatest place in the world, but I could get something like a grilled cheese sandwich, a salad, and a bowl of soup if I wanted. By the end of the 1980s, all the other restaurants on the turnpike had been replaced by chains (I think the HoJos was replaced by a Sbarro).

One of the consequences of the “chain”ing of the country is that regional differences, in food as in other things, are being homogenized away. As it becomes easier than ever to travel, there is less and less reason to. Why bother, when everyplace increasingly looks like everyplace else? Trying different regional foods used to be one of the main attractions of travel, even within the country.

#4 Comment By Mont D. Law On April 18, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

Just so every body is clear about how many Afro-Swedish people there are.

According to Eurostat, in 2010, there were 1.33 million foreign-born residents in Sweden, corresponding to 14.3% of the total population. Of these, 859 000 (9.2%) were born outside the EU and 477 000 (5.1%) were born in another EU Member State.[9][10] The largest groups were:

Finland Finland (172,218)
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Former Yugoslavia (152,268)
Iraq Iraq (117,919)
Iran Iran (59,922)
Poland Poland (49,518)
Germany Germany (47,803)
Denmark Denmark (46,002)
Norway Norway (43,819)
Turkey Turkey (40,766)
Somalia Somalia (31,734)

[11] The number of Assyrians in Sweden is about 100,000 – 120,000.[12][13] Christian Assyrians are in fact the majority of people from Iraq in Sweden.

The fastest growing groups of foreign-born residents in Sweden between 2000 and 2010 were the following nationalities:

Burundi Burundi (+3031%)
Palestinian territories Gaza Strip (+2542%)
Mongolia Mongolia (+2028%)
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan (+1439%)
Cameroon Cameroon (+1165%)
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan (+1115%)
Myanmar Myanmar (+1022%)
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (+1015%)
Lithuania Lithuania (+758%)
Central African Republic Central African Republic (+627%)

It should be noted that the predominant reason for the large percentage growth is that most of these nationalities were virtually non-existent in Sweden in the year 2000. For example, despite a growth of 627% the number of Swedish residents born in the Central African Republic only numbered 80 individuals.

So multiculturalism is not going to destroy the country anytime soon, unless it is those devious Finns or those incorrigible Yugoslavians.

Also, except in the fever swamp of the right wing imagination no reputable liberal anywhere approves of or accepts FGM. Not even these women, who I expect were trying to make a transgressive point about Swedish racism, much as the dutch guy was trying to do with the Muslim film that got him killed.

#5 Comment By Anglican On April 18, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

Of course, activist tend to be liars and so yep there claims tun out to be crap, no surprise here. How can you tell an activist is lying? Their lips are moving.

#6 Comment By JonF On April 18, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

Regarding road trips, to avoid a diet of burgers and tacos, I almost always do a full breakfast before setting out in the morning, and sometimes that will hold me through the day with only a snack in the afternoon.
For dinner I make sure that I include a salad, or some main entree that include lots of veggies (like some sort of Chinese food if I can find an Asian place that looks decent).

Though the simple fact of sitting in car for hours on end does no good for one’s calorie budget.

#7 Comment By John M. On April 18, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

Yep. Poor people are just defective in character and deserve to fat and poor!

Sorry, but I live in central Brooklyn and we DO have food deserts here. As the study says, “within a couple of miles of any urban neighborhood . . .” Well, that’s quite far when you don’t drive and mass transit, even where available, is not exactly conducive to carrying large amounts of groceries.

#8 Comment By Mitchell Young On April 18, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

” Another useful hint,***although it sounds gay***, keep some youplait lights. They’re 100 calories and kill hunger effectively.”

LOL. I just stick black coffee. Do get a little jittery between meals, however.

#9 Comment By Sean On April 18, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

Portion size is one of the main culprits, I believe. I can’t believe how big the appetizers are at your average Appleby’s. Also, I grew up being made to feel guilty about not cleaning my plate, even if I did not need or want any more food. One of my great “Aha!” moments was when someone patiently explained to me that the remainders of my dinner would either go to “waste” or to my “waist.” I suspect that if more people realized that it’s better to prepare less, or use extra for leftovers, than to stuff yourself because there’s food in front of you.

In 2008 I weighed over 220lbs (I’m 5’6″). I decided to reduce my portion sizes, and endeavored to make better eating decisions. (Which is to say, there were no “off-limits” foods, I just tried to make better decisions over time, and keep healthier things around the house.) When my money situation really got tight, I learned that one can easily get through the first round of hunger pangs, and light, healthy snacking keeps you relatively sated all day.

About a year and a half later, I was down to 165, and six months after that, I weighed 147. That’s a loss of about 70 lbs over two years, on a very sparse budget, and without ever giving myself hard-and-fast diet rules to “break.” I actually can’t eat as much as I used to–it’s like my stomach has shrunk to accommodate new eating habits.

Granted, I had a car the whole time, and lived in communities with excellent, inexpensive, local foods widely available. (Northern California hippie towns have the best fresh produce, plus bike lanes!)

#10 Comment By Sean On April 18, 2012 @ 7:55 pm

To finish that thought, I suspect that if more people realized that it’s better to prepare less, or use extra for leftovers, than to stuff yourself because there’s food in front of you… our national waistline would shrink.

#11 Comment By JonF On April 18, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

I find it rather easy to leave portions of a large restaurant meal for take-home (assuming that the food is something that reheats well– some things don’t). This handily solves the question of What To Take For Lunch To Work the next day.

#12 Comment By Sam M On April 18, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

Joseph:

“But of course peoples weight is almost entirely out of their control.”

The “of course” is a nice touch.

But while you are making proposals, allow me to counter. While Rod is working on his chores, you come to my house. I weigh you, then I lock you in a room with no food in it. I pass through water and a multivitamin every day for a month. At the end of the month, I will weigh you.

If you weigh more than you did when you began, I will give you $100 trillion dollars and basically uarantee you a Nobel prize for somehow managing to defy the laws of thermodynamics.

Then, every month for the next 20 years, we repeat the process with a randomly selected volunteer.

You will never collect your money.

You do control your weight. It’s harder for some people, sure. But you can lose it.

I challenge you to scan photos of people released from Russian prisoner of war camps for a couple years. See the fat guy? Me neither. There aren’t any.

#13 Comment By Erin Manning On April 18, 2012 @ 9:35 pm

alcogito, that quote is sort of dismissive of the idea that situations like I describe exist, yet I can say for certain that they do.

Now, perhaps you might say, “Oh, but people in your town who have limited transportation can surely still get vegetables. They may not be good or tasty or the freshest or most interesting vegetables, but they are vegetables, so if they are overweight it is their moral choice for choosing to buy a frozen dinner instead.” But that makes the assumption that it is somehow rational and logical to select fresh foods of indifferent quality which will take a bit of work to prepare at the end of a long workday instead of something that *looks* like real food, will taste good to many people, and requires five minutes in the microwave while you change the baby’s diaper and start a load of laundry.

Now, I agree that one can purchase frozen or even canned vegetables instead of that frozen dinner–but you have to be aware that the frozen veggies are still relatively healthy and you have to have some idea what to do with them.

People have scoffed at the idea that the poor can’t figure out how to cook cheap, simple meals–why, buy a cookbook, or better yet, look up recipes on the internet! But let’s face it: we have some young adults today whose mothers rarely cooked and whose grandmothers also rarely cooked–so for two generations quick heat-it-up stuff was the norm. True story: when I was expecting my first child I took a day off from work and spent it cooking and freezing some meals. When I told a co-worker about it, she was amazed, as if I’d done something hideously labor-intensive and creative–she begged for details. When I got to the part about poaching a whole chicken to use the stock and meat in other dishes she was floored. “You can cook a chicken in water on the stove?” She’d never heard of that.

This problem is not as simple as people think it is. You have to be able to buy the food (one of the grocery stores in my area used to have a problem with greenish spoiled meat in the meat dept.), you have to know what to do with it, and you have to have a little room in your budget for extra time while learning and some ruined ingredients (as all beginning cooks know). Tell someone who makes $8 an hour and works 28 hours a week at one job and 12 hours a week at the other that that’s all there is to it, and see what kind of reaction you get.

#14 Comment By Sam M On April 18, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

“This problem is not as simple as people think it is.”

Nor is it nearly s complex as you are making it.

“You have to be able to buy the food”

People are buying food. Nobody is starving. So that’s not the problem.

.”you have to know what to do with it”

Most food comes with instructions, other than fresh produce.

“and you have to have a little room in your budget for extra time while learning and some ruined ingredients (as all beginning cooks know).”

You are confusing expertly crafted food with edible food. You can be rail thin living on meals that cost vey little. I can give examples if needed. Can of tuna. A few pieces of lettuce. Dinner. It’s faster than a microwave meal. It’s cheaper than a microwave meal. The ingredients are available almost everywhere. No skills are needed. So all the hurdles you are pointing to do not exist with regard to that meal.

“Tell someone who makes $8 an hour and works 28 hours a week at one job and 12 hours a week at the other that that’s all there is to it, and see what kind of reaction you get.”

I just don’t get this. Where did this meme come from, that people who work long hours are fatter than other people, or that long hours force people to be fat? Where is the evidence? Even anecdotal?

But let’s grant all of your points. People are fat because they work long hours and don’t have time to cook healthy meals, or to learn to do so.

How does that make people fat? If you live on Lean Cuisine and Banquet fried chicken, you will not be fat unless you eat a LOT of these things. Maybe you live on Kraft mac and cheese and Hot Pockets. You can do that and have rock hard abs, as long as you don’t eat much of it. Maybe you are so broke and pressed for time that all you can afford is Twinkies dipped in lard. Go ahead. You can lose weight on that.

#15 Comment By Geoff G. On April 18, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

Hey, Erin, that’s a good idea about poaching the chicken. I’ve never heard of that. I’ll have to check that one out next time I’m home.

#16 Comment By Peter On April 18, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

A fast food joint that sold decent sandwiches and other healthy options is a great idea, Rod. We could call it, Panera! People will love it 🙂

Seriously, I drive on occasion from South Bend to Washington DC, and there are Paneras at the rest stops on the toll road. It’s awesome! They even post the calories on their menu.

Driving has potentially become a lot healthier with GPS’s and smart phones. Now you can look up where the next Whole Foods or other healthy restaurants are along your route.

As far as the overall discussion goes, I gotta agree with Sam M. “People are fat because they like stuff that’s bad for them and they eat a lot of it.” And we hate exercising.

#17 Comment By Erin Manning On April 19, 2012 @ 1:32 am

You know what, Sam? I spent six of the last eight weeks eating a very calorie reduced diet (it was Lent, you know). I lost ZERO pounds during those six weeks.

Now, two weeks after Easter, while I’m not really watching what I’m eating at all, I’ve lost two pounds so far. (Yay!)

But you’re right. I’m sure I was just eating too darned much during the weeks when breakfast was half a bagel, lunch didn’t exist, and dinner was a single helping of whatever, and now that I’m enjoying the Easter season I’m really starving myself without noticing it. Thermodynamics, baby, that’s all it ever is.

#18 Comment By JonF On April 19, 2012 @ 6:22 am

Re: Where did this meme come from, that people who work long hours are fatter than other people, or that long hours force people to be fat?

Well, long hours do preclude using that time for exercize (my own big beef with my job schedule). But I can’t see where it precludes taking a half hour or so to make dinner rather than running through the drive-thru at McD’s.

#19 Comment By Polichinello On April 19, 2012 @ 8:42 am

Portion size is one of the main culprits, I believe. I can’t believe how big the appetizers are at your average Appleby’s.

I feel compelled to defend both Appleby’s and Chili’s a bit here. They both offer a number of good low-calorie dishes that priced at or below the cost of most of their other (very fattening) selections.

#20 Comment By Polichinello On April 19, 2012 @ 8:46 am

You know what, Sam? I spent six of the last eight weeks eating a very calorie reduced diet (it was Lent, you know). I lost ZERO pounds during those six weeks.

Erin,

Did you count out your calories? Did you also cut back on your activity? I’m sorry, but six weeks of reduced caloric intake (assuming it went below the average intake for your sex and height) should result in some weight loss. I understand different people have different metabolisms, but NO weight loss over six weeks reduced food intake? Something isn’t jiving here.

If you do drastically reduce your intake, though, your metabolism can slow down and decrease the rate of weight loss. Of course, it won’t zero it out.

#21 Comment By Polichinello On April 19, 2012 @ 8:50 am

I realize that HoJo’s isn’t the greatest place in the world, but I could get something like a grilled cheese sandwich, a salad, and a bowl of soup if I wanted. By the end of the 1980s, all the other restaurants on the turnpike had been replaced by chains (I think the HoJos was replaced by a Sbarro).

There are still plenty of Chili’s, Appleby’s, Ihops and Denny’s. They’re not prime dining, but they offer a menu selection equivalent to most diners, and they’re not much more expensive than stopping at Burger joint.

#22 Comment By theOtherWill On April 19, 2012 @ 9:50 am

A couple of observations:

I know several Whole Foods/Park Slope Food Coop/Organic locally-sourced yuppie families with tubby children.

We ate “junk” in the 1970s as well – Pop Tarts, Captain Crunch, Tang, roast beef, McDonalds — and most people were slim. Just look at photos from that era. Statistics show the national waistline started to grow around 1980.

The decline in smoking may be a factor, but that doesn’t account for kid’s weight. Genetics are obviously the same. This seems to leave portion size and exercise as the key factors. Coca-Cola went from 7oz to 12oz to 20oz bottles. McDonalds went from the hamburger to the quarter-pounder to the double-quarter-pounder. Kids went from walking 0.7 miles to school to being driven (because walking wasn’t “safe”). Obviously, walkable neighborhoods and sidewalks are an issue, but even in neighborhoods where kids used to walk, they are now driven due to the perceived risk of “abduction”.

It takes constant effort and time to resist all this.

#23 Comment By Joseph On April 19, 2012 @ 10:08 am

Sam M.,

I am unclear how kidnapping me, locking me in a prison for a month, and then force feeding me a low calorie diet “proves” that people can control their weight. All you have proven is that if you significantly reduces someones caloric intake for an extended period of time, then they will TEMPORARILY lose weight.

I agree with you that I would lose weight for however long I am in prison. But you neglected to mention what happens when I get out of jail. I predict that every single person that you imprison for a month will gain back all the weight that they had before.

The key here isn’t losing weight. Anyone can do that. The key is keeping the weight off once you have lost it. That’s almost impossible for anyone to do. Unless of course you want to keep me in prison forever and control my caloric intake forever. In that case, I agree that I wouldn’t gain the weight back. On the other hand, nothing about the scenario seems to have anything to say about MY agency.

To bring this back to the real world, you have basically described an extreme version of a low calorie diet which are notoriously unsuccessful.

Aside from moral hectoring fat people for their poor self-control and observing the trite point that if you reduce your caloric intake you’ll lose weight, do you actually have a diet/exercise plan that people could follow, lose weight, and then permanently keep the weight off for the rest of their life? If you do, then you should open a business for that because you’d become a millionaire since NO ONE on the planet has managed to come up with such a plan.

Now the reason could be that “fat” people are so morally contemptible and uncontrollable that nothing you do will help them and that none of them really care about becoming “thin”, but that starts to make your position look tautological. It seems you’d then have to argue that people are fat because they are morally deficient and the reason most fat people can’t lose weight permanently is proof of their moral deficiency.

#24 Comment By David J. White On April 19, 2012 @ 10:14 am

There are still plenty of Chili’s, Appleby’s, Ihops and Denny’s.

Not on the PA Turnpike, last time I checked. All of the choices at the state-run rest stops are fast food chains. Looking for something else requires getting off the turnpike, paying the toll, driving some distance, driving back to the turnpike, going through the toll booth again, etc. Most people are going to save themselves the trouble and just eat what’s available at the rest stop.

#25 Comment By Polichinello On April 19, 2012 @ 11:10 am

Not on the PA Turnpike, last time I checked. All of the choices at the state-run rest stops are fast food chains.

Well, then you’re f***ed, I suppose.

#26 Comment By Sam M On April 19, 2012 @ 11:14 am

“The key here isn’t losing weight. Anyone can do that. The key is keeping the weight off once you have lost it. That’s almost impossible for anyone to do.”

No. It’s not impossible for people to do. It’s quite simple, really. People just choose not to do it. Which is fine. I do not find this morally reprehensible, or even a poor choice, necesarilly.

What I find problematic is the loose use of language and the terrible message this sends.

Here is my plan, and you tell me if it will make me a millionaire. Becasue I GUARANTEE it works for 100 percent of people who try it:

Once you lose the weight you want to lose… only eat enough calories every day to maintain your weight. If your weight falls, eat more. If your weight goes up, eat less.

Now. Do people choose to do this? No. Why? I dunno. Maybe they value the taste of certain foods, or enjoying them in certain quantities, morew than they enjoy being thin. In that case… eat them! Nobody cares. Just don’t say ridiculous things like it’s “impossible.”

iwould say that the percentage of people I know who lost weight and kept it off is about the same as the prercentage of people I know who bought a language program on tape and actually learned the language. It’s a pretty low percentage.

But this does NOT mean that learning a language on tape is “impossible.” It’s quite possible, in fact. Is it easier for some people than for others? Sure. But work hard enough, make the required sacrifices, and it works.

If it’s not worth the work, don’t do the work. Enjoy spending your time in other ways.

#27 Comment By Polichinello On April 19, 2012 @ 11:17 am

Aside from moral hectoring fat people for their poor self-control and observing the trite point that if you reduce your caloric intake you’ll lose weight, do you actually have a diet/exercise plan that people could follow, lose weight, and then permanently keep the weight off for the rest of their life?

You can easily find out what your recommended calorie intake is at webpages like this one:
[7]

There are also apps you can download if you have a smartphone. You can look up caloric values for just about any food and get an approximate (if not exact) number. Set a moderate weight loss goal. Usually, you can just cut out 100 calories/day below average and not really feel any pain. Once you hit your target weight, you can level up again. Also, you get credit for all sorts exercise, like walking, softball or even fishing.

It’s not magic, it’s not expensive, and it’s right there. The only catch is that it will take some time. One of the posters above talked about it taking two years to get to his weight. I’ve used up about five months to lose 20 lbs. It’s taken a while, but it hasn’t been all that painful, and anyone can do it.

#28 Comment By Jeanne Morris On April 19, 2012 @ 11:43 am

I live in a part of the country where there is a lot of obesity. At our two local grocery stores, you can get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. You always could. And yet, there is a lot of obesity.

Uh-oh, I better suspend deliveries! 😉

#29 Comment By Mary Russell On April 19, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

“Well, then, you’re f***ed, I suppose.”

Polichinello, I just want to say how deeply appreciative of you (and Sam M) I am on this thread.

#30 Comment By stef On April 19, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

theOtherWill: Genetics [between 1980 and today] are obviously the same.

Really? The idea of punctuated equilibrium ( [8]) was originally conceived of to explain speciation, but I think it can explain variation within a species, too.

How else can the table to which Polichinello linked be explained?

Sam M, I think you’re forgetting that there *may* be some genetic types which lose weight more readily than others *in a normal ad libitum eating situation* (not “prison”), and you may just happen to be one of them.

#31 Comment By Erin Manning On April 19, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

Polichinello, what isn’t “jiving” is that I’m a woman in my early forties on the edge of pre-menopause, and that metabolic slow-down in that group is not a myth.

For instance, I used to be able to lose weight on about 1,200 calories a day with 30 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise (stationary bike, mainly, but walking etc. mixed in) daily for at least 5-6 days a week.

That doesn’t work anymore. I might find my “weight loss” point at 1,000 calories, or 800, or 600, but frankly given my strong temptations to adopt anorexic habits I’m scared to go that low.

Of course, I’m a little below 5’2″ in height and have a tiny frame, which is why I can’t eat a “normal” amount of calories and lose weight. So although my Lenten daily calorie intake was pretty close to that 1200 number nothing was going to happen. It wasn’t enough.

#32 Comment By Erin Manning On April 19, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

So I guess Sam M. would say that my problem is that my fear of anorexia is stopping me from doing what must be done if I want to lose these 20 pounds.

#33 Comment By Sam M On April 19, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

Erin,

No. I would say that your problem, if you want to call it one, is that you are consuming calories in excess of the calories you are burning.

Stef,

“Sam M, I think you’re forgetting that there *may* be some genetic types which lose weight more readily than others *in a normal ad libitum eating situation* (not “prison”), and you may just happen to be one of them.”

No. I have not forgotten this at all. I have said over and over that this is harder for some people than it is for others. I suippose that if we have a world economic collapse and there is a dire shortage of food, folks who have very slow metabolism will be considered the lucky ones. But until then, in this culture, people who have fast metabolisms are considered lucky.

Some people are lucky. What can I say? I just don’t know how you get from there to “diets don’t work” or ‘it’s impossible to lose weight.”

I never said that a Twinkie is enough fuel to power every person in the world up the side of a mountain the exact same distance.

#34 Comment By Polichinello On April 19, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

Erin,

I understand we all have different motor efficiencies, but the laws of thermodynamics still hold true. E(in) = E(out). If you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight, unless somehow the laws of physics have somehow been suspended.

Also, my wife is in her mid-40s and pre-menopausal. She can still lose weight when she restricts calories.

Look, find out your recommended daily net intake and cut it by 100 calories. This is easy. You won’t be starving. Hell, you can get those calories from McDonald’s, if you want. Give it a couple of months. If that’s not working, you should go see a doctor, because we’re talking something is going wrong with you.

#35 Comment By Polichinello On April 19, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

Really? The idea of punctuated equilibrium ( [8]) was originally conceived of to explain speciation, but I think it can explain variation within a species, too.

stef,

Punctuated equilibrium looks sudden only because it takes place in “geological time”, where we’re talking about billions of years.

Hey, I’m as open to genetic explanations for variances as the next racist honky, but I don’t think there was any sudden genetic change. We’re talking a cultural issue here.

#36 Comment By Mary Russell On April 19, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

“Metabolic slow down is not a myth.”

Erin, there are a few things you can do to increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

1. Eat breakfast. (I assume you’re doing that already.)

2. Lift weights. Your time exercising would be much better spent with some resistance training at least 2-3 times per week. People (especially women people) tend to lose muscle mass over time, esp if they’ve yo-yo dieted over the years. Since BMR is directly related to muscle mass you can increase your daily caloric expenditure by increasing muscle weight. Of course, you may not lose that much weight but you’ll lose fat and be healthier-which I assume is your goal.

3. Do high intensity cardio intervals for 20 minutes on days that you lift. This does much better at revving metabolism throughout the day than steady state cardio.

#37 Comment By JonF On April 19, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

David White has a point about turnpikes: the service centers do not offer a lot of choices. If possible avoid long road trips that are spent on toll roads– they are also getting outragoeusly expensive.

#38 Comment By sjay On April 19, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

I do know that when I was young and underemployed, and carless, a quarter of a century ago, it was a lot harder to buy good, fresh food. The choices were the 7-11 three blocks away with almost zero fresh food, the small grocery eight blocks away with an acceptable but limited selection, or the supermarket over a mile away and practically accessible for me only by waiting an average of 20 minutes for a bus each way. This was an urban neighborhood near a major university. Restaurants, though not unknown, were not an option for me at my then income level. Needless to say, I’m suspicious of the “food swamp” as a reality.

#39 Comment By Sam M On April 20, 2012 @ 4:39 am

From the website of the Pennsylvania Turnpike:

“Many locations have gift shops and picnic areas. In addition, there are seasonal outdoor Farmers Markets located at the New Stanton, Sideling Hill and Allentown Service Plazas. From early spring to late fall, Turnpike travelers enjoy shopping at these markets which carry Pennsylvania farm products.”

If you pack a lunch, you can sidle up and use one of rhteir tables. On other days, in certain places, there are farmers markets.

What else can they do?

#40 Comment By JonF On April 20, 2012 @ 6:17 am

Often neighborhoods are considered to have “groceries” available if there’s any sort of food of any kind available. Recently they published a “food access” map of Baltimore in The Sun. Since the Safeway behind my house closed in early 2010 the nearest real grocery store is c. 3 miles away. Nevertheless we are not rated a “food desert” because there’s a Family Dollar with milk and eggs and some canned goods (and lots of junk food) in the neighborhood, and a dilapidated “market” best known for drugs being sold in the alley behind it.

#41 Comment By Gene Callahan On April 20, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

“the supermarket over a mile away and practically accessible for me only by waiting an average of 20 minutes for a bus each way.”

So you were young, but couldn’t walk a mile and 1/4 to the supermarket? (Which would have taken only the 20 minutes you were waiting!)

#42 Comment By Sam M On April 21, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

“Since the Safeway behind my house closed in early 2010 the nearest real grocery store is c. 3 miles away.”

Wait. Are you talking about the Safeway in Mount Clare? You call that a FOOD DESERT? You are about one mile from Lexington Market, which is a national destination for fresh and prepared foods. A lot of people would LOVE to live within a walkable mile of that place.

I presume that the 3-mile grocery store you are talking about is the one on Boston Street in Canton? For those of you not familiar with it, that three mile stretch takes you straight through the heart of Baltimore, from downtown and the Inner harbor, through Little Italy and Fell’s Point and Canton.

And that’s a food desert?

Wow!

#43 Comment By sjay On April 22, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

Actually, a two mile round trip walking is not a realistic solution to grocery problems. If you’re walking, then you have to be able to bring back enough so as to make the expenditure of time and energy worth it as few can afford to spend a hour or more a day food shopping.

#44 Comment By sjay On April 22, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

Actually, according to Google maps, it was 1.6 miles away and a 34 minute walk.