I’m currently spending a few weeks at my place in Arizona to extend the summer cycling season before the snow flies in the Great White North of Canada. I’m always taken aback when I arrive at the Sun Harbor Airport in Phoenix by how much larger everyone is compared to Canadians, (although my fellow countrymen and women aren’t that much leaner). Being an avid Health Advocate, I’m always aware of just about everything concerning individual health, our healthcare systems, our food supply, or the pharmaceutical industry. And there never seems to be a shortage of material to write about, which brings me to week’s post.
After my first 110km ride along the beautiful rolling desert hi-way of the Apache Trail, I was cooling down in front of the TV surfing the channels for something interesting to watch and I came across a show called, “Man vs. Food. With catchy title like that, I just had to take a look. The 30 minute episodes found on the Travel Channel star Adam Richman who claims to have worked every job in the restaurant business. He also earned a master’s degree in Fine Arts from Yale University’s School of Drama, so he’s quite comfortable in front of a camera and has a flair for the melodramatic. We follow Adam as he travels across America searching for what he describes as “the best American ‘pig-out’ joints”, or as I categorize them, “the unhealthiest eating establishments in American”. From a health perspective, Adam is hardly the picture of health and judging from his appearance I would estimate his BMI is somewhere north of 30; meaning he’s one of the 83 million American adults that are OBESE, and contributing to our out-of-control healthcare costs.
Obviously, the show is intended to be a light hearted look at Adam’s incredible ability to hold down enormous quantities of food, while featuring the many unique eating establishments that serve specialty dishes that fall under one of the following three headings,
- Meals of gigantic proportions,
- Meals that are smoking "spicy" hot, or
I know I’m going to sound like a “Kill-Joy” here, but most of the people featured on the show, including its host, are representative of the unhealth condition of Americans. Unfortunately, there are so many “super fatties” in America now, glorifying the “Manly-Man” image that Adam portrays as he devours a meal that requires nothing short of an unnatural act to consume has become acceptable entertainment. I find this type of programming to be in bad taste (pardon the pun), especially when millions of Americans are struggling or dying needlessly from diseases like Heart Disease, Type 2 diabetes, joint deterioration, cancer, or a whole host of other degenerative diseases resulting from eating these incredibly excessive portions.
America’s health situation is no laughing matter. The result of the poor eating habits and lack of exercise has significantly impacted the cost and effectiveness of its healthcare system. Its health costs are over double per citizen to the nearest country of the other developed nations, and according to the World Health Organization the USA ranks 37th in terms of quality and efficiency, right behind Costa Rica and just in front of Slovenia and Cuba. When health care costs are at epidemic proportions, a TV show like Man vs. Food is not helping the cause, as it only further confuses the general public to what healthy portions should be. Studies have shown that the majority of Americans no longer know what a normal protion should be, and most don’t even care.
To witness the physical and emotional turmoil caused by this kind of reckless eating behavior, one only has to tune into another popular TV show. The “Biggest Loser” features the struggle their contestants face as a result of years (or decades) of self abuse from the eating habits featured on Man vs. Food. For example, the two episodes of Man vs. Food I tuned into saw Adam devour a 72oz steak at a place called the Big Texan (go figure) and in another episode a 3.5 lb Burger called the Atomic Bomb. If you tune in, watch it carefully, as this represents everything a person should NOT do to enjoy good health. In fact Adam himself has gained more than 40lbs since starting this show. Talk about hazardous working conditions.
I’d suggest the Travel Channel pull this show off the air and replace it with one that features a healthy host (or hostess) who is seeking eating establishments across America that serves healthy and delicious cuisine. I'm probably dreaming. A news anchor once told me, "if it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead". So doing a show that lacks the sensationalism of Man vs. Food's pig out meals probably wouldn't hold the attention of the public. Celebrity Chef, Jamie Oliver has already started his one man crusade by educating Americans how to eat and prepare healthy meals, in some of the poorest regions of the country. It seems to me that Travel Channel is motivated entirely by ratings, revenues and profit, with little concern about the part they play in the health crisis in America.
The majority of unhealthy citizens are under the impression that lifestyle choices impacting their health (as long as they don’t directly harm others, like Second Hand Smoke) are pretty much their business…and no one else’s. They will go further by saying there’s no place for “Health Advocates” like myself to be judgmental regarding their freedom of choice. Nothing could be more incorrect. As long as we collectively pay for our healthcare systems, every person is responsibility how they impact the costs of this necessary service through their lifestyle choices. Abusing one's health, is disrespectful to those who make health a priority.
I’m sure many, if not all of you have learned about, or in some cases witnessed a family member, or friend that has become ill, or passed away as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Become a health ambassador by first setting a positive example for others to follow, and then encourage the people closest to you to increase the quality of their lives by supporting their positive lifestyle choices and pointing out the harmful habits. Even if it means to comment on the reckless eating behavior similar to what is portrayed on Man vs. Food. Make a difference to someone you care about.
Enjoy the Ride…..Rob