Why Southerners Are Fat

Why are Southerners so fat?

I came across this article on Time.com today and thought I would share with all of you. The article covers a topic I’ve pondered once or twice, typically coincident with the Stafford family reunions in Mississippi. If you came to the Stafford family reunion, you might understand why the topic crossed my mind.

The Stafford family, while not uniformly obese, has quite a few specimens that tip the scale somewhere between 250 and 350 pounds. I have aunts and uncles that come in all shapes and sizes, as long as those shapes and sizes include squat and round. I have one cousin that had a heart attack and bypass surgery at 35 and one cousin that I thought was a garden shed when we were first introduced.

The other thing you notice when you’re in Mississippi for the family reunion is the fact that people in the deepest parts of the South will literally flour and fry anything. Fish, chicken, shrimp, tomatoes, okra, pickles…you name it. If you can eat it, chances are someone in Mississippi has tried it fried. I’m convinced people down there would fry the sweet tea if they could only figure out how. The state is awash in grease.

And there’s only one serving size for all that fried food. It’s called “all-you-can-eat”. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single restaurant I entered in Mississippi was a buffet. I cannot think of a single restaurant we patronized that was not a buffet. Not one. I once tried to count the number of buffet restaurants that we passed as we drove. You may as well try to count the grains of sand on a beach. It cannot be done.

But the reason I think Southerners are fat goes beyond both of those items. The reason I think Southerners are fat is the same reason I think my father is fat. It’s not that he’s lazy and doesn’t exercise. The man ran 1000 miles in his 40th year. He’s walked many times that distance since, much of it with bad hips and knees. At 75, he still tries to exercise with barbells.

The reason I think my father is fat, (or was for most of his life) is because he has a love affair with the food experience. For him, the food experience goes beyond just food. It is an infinitely social thing, a finding of joy in the breaking of bread with his family and friends.

The food experience for him is finding joy in an abundance that he did not know as a poor kid growing up in the poor South. It is a recreation of Granny Holloway’s Sunday dinner, the maybe once-a-week meal in which he found plenty as a child, the one meal a week from which he did not walk away wanting more. It is a purely emotional response to food, a happiness found in satiety.

The food experience is something Dad always wanted to share, too. As a friend of mine growing up, you could not come to my house without being offered a meal of some sort. “You boys want sammich?” still rings in my mind as the question most often asked of me and my buddies. My father has Parkinson’s and cannot drive but will still, to this day, ask us if we want him to get us a chicken biscuit from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. In his retirement, his favorite way to pass the time is to enjoy a meal with one of his good buddies. The food experience is in his bones.

Couple that with the larger sense of Southern hospitality, a tradition that almost always involves sharing food with family, friends and neighbors, and I think you go a long way towards explaining the prevalence of obesity in the South. Southerners love food and they love the food experience. They love socializing over a meal and love the feeling of plenty when times are often lean. This keeps them coming back to the trough again and again and again, whatever the consequences to their appearance and their health.

Friday Minutia

Not much to talk about this evening. I just got in from the day. Work, gym, grocery store, home…pretty uneventful day.

I did get up to 1750 meters at the pool this evening, so that’s good news. That’s 35 laps for anyone that’s keeping count of such things. I hope to do 2000 tomorrow. I probably could’ve done it tonight but I was the only person left in the pool and my calves were threatening to cramp up during my only attempt at the butterfly thus far.

According to my scale, I’ve also converted about one-and-a-half pounds of fat into muscle. It’s not much, but it’s enough to keep at least one fitness metric moving in the right direction, and it’s enough to keep me motivated. Repeat that three more times and I will have met one of my goals.

I continue to find it difficult to consume enough protein to satisfy my nutrional log over at Gyminee.com. I am making a conscious effort every day to do so but, every time I manage to score enough protein, I bust the goal for carbs and fat. It’s maddening. I’ve upped my consumption of dairy to include 16 to 24 ounces of skim milk every day. I added two fried eggs to my breakfast routine. I’m even starting to add high protein smoothies from the gym. Still falling short.

Hell, I’m having a hard time consuming enough calories. The stupid tracker yells at me if I fall short of my calorie goals and I’m eating far more food per day than I have in years. Stoopid tracker. It gave me a “C” for nutrition this week. What does it know?

That’s pretty much it, folks. It’s a dull life, I know, but it’s all I have.  Thanks for stopping by and happy Friday the 13th!

Feeding the Hungry Beast, Part II

Gyminee. Not just for crickets.
Gyminee. Not just for crickets.

I started a new exercise routine a few weeks ago and it finally seems to be taking effect. I tore something in my knee in September of last year and was pretty sedentary for the later part of the year and gained a few pounds. I joined the gym and started swimming laps, deciding that was the quickest way to return to fitness.

I’m in my third week and I’ve lost…(eight+seven…carry the one…add it up) .8 pounds. That pretty much blows since I’ve been swimming at least four days a week over the last two weeks. And I hadn’t even lost that until I stepped on the scale this morning. I actually gained a little weight over first two weeks of the program. It would be some consolation if my body fat percentage had dropped but that rose a little as well. You can say that I’m a little disappointed in my progress so far.

Granted, I have been working my way back slowly. Swimming has started working a lot of muscles I wasn’t working on a regular basis even when I was running four and five times a week. I definitely could feel progress in my muscles even if I didn’t see it on the scale.

Yesterday, I discovered a new website to help me motivate myself and track my progress. I’ll even go so far as to credit it with helping me lose my first .8 pounds. The website is Gyminee. It’s a social network for fitness junkies or people who are just trying to shed a few pounds. It has tools for helping you set goals, plan workouts and meals and track your progress.

The thing I’ve found most useful is the nutrition log. I am the kind of person that pretty much assumes I can eat whatever I want as long as I’m exercising. The nutrition log gives me a calorie range for each day that will help me reach my weight loss goal. It also lets me know how many calories I consume in the form of carbs, protein and fat, giving me a target range for each.

Did you know that peanut butter, besides being high in protein and salmonella, is also really high in fat and calories compared to say, chicken salad? It’s true.

Anyway, I ramped up the number of laps over the last four days and I’ve been eating to stay in my calorie range and I am starving! I cannot keep myself fed. My metabolism must be ramping up because it certainly feels like my body is consuming itself.

I eat and my body immediately demands more. I had breakfast and barely made it an hour before my body began to demand more. I had lunch and decided that, upon finishing lunch, I’d just go ahead and have my snack. And then I had second lunch. And second snack.  I feel like a freaking Hobbit. Pretty soon “elevenses” is going to be a regular meal for me.

Speaking of which, my stomach is growling.  I have to go find something that is high protein, low fat and low carb. I do not know how people can consume that many grams of protein in a day and not bust the carb/fat limitations. It’s killing me.

Suggestions?