On Saturday morning, as I was helping the mother prepare breakfast, I brought up the issue of nutrition and health with her. I brought it up because earlier she had offered me some orange juice, cereal, fruit salad, and 'light' yogurt (0% fat, which usually means replaced with carbs) - basically, a blood sugar nightmare. As she showed me, she expounded on the health benefits of eating such foods ('No fat!' 'Good for your cholesterol!' etc. etc.). Now, once a week on the Chilean morning news, they have a segment on nutrition during which the doctor extols the virtues of cereals and 'light' yogurts and demonizes fat. I couldn't help but be reminded of these shows; Mariluz was almost parroting them word for word. But I kindly declined, saying that I would be fine with ham, cheese, and palta (staples in every Chilean breakfast). She looked at me as if I was going to have a heart attack. At that point, I figured it was a good time to explain to her why I needed to eat more fat.
We also got onto the topic of diabetes. After telling her about my family history, she told me that she was prediabetic and on medication. When I asked her if she had a family history of diabetes, she told me that her father had diabetes and had both of his legs amputated before he died. I also told her that my sister had PCOS, which is a precursor to diabetes. Two of her daughters have PCOS. By the way, this is a good time to congratulate Monica because she no longer has PCOS!!! She did it by first starting on metformin, the diabetes drug. But she was able to get off metformin recently by also reducing her sugar and carb consumption and losing weight.
I stopped the conversation there because we were ready to eat breakfast. She ate fruit salad, topped with 'light' yogurt and bran flakes (no fat, high fiber = super healthy!), followed by bread with cheese and palta. She told me that she used to eat a lot of cheese but had to stop when she found out that her cholesterol was high.
As much as I wanted to, I didn't talk with her about the sugar and carb content of her food choices and their link to diabetes or try to dispel the myth of the role of fat in obesity and cardiovascular disease. I didn't explain to her that by replacing fat with carbs in her diet, she would have spikes in blood sugar that would leave her craving more and storing more fat. I didn't bring them up partly because I'm not confident in my mastery of the spanish language to explain it well enough, partly because how do I tell someone so convinced of the healthiness of her food choices that her doctor and the media are wrong (?), and partly because I'm still doing the background research to convince myself.
And I was upset. I'm upset because the people I care about and love are being given information that's making them sick. I also feel helpless because there's nothing I can do at this point. But it only makes me more committed to learning as much as I can about nutrition.
But wanna know the straw that broke the camel's back? This weekend we watched the opening ceremonies for the Panamerican games in Guadalajara, Mexico. The opening act was the Mexican band Maná, my favorite band of all time. What I saw shocked and horrified me. The lead singer, Fher, is fat.
This is what he used to look like:
This is what he looks like now (kinda like Meatloaf):
It looks as though the obesity epidemic has reached one of the most beautiful men in the world. Now that's just not right.