Back after a 3 week long vacation spent in North America (mostly US), I decided to get something out of jet lag by blogging about it.
Here are some random thoughts of mine, having visited the US after 3 years. My health-fitness change had occurred in the interim, so my perceptions are new.
* Starbucks continues to maintain its smart image by doing things differently, and doing different things. They have a new drink that looks like a post workout drink (is that a first?) called Vivanno, that is a smoothie with strawberries/bananas/chocolate along with whey proteins. Around 280 calories and 15 grams of protein.Check this out for the full details.
(pic source: from Starbucks site)
They did have good breakfast foods, though their rich pecan toffee pie (see screenshot) and Tropical Paradise (which I had several times and helped to my adding 7 lbs of fat in 3 weeks) would more than compensate by way of sugar-loading your system!
Picture 2
They also scratch the patriotic itch by adopting soldiers in Afghanistan: you buy the coffee, and Starbucks sends it to them!
* Americans are patronizing fast food restaurants more than ever, and the results are showing! Mortons, an upscale restaurant chain, did not seem to be having as many customers as they would like, while McD’s were always crowded. Clearly a winner, though health experts continue to be traumatized at the ‘train-wreck nutrition’ of the company’s products.
* Soda consumption continues unabated, with very few people drinking water. Coke and beer continue to be as cheap as, if not cheaper than, water.
* Fitness ads on TV are all geared towards promoting gimmicky products. Nothing has changed over all these years: people buy into ‘new’ things that do nothing for them, rather than rely on the proven and trusted ‘old’ methods of fitness.
* I was impressed with one company (I forget which- Green Leaf, probably) that offered low carb products (they identified these clearly). However, their employees couldn’t tell me what a low-carb tortilla was made of!
* Another company, Au Bon Pain, had caloric numbers listed right beside the food names, unlike (almost) all others. This helped me: I baulked at ordering sandwiches/wraps/pizza slices that ranged towards 1000 calories a serving, even though I was hell-bent on going overboard with good-tasting (as opposed to healthy) food!
* Most good quality fitness products I wanted (like Therabands, mini-bands, ab wheels, etc.) were not available in the popular stores. Eventually, a City Sports store proved to give me most of all I needed (including Vibrams’ Five Finger Shoes and a foam roller).
Picture 1
* We all hear about the ridiculous food portion sizes in the US, but it is only when you experience it personally that you can imagine the havoc such food can cause to your health. A Porterhouse steak in Mortons weighs 48 ounces! That is like nearly three pounds of meat! Cookies, pies, cakes, drinks are all sized for monsters. Why, then, do companies continue to sell products that keep giving them constant bed publicity?
The answer is probably ‘value for money’: each dish could be shared by 3 or 4 people, I think, if it has to make any kind of nutritional sense. But do people do that? Clearly, no. Sharing does not seem to be fashionable.
* Italian restaurants, especially the highly recommended ones in New York, serve very small portions that simply cannot be justly shared. This seems to illustrate the Italian/French paradox: these people continue to maintain relatively lean profiles in spite of eating grains, sugars and fats in good measure, probably in part due to portion control.
* Indian food in Edison continued to be unhealthy for the most part. A couple of kebabs were surprisingly delicious and spicy. Fast food restaurants in the area served unhealthy food, as you would expect pav bhaji, sev puri, and mithai to be.
In the next post, I shall share more thoughts on related issues.



  1. Pingback: BLOG VACATIONS AND JETLAG « A Twist of Word and Mind

  2. “…keep giving them constant bed publicity?”

    Shouldn’t that be over at A Twist of Word and Mind? ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. I must live in a strange part of the US, I don’t see these things you mention too often. I only know one person who drinks soda, there’s very little obesity in my town, and I, for one, take at least half my meal home when I eat out, which is rarely. I’ve never seen any Indian food that isn’t heavy and oily, I don’t care much for it. And lastly, there are so many good cafes, I never have to patronize Starbucks.

  4. Mahendra:
    Haha! My bed. Friedian slip, indeed!
    I, too, feel you live in a strange part of the US. I do also agree that there are better cafes than Starbucks, though not as many as that one.

  5. Julie, where do you live??

    I think it all comes down to making better choices. Obviously if you get a 48 ounce steak, you can feed yourself for 3 days. My husband and I always have take home when we go out. We never go to McD’s; I only get Americanos at Starbucks; etc.

    What is your take — is it a “don’t care” or “don’t know” problem?

  6. It is insane, isn’t it? I think the US is just split into two categories – the extremely unfit & ignorant, and the extremely fit and health-conscious. Most places do offer weight-watchers’ options, but counting calorie or otherwise, the portions are crazy!

    I hope your trip was good!



  8. Gauri:
    Hi, and sorry for the late reply. Yeah, you are probably right. Catch the rest of the crap in Part II!

  9. “This seems to illustrate the Italian/French paradox: these people continue to maintain relatively lean profiles in spite of eating grains, sugars and fats in good measure, probably in part due to portion control.”

    Um….why is it the French paradox? Shouldn’t it be the American paradox? I think the French have it right when it comes to food whereas America’s relationship with food is one big dysfunctional mess. Did you get a chance to see “Food, Inc.” which was released recently – probably coinciding with your visit? ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Amit,
    Yes, I saw the trailer. Sounds rather frightening. Hope to see it, if it ever releases in India!

  11. The French and Italians do not traditionally eat the kinds of foods that are on offer here. Italian food in the States is not the sum total of Italian food in Italy. It’s the same with Mexican and Chinese food. I figure it is only a matter of time until Japanese food is junkified in the same way.

    You wouldn’t have had time to notice, but there are very few authentic French restaurants in the United States. I believe there is a reason for that. No way would their high-fat food choices be approved of here. Where you see stuff labeled “French” it’s mostly bistros that serve bread and pastries. A disgrace. The French may or may not be as fat as Americans but they still have heart disease between all the bread they eat and all the smoking they do. I think the organ meats and the cheeses offset the bread, if you want to know the truth.

    That huge Porterhouse you mention would actually help me lose weight if I didn’t eat a starchy side with it. Lots better for me than the Starbucks smoothie. It’s even loaded with healthy fats, one of which is identical to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil and most of which lower LDL.

    You obviously haven’t read Gary Taubes if you think this is all about portion control or laziness. Which leads me to believe you haven’t followed the science either. I was a mostly sedentary skinny person for 20 of my first 21 years (the first being infancy, where I was large, obviously through no fault of my own). I should think that in all that time I would have blown up like a balloon if lack of exercise really meant anything for weight. It wasn’t the diet, either; although we had lowfat milk and margarine available to us at home, my parents did not go out of their way to serve us lean meats over fatty, and we frequently had eggs and bacon or sausage for breakfast if there was time to cook them. Actually, I suspect those factors probably *kept* me from ballooning out and from being malnourished as well. Have you looked at the nutrition information for lowfat milk or margarine lately?

    Gary Taubes. Get to know the guy. I’m pretty sure he’s not God, but I bet he has more than passing acquaintance, whether he knows it or not.

  12. By the way, you’re a doc–surely you know that fitness and thinness are NOT the same thing.

  13. Dana:
    As you saw, I do know what I am talking about. Every rational/scientific-minded person is a perennial sceptic. Life is too complex for simplistic truisms like ‘fats are bad’, ‘carbs are bad’, or whatever. There is an immense variety in the way humans react to, or treat, foods. Insulin sensitivity, digestive efficiency, cultural acceptability are some of the factors that skew the linear path of perceived truth.
    Fitness is a passion for me. I have even written a post on it. Check it out.

  14. R-Doc:

    I am glad to read this post and to note your perspective in this post.

    I recall in my California post from last year, when I said “even in the US”, you had commented: “Each trip to the US has been a gastronomic fest, so I really donโ€™t understand why you say there is good food โ€˜even in the USโ€™.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. When were you not glad to read my post, Shefaly?!
    It is so wonderful to see you here (now that I have visibly stopped blogging at A Twist of Word and Mind)!
    And you have the memory of an elephant!

  16. Doc: Always glad but gladder when we agree ๐Ÿ˜‰ Or when I can exercise my elephantine memory.

    BTW talking of elephants, I see I am quoted in good company in Ms Kulkarni’s article on Obesity. Yours.

  17. Shefaly:
    Really? I wasn’t aware…. Could you send a link?

  18. Doc: If you look at theinternationalindian.com’s website, you will see latest issue. I have asked a friend to buy and mail me a physical copy; let’s see if he gets it.

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