A Big Fat Cop-out 1

There’s nothing moderate about the plunder that goes on globally to fill the fat stomachs of the decadent, writes Carrie Steele.

billboardTHE OLD FAMILIAR phrase ‘everything in moderation’ really hacks me off these days. Especially since I can’t remember the last time I heard it said when it was not related to eating something unhealthy. As far as our food choices go, living life under the ‘everything in moderation’ banner leads us towards the cliff edge – where the ambulance waits at the bottom.

Adopting that mentality about food also leaves us vulnerable to falling prey to even the most ridiculous suggestions – because it might be what we want to hear. It leaves us sitting on the fence, with a foot on both sides.

Here’s an extreme (and amusing) example of moderation gone mad: a pamphlet that was distributed to schools in the USA compared the nutritional qualities of a hamburger to another common food, emphasising that the hamburger was superior in that it had more of every single nutrient listed than did its competitor. Also, its competitor it stressed, it had far more sugar. The comparison made it sound like a hamburger was a health food. What was the competition? It was a 12-ounce can of Coke. Not surprisingly, the distributor of this useful little pamphlet was the Cattlemen’s Association.


While I’m on the subject of hamburgers, I’ve heard the defence offered a few times now that because NZ beef is grassfed, as opposed to feedlot beef, ours is just fine and dandy to consume. Let’s ignore the fact that grassfed livestock are still high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and still devoid of fibre and many other essential nutrients. They also often contain much higher concentrations of environmental toxins than plant foods.

Admittedly, if you insist on eating meat, then grassfed beef has some advantages over feedlot beef (not least for the animal). But due to worldwide consumption levels, it has become impossible to produce enough to keep up with global demand. According to a 2009 Greenpeace report, Amazon cattle are now the biggest single cause of global deforestation (that was news to me, I grew up thinking they cut down trees to building parking lots?).

As the world’s biggest beef exporter, Brazil’s government has acknowledged cattle ranching is responsible for 80 percent of the deforestation of the Amazon. What about the other 20 percent? That is used for land to grow soy, which is sold to China to feed… livestock. Eating meat may remain a joy-filled experience for many, but its production is screwing up the planet and the health of its consumers equally – on many levels.


The more committed I become to my choice of a whole foods plant based diet, the more it amazes me how little is done on any scale towards educating people about the primary role diet plays in our health.

For one thing, I am increasingly aware that we humans seem to be getting larger. Interestingly, this is something my aunt said to me during her last visit to NZ. Having lived in America most of her life, and being accustomed to the ever-expanding girth of her countrymen, she had always commented that on the whole, New Zealanders appeared slim and healthy. Over a period of 20 years and several return trips, the expanding girths of our nation’s inhabitants is apparently quite remarkable in her eyes.

I can’t help but ponder whether this has anything to do with the fact that over that time period the culinary world in this country has ‘come of age’ somewhat. We now have our own well established ranks of celebrity chefs putting out cookbooks, hosting television cooking programmes, and setting up ‘high-brow’ restaurants, all vying for the position of ‘top spot to eat and be seen’. Sadly, as is often the case with progress, this culinary coming of age I refer to has nothing to do with improved nutrition, and as usual, everything to do with making money. New Zealand chefs follow the same trend as those overseas: decadent, over-rich menus, maxed out with animal protein and topped off with desserts that seem designed to fire insulin through the blood stream at the speed of an out of control freight train.

There is nothing moderate about mowing down the forests of the world to graze livestock, or to plant crops to feed livestock (not hungry people) so that the more affluent people of the world can put hunks of meat on the dinner table every night. There is also nothing moderate about the fact that despite the billions of dollars spent on research to find a cure for cancer and heart disease, little progress has been made in this regard. At best, people are just taking longer to die.

So the next time I hear that old familiar ‘everything in moderation’ cop-out being offered up as an excuse to hoe down a greasy sausage roll or cream filled bun, I’m going to be quicker off the mark and suggest that actually, everything counts. Like most other things in life, every choice we make has one of two outcomes, either it moves us closer to a goal, or further away from it. The choice is ours. CARRIE STEELE

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