Hungry nation

Henri’s sister weighs in for the New Year

Greetings, mes amis, and I hope you’ll indulge me briefly as I fill in this week for mon frère, Henri, who is, as I write, enjoying, I trust, the Christmas present I gave him this year: An all-inclusive two-week stay at a health spa in Santa Fe, complete with airfare.

As many of you know—and as his physician, Dr. Epinards, continues to remind him—Henri has not been in good shape for many years. His blood pressure and cholesterol were at dangerous levels, and he had grown increasingly heavy—I was not the first to point out that he was shaped like a food pyramid. So I surprised him Christmas morning with the health spa.

“Moi?” he said. “A health spa?”

“No ifs, ands, or …” I looked at his backside. “… buts.”

He scowled. “Very funny.”

I drove him to the airport on New Year’s Day.

We’ve tried to eat better these last few years and in fact have improved our diets. We shop at the farmers’ markets and get much of our produce at GRUB ( I even bought Henri a treadmill last fall, although he returned it when he found that his wine glass wouldn’t fit in the cup holder.

It’s no secret that America has a weight problem. In fact, the rates for obesity in the U.S. are highest in the world. Most studies show that well more than 30 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Additionally, the U.S. rate of increase is the highest in the world. And we Bourrides, hailing from the Midwest, are particularly susceptible. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Midwest has the highest percentage of overweight and obese people in the country, except for a small handful of Southern states, including Mississippi and Alabama. Even more alarming, the rates are higher—and, again, growing dramatically higher by the year—among children and young adults. An estimated 17 percent of Americans age 2-19 are overweight or obese.

Compare that to other countries, where, although the rates continue to climb, they remain dramatically below those of the U.S. In South Korea and Japan, the obesity rates are less than 5 percent, and in the Scandanavian and Mediterranean countries, including Sweden, Spain, Italy and France, obesity rates are between 5 percent and 10 percent. Not coincidentally, Japan consumes more seafood per capita than any other country, and the classic Mediterranean diet includes olive and canola oils and lots of nuts, vegetables, fruits and fish.

Granted, the U.S. is not the only country in the world that has become addicted to fast food and sodas—the chief culprits—but studies show that Americans account for an astonishingly disproportionate amount. One study shows Americans consume roughly two-thirds of the fast food worldwide, with the average American spending nearly $500 a year on fast food, as opposed to the average Japanese ($108).

While calories (actually units of energy) are essential to our health and daily intake, taking in more calories than you burn is a sure way to gain weight, so it can be useful to compare calories in common foods and drinks, fast and otherwise.

Big Mac: 540

Home-grilled turkey burger: 180-250

Small salmon steak: 200-225

One can of tuna (in water): 180-200

Large order of french fries: 500

Large baked potato (no butter, etc.): about 160

Starbucks Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccino with whipped cream: 470

Starbucks cafe latte with whole milk: 190

Cup of coffee with cream and sugar: 60-80

Cup of black coffee or green tea: less than 5

Coca-Cola Classic: 144

Glass of craft beer (Sierra Nevada-style): 175-300

Glass of red wine: 80-100

Keep your fingers crossed for Henri. It’s going to be difficult for him. But I’m hopeful. While he’s gone, I’ve scheduled a detailing and a long-overdue oil change for Pierre and groomings for Miss Marilyn and Mr. Theo. And for moi? New red heels, naturellement! Bonne anée.