Food pyramid looks more like a puzzle

April 28, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

Last week, the government took another stab at telling us what to eat with the introduction of a new "food pyramid" and another wave of ominous pronouncements on obesity. Another day, another graphic. Jeepers, if it's that important, why doesn't the government just go ahead and cook for us?

The new food pyramid looks much like the old pyramid, dressed up for a gay pride parade. An interesting add-on is a hieroglyphic of a stick figure and a staircase.

Why we are putting so many of our weight-loss chips on the Egyptians is difficult to say. Relating health to an ancient-civilization housing development is, to me, a bit thick. 'Course who knows, maybe King Tut did the same thing in reverse, drawing on futuristic edifices; perhaps his subjects were able to stay so thin because they adhered to the principles of the "food rancher."

Heart vs. mind

The heart doctors have the upper hand these days, but I was much happier five years ago when the mind doctors were on center stage. You remember them. They were the ones saying "be comfortable with your body, be comfortable with who you are."


Yes, there was the off chance that you'd go face down in your Froot Loops one morning at age 40, but for the most part the odds were good you would lumber your way to age 70 no matter what you ate.

That's still the way I frame the question: What's better, 75 years of indulgence, or 85 years of deprivation? And what am I likely to do between the ages of 75 and 85 anyway, climb Everest, cure cancer and marry Maria Sharapova?

In the "acceptance of who you are" phase, we were told that our shape was largely hereditary and there wasn't much we could do about it. We were told that society's obsession with skinny fashion models was to blame, and that a generation of girls was growing up depressed that they didn't disappear when they turned sideways.

Well, those sweet, salad days of all sweets and no salads are gone. Now the government is in your face everywhere you turn, telling you how porky you are. If 90 million Americans are obese, the government could take the money it spends trying to talk you into being thin, and pay for 90 million liposuctions.

But no, we are supposed to do this on our own, and all the government gives us in terms of resources is a geometric shape. I have to admit, I took the bait and went to, and I am proud to report that the new food pyramid makes no sense whatsoever.

The old pyramid was straightforward enough. The wide, bottom layers represented the lousy food you were supposed to eat a lot of, like whole grains, miscellaneous shrubbery and everyone's favorite, "seeds." Like we are some kind of goldfinch.

The narrow top layers included the fried group, the chocolate group, the congealed group and the Twinkie group and to eat them was death. And if they didn't kill you sooner, when you did die you would probably be deader than the dead people who ate healthy.

New pyramid

In the new pyramid, the stripes, I think, represent the same groups but they go up and down instead of across. There are about 15 accompanying Web pages to explain the switch, but I didn't read them because I didn't want to die of a typo. The little escalator and stick man tacked onto the side represent exercise, although it looks as if the guy is, with the glory of a mountain climber, striving to reach the top of the pyramid which, when you think about it, is exactly the place you're not supposed to be.

So maybe the pyramid is, in fact, upside down. Or maybe the stick figure is pointed in the wrong direction. Or maybe the stick figure is really Anti-Gravity Man, and the normal rules of physics don't apply to him.

I don't know. Maybe a food trapezoid would have worked better. But in the end it won't matter, because the public will not pay any attention to it. Except for the little kids who think the wildly colored pyramid looks like a big piece of rock candy.

Tim Rowland is Herald-Mail columnist.

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