This week’s column was written by my friend Dr. J (yes, a real doctor) over at www.calorielab.com. This week Dr. J shares his thoughts on Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday — or Transfat Tuesday as I prefer to call it.
I once lived near New Orleans, and attended a Mardi Gras there in 1986 – it didn’t really enjoy it, and it fell much below the high expectations of my young imagination. Excess is never good, especially when it is done excessively. Please take time to read Dr. J’s column, and please pass it along to others. Thank you. roy
by Dr. J
While in the last year of my surgical residency, during a frigid February in the Midwest, I was graced with a one week vacation. My best friend and I formulated a complicated plan, drive south until we found warm weather! Finally getting the car started in the sub zero temperatures we were off. When we reached Gulfport, Mississippi, we decided to make a right hand turn and soon found ourselves in the warmth of New Orleans and discovered they were celebrating Mardi Gras!
After the better part of a week around http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beignet beignets, booze, and beads, we managed to extricate ourselves from too much fun, click our surgical clogs together three times, and somehow we were once again in that knee deep Midwestern snow!
The origins of Mardi Gras, or more affectionately translated as Fat Tuesday, http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/MardiGras/ traces its name and origins from Catholic roots and the feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival as people were preparing for the abstinence of Lent. http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/MardiGras/
Mardi Gras and fitness:
I wouldn’t say the folks at Mardi Gras were the fittest folks I’d ever seen, but then, it’s hard to hide much when all you are wearing is a few strings of beads. Still they didn’t look too bad, and as doctors, we were used to seeing a lot of skin. I wasn’t at Mardi Gras this year, but studies http://www.allbusiness.com/medicine-health/diseases-disorders-obesity/13599664-1.html show that since 1990, the prevalence of obesity in Louisiana has increased by at least 135 percent, and it’s not the beads that are getting larger! Actually, Louisiana http://calorielab.com/news/2008/07/02/fattest-states-2008/ has one of the largest rates of overweight and obese individuals in the country, with New Orleans one of the leading cities in this unhealthy statistic. What is even more unsettling is that these rates in children is these areas rank in the top ten nationally and are increasing. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/mississippi_has_highest_rate_o.html
New Orleans and food:
Even though in this years Super bowl, the Colts were the favored team, in a food war between the two participating cities, Indianapolis and New Orleans, there was no contest. The wide variety of New Orleans cuisine was an easy favorite over the bland casseroles of the Midwest. Really, few cities can compete with New Orleans in the food court!
Although the origins of the cuisine in the French Quarter is, well, French, the so-called French paradox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Paradox does not seem to be valid in New Orleans. The reason for this is likely that even though the origin of the food is French, it has been changed to the all-American style of increased portion sizes with even more fat, sugar, and salt than the original recipes called for to suit the ever gluttonous American palate.
Too much food, not enough activity:
Although Mardi Gras is officially a two to three week holiday http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Orleans_Mardi_Gras#Contemporary_Mardi_Gras, eating like it’s Mardi Gras has become an all year round event! The only realistic answer http://nutrition.about.com/od/foodfun/a/obese_overweigh.htm is to eat less unhealthy food, eat fewer calories, eat more healthful food, and to be more active. Perhaps concrete ideas such as choose smaller portions, don’t eat seconds, avoid buffets, eat out less and eat more at home. Make your own meals, shop for healthy food choices and stock your home with these healthy foods. In addition, develop a personal exercise program. All of these ideas can be helpful if you are willing to apply them.
It’s very important, if you haven’t already, to make these types of changes. After all, the only thing we want to be fat is a time of celebration, and maybe a calf!