America: land of the free and home of the cake

I just got back from an almost two-week trip through the U.S. It’s been awhile since I’ve done this, I admit, and all I can say is: wow. I thought at least some things would have changed—and more people would have wised up to healthier ways of living. But clearly my message is not being broadly heard, because there are still so many things I find deplorable about how far too many people live their lives (and about how big corporate interests enable and encourage these bad choices).

Of course at this point you’re probably asking yourself, “Doesn’t he live in New York, and isn’t that part of the United States?” Well, thanks for asking. And, yes, I do in fact live in New York. On Manhattan, to be exact. But Manhattan is really an isolated island off the coast of the continental U.S. In fact, it’s so isolated—and so different in so many ways—I actually don’t consider it part of America in the broadest sense.  Manhattan isn’t necessarily different in a good or bad way. It’s just different.  And when I was a kid, it was really different.

Yes, we Big Apple residents have some chain restaurants now. But honestly, Manhattan doesn’t serve a lot of junk food—except maybe in Times Square, where all the tourists go. And, below 96th Street, the obesity rate is less than 9 percent.

Granted, this is an affluent part of the city. But I think it’s less about wealth and more about education. People care about what they look like, work in highly competitive industries, and are smart. They are the first adopters of new ideas, new products and new ways of thinking.

Just like you (and all of my other readers) are—and I truly thank you for that and applaud your courage. In fact, I find your dedication even more impressive than Manhattanites.’ Especially after my recent trip—where I discovered eating in a truly healthy way requires a lot more effort and thoughtfulness than it does on my little island.

My first stop was LA, where I had to give a lecture. I love LA, but the lecture was at Universal—a major tourist attraction. So you can imagine the crazy food I came across—and the size of the people.

I also got a chance to visit the set of a good friend’s TV show where they were filming the Halloween episode. Here’s a photo of me on the soundstage (you can see the ghost hanging from the light in the background).

Dr. fred

Ready for my close up.

But the only truly scary thing I saw that day was the craft food table. Everyone assumes actors eat nothing but celery sticks and salad greens, right? But surprisingly, the truly healthy choices were few and far between.

My next stop was New Orleans. I was running a medical conference on epigenomics and how we can truly change the outcome of our genes—the cutting edge in medicine at the moment. I was excited to be in New Orleans; I hadn’t been there since Katrina. And I do have to say, I did have some top-notch food—both there and in L.A. Most of the restaurants I went to used fresh, local ingredients (a trend NYC caught on to quite some time ago).

Unfortunately, I had to seek out that culinary excellence. It definitely did not carry through to most of the other areas I traveled to. Including the airport, where I stumbled across this atrocity….

Diabetes: now being served fresh at your local airport.

There are so many problems here. First, notice the line. Next, it was 10:30 in the morning. Third, you can buy scoops of cheesecake. My head was spinning. And I knew I had to write to you about it as soon as I got home.

So here I am. Back home, safe on my little island. But I wanted to take a minute to really acknowledge just how bad it is out there. And, again, to applaud you for consistently putting in the effort to avoid places like Cheesecake Scoop Café….Cinnabon…Pizza Hut…McDonald’s…the list goes on and on.

Believe me, I saw first-hand throughout this “great nation” of ours just how “convenient” it is to eat poorly. There are some shockingly terrible choices out there. So I can’t tell you how proud and delighted it makes me to know that you go out of your way NOT to make them.Diabetes

Frequenting your local farmers market instead of throwing any old produce into your cart at the local big-chain supermarket. Seeking out a few, select restaurants where you can find high-quality foods and healthy menu options. And making what you put into your body a top priority. All of these things do take some extra effort

But as you and I both know, they’re well worth it. Now if only we could get the rest of the country on board.