Diet Foods Are Getting Bigger

Is this proof we've lost the plot?

True story: Whenever I eat ice cream, I wish I was French. This is because whenever you hear about how French women don't get fat, it seems to boil down to the fact that they can take an hour to eat a single ounce of delectable, full-fat cheese, or one perfectly flaky chocolate-oozing croissant and feel tremendously happy and satisfied. They slow down and savor their food. Thus, they eat less and don't get fat.

I'm British-American. In the 30 seconds it took me to write about French women eating cheese for an hour, I could have eaten an entire pint of ice cream. (The British part means I could have also eaten your body weight in toast and Marmite, but that's a story for another day.) Savor my food? I want to taste my food, then taste it again and again. Plus, we all eat too fast, as I discussed yesterday.

Fortunately, food manufacturers love to sell stuff to Americans. So the Washington Post is reporting on the new trend in diet food: Low calories, big portions. Think a whole pint of ice cream that weighs in at just 150 calories. (Versus 220 calories in a half-cup scoop of my beloved Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie.) Beer with less calories than a martini. Some sort of noodles apparently made mostly from air. 

I know, I know. First of all, diet food? We never say diet, hello! Second, can we even call this food? The article reports that the low-cal ice cream is "made primarily of whey protein." Yum. Obviously, this trend is terrible news for Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan and everyone else who want us to be getting back in touch with real food (the kind that comes from farms, not test tubes). They argue that if you eat only real food, all the time, you will constantly feel full and satisfied.

But, I don't know. I think this is maybe good news for anyone who has ever felt bad because they finished a measly little half cup of ice cream -- it's like two bites, I just went and measured/ate it to be sure -- and still desperately wanted more. That way guilt trips and danger lie. You can't understand why you have no self-restraint, you end up eating more in frustration, and it doesn't even taste that good because now you're sad. Except really, your body is just doing what it's been programmed to do since the dawn of time: "Guide us through a world in which dying from starvation was a greater possibility than becoming obese," as UCLA neuroscientist Dean Buonomano explained to WaPo.

My only fear: There is no way that ice cream made from whey protein is going to taste as delicious as the real cream, sugar and chocolate in my B&J. And why waste 150 calories on something that doesn't satisfy you? I think I'll stick with eating the real thing. Probably a little more than a half cup every time -- but I will try to eat it more slowly. And work on being okay with my very not-French self.

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