The common sense diet

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(HOST) Obesity is in the headlines again, but commentator Mike Martin has discovered some easy ways to keep fit.

(MARTIN) Creme brulee… Confit de canard… How do the French eat all that good food and stay thin? It can’t just be the olive oil and red wine!

You’ve probably heard some of this advice before, but considering recent headlines, it’s worth hearing again. It’s estimated that de- spite our billion-dollar diet industry, two thirds of Americans are overweight, and a full third of us obese. Doctors continue to warn of a national health crisis and three times as many kids are over- weight now than 20 years ago.

You’ve probably already heard about low carbs, exercise and the latest French diet fad. But what about trying common sense this summer? For what it’s worth, here are my three – almost painless – Mediterranean ways to lose weight.

Number 1: Look for the worst parking space. At one time or another, we’ve all circled parking lots hunting for the best space while our blood pressure rises and we sit, motionless, behind the wheel. Instead, make the conscious decision to park away from the box store and walk the rest of the way. Less frustration and more walking means a healthier, more relaxed you.

Number 2: Only watch your favorite show on TV. Only sit down at the exact moment your show comes on, and then turn it off as soon as your show ends – without waiting for the credits and theme song. If you don’t follow this advice, you will inevitably slide into channel surfing and snacking. Thirty fast food advertisements later, you wander off to bed wondering what exactly you watched for three hours. Remember, your ultimate goal is to wean yourself from TV, which, in turn, will have a thinning effect on your person. Don’t forget, reading, playing a musical instrument, or physical intimacy with the one you love all burn more calories than watch- ing TV.

Number 3: Eat with your shirt off. Okay, for women this tip may not be as practical on most days, but the idea is simple. This summer, I’ve noticed that when I eat lunch with my shirt off, a quick glance down at my stomach brings me back to reason before I reach for the seconds. The moral of the story is that we often eat when we’re no longer hungry and then cover it up with comfortable clothing so we don’t notice. Short of eating half-naked, at least try wearing some of those form-fitting European styles – and try to leave the table before you’re totally stuffed.

So what’s the bad news from France? With American-style box stores, TV dinners and MacDonald’s, their waistlines are quickly catching up with ours. The good news? The French Senate voted last summer to ban soda and junk food vending machines in French schools. That’s a law that’s already in place for elementary schools in Texas and California, and about 20 other states are considering a ban, too.

I think it’s time we get rid of junk food and soda vending machines in Vermont schools. Even if the Texans and the French beat us to it.

This is Mike Martin of Burlington.

Mike Martin writes about issues of culture and education and teaches French at Champlain Valley Union High School.

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