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Commentary: The New Food Pyramid

By Kelli Bocock-Natale

Buffalo, NY – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed the pyramid because they wanted to do a better job of telling Americans how to be healthy. Notice the guy climbing the staircase up the side of the pyramid. That's a way of showing how important it is to exercise and be active. The steps are also a way of saying that you can make changes little by little to be healthier. One step at a time, get it?

For some of us that is easier said then done. I don't know about you but when I get stressed out the last thing I want is a big bowl of fresh spring greens and legumes. So they want us to go at it one step at a time. I have been taking "one step at a time" since third grade when my mother took me shopping and the sales clerk suggested we look in the "chubby section" that they didn't make "grr-animals" in my size. Now that does great things for one's self image doesn't it? My mom's answer...let's go to Friendly's and have your favorite sundae that will make you feel better...then tomorrow you go on a diet...and that ladies and gentlemen is the story of my life.

My name is Kelli and I am a "food-aholic" Yes that's right a food-aholic. I crave food all the time...I obsess over food when I'm happy, stressed, tired, sad, mellow, angry, content...I want food. Now most people would say "Kelli all you need is some will power." Have you ever noticed that the people who usually suggest a need for willpower are pilates fanatics who only eat whole wheat germ bread and soy yogurt. Willpower. That is all you need...please...I was trained to depend on food...food is my friend...my comfort for a good day or bad day...I know that a bag of Oreos will always taste as good as the first time I ever ate a bag of Oreos...oh boy did I just admit to eating a whole bag of Oreos...well at least they weren't the double stuffed kind (they hadn't been invented yet).

So why am I sharing this with all of you right now...why am I opening old wounds that can only be healed by a sheet pizza and a 2 liter bottle of coke. Because this new food pyramid really got to me...all the news stories bothered me. Have you seen it? the little stick figure running up the steps...is supposed to encourage exercise right...well when I look at that little guy I see someone running up the stairs to get a burger and fries because he only has 30 minutes for lunch. All the colors represent a certain food group...to me it's just rainbow sherbet on a staircase.

I just love the way fast food places are now offering healthy choices yes that is a good thing...but let's be real for a minute, ok? Are you going to order a salad with lite dressing when the fellow next to you is eating a supersized cheeseburger, French fries and "old fashioned milkshake" made with real ice cream. Please.

Will power...that is all I need...there has to be somewhere on line that I could order some willpower for only $19.95 gee you can get everything else on line...why not willpower. Maybe ebay. Friends have said to me imagine yourself thin...how great you could look picture yourself the way you would like to be. I would like to be able to eat anything and not gain an ounce. Ok. That will never happen but you know they can send a man to the moon...actress Teri Hatcher can make a big comeback on "Desperate Housewives"...but we can't invent a little pill that will give us will power against the constant craving for Krispee Kreme donuts.

Remember I am a "Food-aholic"...so first, I have to accept myself the way I am and get off the constant merry diet go round. Believe me I have tried them all Atkins, Nutri Systems, South Beach, LA Weightloss, grapefruit diet, rice diet, the soup diet, the zone diet and everyones favorite Weight Watchers, both core and flex plan...and still I can't lose. I think my body is on strike its saying...give it rest will ya...there are million of fat cells in my body having a big party and saying "we're not going anywhere." What I really want is to be healthy and to have more energy. I was watching Oprah last week and her secret to looking so great...she hired a personal trainer, chef and nutrition guru. Ok no problem...after I make my first million I will do the same thing. But for right now...it's walking around the block a few times and eating the best I can.

Just yesterday, I went grocery shopping with the snappy New Food Pyramid in mind and guess what - beside the fruit there were cream cheese fruit dips, caramel sauce next to the apples, shortcakes next to the strawberries, hollandaise sauce next to asparagus and thick yummy creamy dressings next to all of the convenient salad bags. Go to a deli and the light meats are stuck in the back behind the roast beef, swiss cheese, provolone cheese, pepperoni and salami. Give me a break. (sigh) I buy my lean cuisines and go out to my car...which I have parked far away from the store so I can get those extra steps in listening to my talking pedometer saying "you can do it...doesn't it feel great to walk." Where do they get those happy, peppy people to talk on those things. I go home...zap my yummy 5 point meal and turn on the TV to watch the news and there they are...commercials, countless commercials of Bigmacs, fries...buy one pizza and get the other free...they are even shoving cheese in the crust of pizzas now...cola commercials, candy bar commercials, fried chicken commercials and the silly dough boy giggling and shoving those ugly cookies with the picture of a tree in the middle down families throats...even commercials that show vegetables usually have a cheese sauce being pored over the broccoli does anyone show a happy family eating a grilled chicken breast with brown rice, drinking water and eating a healthy salad with only oil and vinegar.

Oh and do you ever see a overweight person eating a double burger or a chewy candy bar...no all commercials show are thin, attractive men women and children gleefully eating a full fried chicken meal that you can get for only $10.95.

The struggle continues and it is a daily struggle especially in Buffalo...a city known for its chicken wings and Friday fish frys. Try going out to dinner on a Friday night and not ordering a fish fry. You sit there watching platter after platter going by you...smelling the grease, the batter...and you are eating a salad with a baked potato and no sour cream.

Eating Healthy...staying active...all of these things are great suggestions. But let's get real...let's give folks something they can really aspire too...don't show a Bally commercial with women in thongs and perky breasts working out...give me a middle-aged lady in sweats...walking at a good clip on a treadmill. Show me yummy salads and tasty vegetable dishes. Show me what else I can reward or comfort myself with other than food. Talk to me like you know me talk to me like you have "waddled a mile in my shoes" Don't just say "all it takes is willpower."

Food is an addiction...and it can be as deadly as drugs and alcohol...it just happens to be a socially acceptable addiction. Overweight people are not always lazy people without any gumption usually they are stressed out, overworked people with very low self esteem and no support system.

How about the USDA coming out with a twelve step program that helps someone get over their food addictions. How about a commercial where the cute little elves make a spinach salad and light vinaigrette dressing pop of their magical tree- house.

Oh well there is always tomorrow...just give me a place to go to where when I ask for it my way...I will get a healthy meal that meets all the daily food group requirements but looks good and tastes great. Yea right...like that will ever happen.

Listener-commentator Kelli Bocock-Natale is community relations associate at WBFO.