November 22-28, 2006

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Appetite for a Change

By Stett Holbrook

AS THE RECENT election revealed, Americans are hungry for change. After six years of disastrous, wrong-headed leadership in Congress and the White House, Americans at long last decided they had had enough and upended the political status quo by voting in Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. The elections were also a rebuke of President Bush's policies of arrogant ignorance.

Just as we crave a healthier body politic, it seems Americans crave healthier bodies, too. In addition to ridding the country of the fat-cat politicians clogging the halls of Congress, Americans are also changing the way they eat for the better.

I don't usually read Parade magazine, but a recent cover story titled "What America Eats" caught my eye. The story, based on a survey of 1,015 adults aged 18-65, revealed some surprising and encouraging findings.

More than half of those polled said they're eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting back on sweets, and at least four in 10 are choosing smaller portions, reducing total calories, eating low-fat food or eating smaller meals. Instead of going on quick-fix, fad diets, 47 percent of those surveyed said they're cutting back or eliminating desserts and snacks.

"This is great, amazing news," said Marion Nestle, chairwoman of NYU's department of nutrition and food studies and author of What to Eat, in the article. "People are recognizing what healthy food choices are and changing their behavior in numbers far greater than I'd expected."

Is it a coincidence that the shift in the political winds comes at the same time Americans are changing the way they eat? I don't think so.

Americans, it seems, took a long look in the mirror and didn't like what they saw—in their country and in their bodies. Just as trans fats, Big Macs and Super Big Gulps aren't good for you, neither is an out-of-touch, unresponsive government waging a pointless war in Iraq.

What better embodiment of the changed political appetites than speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi. The petite, latte liberal cuts a far more healthful image than the great shuffling bulk of outgoing speaker Dennis Hastert. It's hard to say who will die of a heart attack first: big Denny Hastert or Vice President Cheney. (Please let it be Cheney.)

America has turned over a new leaf. By cutting Republicans and fatty foods out of our national diet, the country seems to have a spring in its step. As long as the newly empowered Democrats don't lard much-needed legislation with pork, America could become a much healthier place.

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