West Coast Wrap Up

My last week in the US was celebrated with a Carnival cruise to Avalon and Ensenada, in Baja California. Days were spent lounging, sunbathing, and eyeing the extensive buffet with temptation and angst; nights were filled with comedy shows, Las Vegas style performances, and fancy four-course meals. But this trip brought me to one startling realization: how fat America has become.

If you ever want to fully understand the meaning of "morbidly obese," board one of these ships and see for yourself. I'd venture to say that a good three-fourths of the passengers were easily overweight, and to my surprise and grief, they exercised no restraint at mealtimes (and every minute in between). One main dish at dinner simply wasn't enough; they required multiple to be satiated. Food was available around the clock: the pizza parlor and frozen yogurt bar never shut down. Lunch could be had as soon as 11 am and lasted so long, it ran into dinner.

But what really shook me up is the absence of shame. In Europe, the majority of people are slender, active, and nimble, and thus there is constant pressure to stay trim. Don't Americans look in the mirror and shudder when they can't see their full reflection, or when the only thing that fits is a muumuu? I pained for them, as they piled on the burgers, fries, and chicken fingers at the poolside grill. How relentlessly have the media harped on nutrition, how deeply have we been ingrained with the fact that fried foods, greasy foods, and processed foods are unhealthy and fattening--and yet Americans continue to wolf them down. I was horrified. At dinner time, those tired of the buffet scene would file into the dining rooms, ordering multiple appetizers and main dishes a la carte--had this been forbidden, they surely would have remained camped at the buffet.

Every morning I rushed to the gym to secure a treadmill, expecting a crowd, as one might expect with 2,400 guests on board. That never happened. I scanned the sign-up sheets for the special seminars on "Weight Loss," "Cellulite Expulsion," and "Increasing Your Metabolism." Not one filled to the 40-guest capacity.

My last night in the US, we joined friends at a Mexican cantina called Don Jose. As if portion and drink sizes in America aren't generous enough, Don Jose features a 46-oz. margarita! That's at least 4 times the size of a standard margarita. But after the cruise and my exposure to fatter America, I'm not sure such sizes have evolved to satisfy greed or quite simply, need.


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