The Pyramid Factor


It is difficult to find a topic weightier than being stuck between Iraq and a hard place, but I submit the following.

Note: Due to the profusion of endnotes, I will save readers time by not forcing them to flip back and forth between text and notes, typically placed at the end of the document, hence the name "endnotes." Instead, I will incorporate the notes into the body of the document as paragraph endnotes. Such notes may contain material that is ancillary, supplemental, or supporting, but more typically will be totally irrelevant. Thus, if the reader feels that the notes are a time waster, when the reader encounters brackets [] the reader may skip over the enclosed material.

Some years ago,[1] FedGov decided in its Nanny-State avatar that it knows best what Americans[2] should eat.

[1] Don't ask how many years; I'm not burdening this piece with an excess of facts. If you really need to know, you can look it up. I just put the notes in to make this look like a real research paper.

[2] As will be discussed later, this refers to 100 percent real USA type Americans only. We don't share such critical knowledge with other North "Americans," Central "Americans," or South "Americans."

When I was in elementary school in the long-ago days of air raid drills during which we would hide under our desks because, apparently, the desk legs would shelter us from the blast of a 50-megaton device being detonated over the teeter-totter[3] and the desktop would protect us from nuclear radiation fallout, a healthy meal consisted of something from one of each of the major food groups: Fruits and Vegetables, Grains, Dairy, and Meat. These easy to remember categories'four Groups, five Foods'were made even easier by a graphic representation of the food groups as a circle with four quarters. By definition, a circle is round'this is significant; remember it. The typical recommended breakfast of the era included cereal, a banana, milk, and bacon and eggs. And toast. Maybe ham. Or pancakes. With butter. And maple syrup.[4] But I digress.

[3] Also called the seesaw. Please note that due to litigation, these quaint artifacts of a simpler era no longer exist on playgrounds.

[4] Syrup is not one of the major food groups, but is one of the indispensable minor food groups, such a chocolate, beer, etc.

And the people ate as Nanny said. (I'm assuming that the Food Circle was Nanny's idea because it was drummed into our little, thirsting-for-knowledge, sponge cake brains at government indoctrination centers.)

It was about this time'1955 or so'that one-half of the population first earned its living in information-related jobs. Fifty percent of the people were no longer mechanics, factory workers, farmers, or other laborers. The sweat of one's brow was replaced by the ink on one's fingers, especially if one worked with fountain pens.[5]

[5] Fountain pen: ancient device for removing ink from bottles and applying it to paper, blotters, and clothing.

Some years later,[6] statistics relating to a rapidly growing population of bookkeepers, bank clerks, and office drones who were still eating like Amish farmers'the Amish still get up at four a.m. to milk the chickens and slap the dogs before performing other farm stuff like plowing, harrowing, discoing, and churning (the latter mostly relegated to the minor sect known as the "Wall Street Amish")[7]'but spending increasing amounts of time watching Ed Sullivan'regular people, not the Amish, who didn't do this because they haven't discovered electricity yet and it's difficult to watch television by candlelight'anyway, the statistics showed that people were, on average, getting a bit fatter. Americans were becoming more round (see, I told you it was significant; keep your eyes open for another similar similarity).

[6] See [1] above.

[7] Ibid. Whatever that means.

The population of the country in 1980 was 226 million.[8] This isn't pertinent to anything, but it's the oldest population number I could find in my almanac. Multiplying this figure times 15 extra pounds per person[9] comes up to 3.39 billion pounds of excess baggage that Americans were carrying around. To quote Carl Sagan,[10] "Billions and billions of pounds." To picture a number as large as 3.39 billion is difficult, but it's somewhere between the number of clowns that can climb out of a Volkswagen Beetle and the amount the national debt increases between breakfast and dinner during the War on Terrorization.

[8] Fact thrown in for good measure.

[9] Made up number, but it sounds good.

[10] Well-known astrologer, or house painter. I forget.

Horrors! That extra few pounds apiece was going to do us in as a nation. The most immediate danger was in the fact that most of the population was located in the northeast and in California. Of those in California, most of them lived west of the earthquake fault lines. You can surely see the logic. We were in imminent danger of the West Coast breaking off due to a fat-induced continental drift event![11] Nobody worried much about the East Coast population centers, which, if they broke off, would seriously hamper travel to Maine.[12]

[11] This is a true danger to government, because that coast really loves it and votes incessantly for more of it.

[12] This would, obviously, leave the Mainerites free to join Canada. This would result in the loss of thousands of acres of timberland, blueberries, a lot of lighthouses, about seven million moose, and 23 people who actually live there year around.

Nanny leapt into action and came into our kitchens. She inventoried out our refrigerators and cupboards. She looked into our mouths. She slid down our throats and took up residence in our stomachs. She didn't like what she saw there and vomited up a whole new plan, or paradigm.[13]

[13] Paradigms: value of new government programs, i.e., 20'; not related to cost of such.

One day, a Nanny-State employee was trying to justify his salary by inventing a new food graphic, it being easier to invent a catchy graphic and adjust the facts to it than to research the facts and find a model that fit them.[14] He discarded the Food Oval as being too close to the Circle and not creative enough to earn a promised bonus. He considered the Food Square, The Food Pentagon, the Food Hexagon, even the Food Octagon.[15] A product of government education during the "social promotion" period, he couldn't count past eight,[16] which pretty well eliminated the Food Nonagon, Decagon, Dodecagon, and so on.

[14] Scientifically, "if the facts don't fit the theory, then ignore the facts" standard.

[15] The Septagon is not mentioned. This intriguing oversight will not be discussed.

[16] Not coincidentally, eight was the number of years he spent in high school prior to "social promotion."

Completely worn out by the ten minutes of heavy labor he put into the project, he decided to take a break. During his break he happened to pull out a dollar bill to buy a soda'that's a "pop" to y'all in the Midwest'and Eureka! He saw it! The perfect solution! He invented the Food Rectangle. However, his boss, being of the Masonic Illuminati'who can only successfully comprehend numbers up to three'knocked off one side and created the Food Pyramid.

The Food Pyramid looks like, well, a pyramid, although being a one-dimensional figure, it's really a triangle, a fact immediately evident to those from private schools. It has four levels. The bottom level is the Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta Group[17]; the second level contains the Fruit and Vegetable Groups (plural), which had been subdivided from the original Fruit and Vegetable Group (singular); the Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese group shares the third level with the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs and Nuts Groups; level four is the Fats, Oils and Sweets group, which is the only group that didn't appear in the original Food Circle in some form. From five food categories in four groups, Nanny created 19 categories of foods in six blocks within five groups on four levels. This is called "simplification."

[17] Also formerly referred to as "starches."

Then, to really achieve simplification, Nanny broke down the new categories and blocks and groups and levels into subdivisions called fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, concepts invented to make the Pyramid easy to understand. The levels of the Pyramid directly correspond to the basic calorie providers (fats, carbohydrates, proteins), from the top down as shown below:

  • ' Fats, Oils & Sweets: fats and carbohydrates.
  • ' Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs & Nuts, Milk, Yogurt, Cheese: fats, carbohydrates, and protein.
  • ' Fruits and Vegetables: carbohydrates, protein, and some other stuff that is none of the above.
  • ' Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta: carbohydrates and carbohydrates.

The astute observer will immediately notice how each level contains carbohydrates. This is significant.

Nanny then decided how many calories we were to consume per day and how many of those calories were to be from fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Most of this was done with random number generators using computers, just discovered by Bill Gates.[18] From this, Nanny determined how much an American should eat from each level of the Pyramid.

[18] i.e., Bill Gates.

Nanny completely disregarded the fact that our long-ago ancestors ate mostly meat supplemented with a few scavenged fruits and leaves and the occasional root. She disregarded the fact that people who could store fat were the most likely to survive long winters sitting in their caves staring at test patterns on television, programming having not yet been invented. She disregarded the fact that we learned to eat carbohydrates consisting of grains and sugars rather late in our evolution'or scientific creation'and began consuming the refined versions even more recently.

She totally forgot that fateful day before recorded history when Og came home tired and disgruntled after running uphill for ten hours chasing game only to find when he caught it that he had left his spear at Ug's Repair Cave, and the game turned on him and Gored him badly, something that we as a country narrowly escaped in 2000.[19] And when Og asked the Mrs., "What's for dinner," she replied, "Leaves and roots, you idiot. Next time take your spear." Og said, "What about that stuff growing down by the river, you know, that grain stuff." And Mrs. Og said, "Look, when you get me into a nice new condo-cave with a decent kitchen, counter space, an oven, and a Cuisinart', I'll pick some grain and invent bread. Or grits. Until then, it's leaves and roots. You idiot."[20]

[19] We have, however, been Bushed instead.

[20] Loose translation made from pictures left on the wall of the Og cave.

Nanny further refined (refine: verb form of "to complicate or confuse") the Pyramid by breaking some of the levels into the aforementioned blocks and then making a recommendation as to how much to eat from each block based on the aforementioned random numbers:

  • ' Level 4 - Fats, Oils & Sweets: Use sparingly.
  • ' Level 3 - Milk, Yogurt, Cheese: 2-3 servings.
  • ' Level 3 - Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs & Nuts: 2-3 servings.
  • ' Level 2 - Vegetables: 3-5 servings.
  • ' Level 2 - Fruit: 2-4 servings.
  • ' Level 1 - Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta: 6-11 servings.

Note how the servings increase[21] the closer one gets to the bottom[21] of the Pyramid. This makes the base[21] of the Pyramid much broader[21] than the top[21] of the Pyramid.

[21] Highly technical terms describing the geometry of a pyramid. This is significant. There will be a test.

This is all explained in detail in "Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans." This labeling should warn off all non-Americans, un-Americans, and faux-Americans.[22] Nanny does not intend for foreigners, aliens, and other nationalities to read our preciously guarded food guidelines, except maybe Canadians, who are really honorary-Americans that sell us toilets that don't meet Nanny's low-flow guidelines, soon to be superseded by the no-flow regulations.[23] And they say, "Eh" a lot.

[22] I told you I would mention this.[2]

[23] That's a different topic, however, since the more restrictive "no-flow" toilet regulations are contained within the not yet passed Homeland Security Enhancement Act.

So the people, always willing to listen to their Nanny, started eating less fats'for a while. They cut back on meat and eggs and lard and used canola oil and tofu (pronounced "toe foo"). Then the low/no-fat food industry invented salad bars. People would pile heaps of greens on their plates, add tomatoes (carbs), cheese and bacon bits (fats), and drench the whole thing in salad dressing (more carbs and fats) and add a pile of cottage cheese (fats and carbs) to the plate. Pasta salad became really popular (carbs and fats), especially the kind with olives (fats) and ham (fats) in it.

Human nature being what it is, when Nanny says to eat 6-11 servings of one food group a day, and that something tastes good, especially with sauces (use sparingly), then people tend to eat toward the high end of the range. Toting up the figures for all of the groups, people were eating between 15 and 26 servings of food per day.

Human nature not having changed one bit since I wrote the last paragraph, people relied on a rule of thumb for measuring their servings. If it looked like a "serving," it probably was. The official definitions such as one serving of pasta being 1/2 cup (cooked) or meat being 2-3 ounces weren't being just ignored, they weren't even being looked at. A serving is a serving, dammit! Forget this fiddly weighing and measuring; forget cups and grams and meters![24]

[24] Meters are part of the "metric" system, a French plot designed to confuse Americans into measuring things in unusable units, thereby making it difficult to export our national culture, such as McDonald's, to France, where a "Quarter Pounder (before cooking) with Cheese" becomes a ".1134 Kilo (avant cuisinier) Avec Plumage." Try ordering that at the drive-through in Bordeaux (pronounced Bore Doh!). It is likely, however, that if we keep sending McDonald's to France, they will retaliate with Escargot King, which will make a mockery of the Food Pyramid by introducing slugs into it. Quick and easy conversion rules: 1 millimeter = .03937007874 inches, or yards; 1 foot = 3.7 hectoms; 2 litres = 2 liters; one gram = one cracker.

Human nature still being what it is, no one ate off the 1600 calorie per day list for folks who were overweight and under-exercised. They didn't eat from the 2000 calorie per day list for folks who wanted to maintain their weight. Everyone started eating from the 2600 calorie per day list, which applies to skinny-as-a-rail people who lift Mack trucks after running pre-dawn marathons. Or Amish farmers.

If a typical breakfast consists of three servings of food (cereal, milk, fruit), lunch of three (bread, meat, vegetable), and dinner of four (salad, meat, vegetable, carbohydrate-rich veggie or pasta or rice ("starch"), then people following the guidelines were eating one-and-one-half to two-and-a-half day's worth of food every day. Twice on Sunday.

A company which shall go unnamed (its initials are Nabisco) jumped on the bandwagon with a very popular no-fat cookie clone. The original cookie was a devil's food cake with a thin marshmallow layer covered with a coating of chocolate. It had about 60 calories, about 18 calories of which came from fat. The clone has about 50 calories, no fat, but an increased amount of sugar, information that isn't noticeably advertised but is available on the Nanny-required nutrition label (magnifying glasses and college physics degree needed).

Typical practice in the low/no-fat industry is the substitution of sugar for fats. Pick up two bottles of the same type of salad dressing, one being a low/no-fat version. The low/no-fat dressing has added sugars. If it didn't, people wouldn't eat the stuff. Fats and sugars account for pleasurable tastes. Take out one and you have to increase the other. The low/no-fat food industry (Mission Statement: "Up Your Carbs") advertises as FAT FREE!!! food that didn't have any fat to begin with or has replaced the fat with sugar.

The aforementioned cookie product took off like a skyrocket. People were buying them by the caseload. Before the low-fat model, a reasonably prudent consumer might have two or three as a snack after dinner; they began eating the no-fat ones by the cartload. Fat Free! Not bad for you! Good, in fact! Waddle out to the store and buy a case!!

Restaurants, wanting to get the steady repeat business that contributes to profitability and keeps the owners out of the unemployment lines, made their plates and their servings larger. The primary costs in the restaurant industry are labor and overhead. Not the food. Food is cheap until you add the labor and overhead. So making the portions 50% larger contributed little to the cost and a lot to the expanding bottom line.

People, grown tired of the anti-fat revolution, are eating as much or more fat as before[25], and they are eating more carbohydrates. A lot more, which tend to get stored in the body as fat, because no one follows up a high carb breakfast with an hour on the treadmill. They follow it up with a bagel and cream cheese and a caf' latte (extra sugar) consumed on the way to work because the doughnuts arrive at the office at 9:00 and no one wants to get caught in the doughnut line with cappuccino froth on their upper lip.

[25] Example: a local burger joint has 1/3 and 1/2 lb. burgers as regular offerings with a stuff your face model that weighs in at one pound (avant cuisinier, of course).

And the people started to look like big, doughy pyramids, with their little pointy heads sloping down to chunky torsos and bulbous abdomens resting atop their own expanding bottom lines.

Some groups are doing research linking the latest increase in national weight to the low fat diet pushed on us by Nanny, who is a primary adherent to the Law of Unintended Consequences. And where is Nanny? Not a word to be heard. Industries built on the no-fat, low-fat dietary guidelines for Americans make a lot of money, much of which goes to advertising. A lot more goes to campaign contributions. Connect the dots.

And the people get fatter. And look more like pyramids. Soon, they'll start growing one eye in the middle of their foreheads.[26]

[26] Take a good look at the back of the dollar bill.

I'm going back to the Food Circle. It's simpler, easy to work with. In fact, you don't need to understand it, just eat pizza. Pizza is the Food Circle. It has everything from the four basic groups: crust is from Grains; cheese from Dairy; tomato sauce and green peppers from Fruits and Vegetables; and anchovies[27] from Meats. Pizza is the perfect food. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all in one.

[27] If it doesn't have anchovies on it, it's not Pizza.

Pizza, the perfect food. And it doesn't look like a Pyramid.

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Joseph S. Bommarito's picture
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Joseph Bommarito was a freelance writer who lived in Georgia.  He passed away on January 3, 2005.  Comments can be sent to his wife Sally.