The All or Nothing American Diet

By Martin Brown

Rush Limbaugh recently went on a tear regarding Michelle Obama’s campaign for all Americans to eat healthier diets. The supposed spark for this particular tirade was Michelle Obama being seen in Vail, Colorado with her two daughters in tow eating a plate of beef ribs.

Limbaugh, incensed by the fact that Mrs. Obama is urging Americans to eat “cardboard and tofu,” a diet which a few moments later he referred to as, “roots, berries, and tree bark,” was outraged that she was seen feasting on “Ribs that contained 1,575 calories and 141 grams of fat.” To drive home that point, Limbaugh repeated three times in the space of a three minute piece the alleged calorie and fat content of the ribs in question.

Limbaugh blasted the woman disrespectfully, referring to her repeatedly as “Michelle my belle.” How dare she tell Americans to live on cardboard and tofu when she was supping on those fat-packed baby back ribs?

Fortunately, he stopped short of referring to the her as a black Marie Antoinette, but you got the distinct feeling he was headed in that direction.

Limbaugh concluded his broadside at Mrs. Obama by wondering aloud if her figure gave her any right to discuss the issue of being overweight with the America people: an astounding comment coming from a man who is certainly obese, if not morbidly obese.

(Of course a person’s actual body mass index, call it their fat content, can, like a plate of ribs, be difficult to assess from afar.)

Limbaugh then asked his listeners if the First Lady looked anything like “one of the swimsuit models on the cover of Sports Illustrated.” And, since she did not, he wondered if in fact she had any right to “lecture us” about what we eat.

This, of course, is a new standard by which to judge any and all who care to give American’s advice on eating a nutritionally sound diet. Moreover it lays bare the bizarre notion that diets consist of two choices: barbequed ribs, or cardboard and tofu. I’ve eaten carefully for most of my life, I’m two inches short of six feet, and I weigh 155 pounds. I’ve never eaten cardboard or tree bark. Perhaps Limbaugh isn’t aware that you can be trim and fit and eat a variety of wonderful foods.

What I find truly alarming is the sad reality that Limbaugh’s prejudices about what consists of a healthy diet is held by tens of thousands of his listeners, and perhaps millions more who have never heard his nationally syndicated radio program.

This is what I consider the all or nothing dynamic of the American diet.

Personally, I’m not a fan of ribs. Truth be told, I eat fish twice a week as my only flesh food. But beef is loaded with essential nutrients, and can be particularly beneficial to growing children. Lean, dark red meats are best of all.

As for the Obama children, a better question would be: What does the rest of the week’s diet consist of? Lots of fruits and vegetables, along with lower fat, high protein foods, or the more typical American fare for children of mac and cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets and fish sticks?

Limbaugh also denounced the insensitivity of Mrs. Obama in not recognizing that countless millions of children can’t afford all these “good foods” that she is speaking about. But I’m able to buy a one-pound bag of washed ready-to-eat spinach, and a one-pound bag of pre-washed broccoli florets, to munch and put in soups and salads during the week at a cost of two-bucks a bag. That’s a lot cheaper than most fast food.

Perhaps if Mr. Limbaugh tried some properly prepared vegetarian dishes, he may be surprised to learn that they taste much better than I imagine cardboard or tree bark could ever hope to taste.

Really, he should give it a try, expand his menu and discover new foods he probably knows little about. If he did, he would learn that there is a vast middle ground between his favorite foods, and foods that are really good for him.

After all, what does Mr. Limbaugh have to lose beside a hundred pounds or more?


Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editorfor, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right.

His latest book is Fit in 50 Days.