Monday, November 28, 2016

Cafe Culture

There are two things that are so ubiquitous in Australian towns and cities that you almost have to wonder if they are related: cafes and people who are overweight or obese. Visiting the local cafe permeates most things Australians do: shopping, biking, paddling, walking, sight-seeing, meeting friends, these things all seem to end, start, or be punctuated with a visit to the local cafe.

Which is great, because loneliness and social isolation are bad for individuals and communities. Sadly, eating sugar, grains and industrial seed oils is similarly detrimental to health, and there is little or nothing on the menu at the average cafe that is not a toxic combination of all three. Left to our own devices, Doug and I would probably never visit the local cafe. We don't eat grains, sugar or industrial seed oils and our budget lifestyle does not run to $5 cups of black tea on a regular basis.

SMH file photo

But I do enjoy chatting with friends after a kayak trip or bushwalk at the local cafe. It is a tradition that is not common in Canada. Our trips in Canada generally started early, finished late, and virtually never included a visit to the local cafe afterwards. On some trips I felt I barely spoke to my companions if the trip was particularly long and arduous apart from grunting "your lead," while handing over the rack. So, I do support the cafe culture that Australia has embraced, but I do wonder if indulging frequently in the sort of food cafes serve does not off-set most of the benefit of social interaction.

A bit late for local cafe

So are cafes and overweight related? I think they are. The food they offer is highly palatable but nutrient poor. It all looks good and is hard to resist but it does not deliver that mix of nutrients (primarily amino acids) that signal satiety. If you've been exercising, there is little doubt that you have over-estimated your calorie expenditure and are soon to under-estimate your calorie consumption - that's just what we all do. You simply cannot out-exercise a bad diet which is why cafes are filled with cyclists who've just ridden for hours and hours, and are still over-fat.  

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