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Filming in a Fast Food Nation

04-06-2013 · Sara Gibbings

This is my first time filming in Texas and I love it! The people we’re interviewing have been fantastic , and the cities are incredibly photogenic.  Our two week tour of Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston is almost done; the shoot for our documentary about school safety and discipline has gone really well so far.

We have faced floods, storms, fierce heat and humidity and the threat of tornados but perhaps the biggest danger we’ve faced is more insidious; a stealthy killer that claims the lives of millions of Americans each year. Yes, I’m talking about the food.

Giant bacon sandwichThe South has a reputation for a high calorie comfort food and fast food diet, whether its grits and bacon for breakfast, cheese-laden tacos for lunch, or a Flintstones-sized steak with mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner, the portions are massive and the refills for your soda of choice are endless.

The vast majority of eateries provide fatty, sugary and salty, albeit absolutely delicious, fare. Coupled with that, the need to drive practically everywhere due to the distances and lack of decent public transportation and it’s no wonder that obesity is rampant in the Lone Star State.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) an astonishing 65.9% of adults in Texas are classed as overweight (a BMI of 25 or over) and 27.7% are considered obese (a BMI of 30 or more).  In other words, almost the entire adult population suffers from serious weight issues. With these figures it is not surprising that 27.3% of Texans do not do any kind of physical activity whatsoever, other than basic walking.

Craig eating in TexasWe all know the list of problems associated with this include diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Whenever I’m working in the US, particularly in the South, I have a real problem with the food. I’m allergic to corn and they put corn starch, corn syrup or just plain corn in most foods due to the heavy corn farming subsidies, so by default I have to avoid processed foods or else I break out in a rash, get headaches, tummy aches and generally feel unwell.  And I’m really not a fan of junk food anyway so even if it wasn’t laden with corn, I still wouldn’t eat it every day.

In order to eat something vaguely as fresh and healthy as we would find at home, we have to go out of our way, pay more and have less choice. But that is ok with me! The highways and cities have tempting fast food joints every few miles- burgers, tacos, pizzas, fries, cakes and candy, gallons of soda; it takes an extraordinary effort to avoid it.

Working and travelling an average of 14-16 hours a day doesn’t leave much, if any room for exercising either but I try to get in at least 20 minutes in my hotel room each day- a combination of toning, cardio and yoga stretches. It’s not much but it’s better than nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve eaten some incredible food- mouth watering aged steak with a tangy dry rub, sizzling fajitas with fresh chilies, and huge shrimp and broccoli on brown rice.  The portions are so big that, after a modest hotel breakfast of porridge and juice or fresh fruit, I only eat one meal a day and then have a snack in the evening.  I think it’s all about moderation.

They say everything is bigger in Texas and I believe it; the highways, the houses, the cars, the shopping malls and even the weather, but it’s really a shame that the people are bigger too.

Sara Gibbings

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