If suddenly one evening you got a tweet, and it's a photo from a friend who wants you to see exactly what he's eating for dinner that night, would you care?
Picture this: You're about to veg out in front of "The Biggest Loser" with your own dinner plate —a half-pound burger on a bun the size of a frisbee and a hill of hash browns, with a banana-caramel cupcake for dessert — when a pal sends you a snapshot of what she's digging into: a palm-sized portion of grilled chicken breast (skinless) with the organic label left on, four stalks of perfectly steamed broccoli, an arugula salad with a smattering of omega-3 walnuts and, for dessert, two plump dates.
Is a #MyPlateYourPlate picture worth a thousands words ... from your heart doctor? Would seeing the dinner plate of your friend or Sting or Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stop your mind for a moment and make you think twice about what you're eating, and why. And what it might feel like to eat smarter, smaller, healthier? Let us pray.
We know social media, well managed and virally sound, can stir outrage and start revolutions. Can it also inspire us to make cleaner, better, more mindful food choices?
With out-of-control obesity flattening our potential as a healthy, hardworking country, I do know this: People need to become more conscious of what they're eating. It's as simple as that. Just wake up to what's really on your dinner plate — the amount and quality of the food, fat, protein and carbs you're putting in your body.
And that's what the new MyPlate public awareness campaign does. It makes you focus. And it makes the recipient of your picture focus, too: Is this a dinner plate I'm proud of? Are my portions too big? Does my plate have a life-affirming assortment of all five USDA-approved food groups?
And what would those five basic food groups be, by the way? Surprise! Pop quiz! Just for fun, and a taste of humiliation, can you name the five food groups that form the basis of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans?" Take your time. Clue: Pizza is not one of them.
ANSWER: Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. I am not saying these are the best five food groups you could name. I read the blogs; there is nuance and injustice and Big Food money at work. But I am saying these are the five food groups that made it to the MyPlate icon that replaced the Food Pyramid last year, and they are very likely to be on your final exam.
March 8, 2012, has been officially declared "What's on My Plate?" Day. (Check your local paper for parade times.) It marks the launch of a new social media campaign, a co-venture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Institute of Food Technologists, a nonprofit scientific society with a name George Orwell might have invented.
Food Technologists? Isn't that an oxymoron? Food you want to eat comes out of the ground, not laboratories. Food fiddled with by technologists is just another way of saying processed, fake food, which are on the "No Fly" list of most honest health brokers. Many of these manufactured foods — I won't name names, but if it has more than five ingredients, it's not a real food — are so filled with chemicals, additives, dyes, and toxins that they have a shelf life longer than Willy Nelson.
But I digress. Back to the MyPlate campaign, which does sound like a good idea, if it catches on, which is impossible to predict. It begins with you and your willingness to snap a picture of your healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner — and then share it on Twitter with the hashtag #MyPlate. An alternative hashtag is #MyPlateYourPlate.
You can also share photographs of your success on the USDA Flickr Photo Group (keep it clean) and tell stories on Facebook about your dinner plate that will either inspire others with your wellness wonderfulness or make them hate you.
Either way, it'll make you focus — and from that place of awareness, change can happen. Go to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov to get started.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! EATING ON REMOTE CONTROL
"Our studies show that the average person makes around 250 decisions about food every day — most of which they cannot explain." — Brian Wansink, author of "Mindless Eating" (highly recommended)
Marilynn Preston - wellness coach, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, http://marilynnpreston.com and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to [email protected] To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.