Oh my stars. David Zinczenko has gone insane.
A while ago, I reviewed Zinczenko's book "Eat This! Not That!" which is selling like hotcakes, even if it's not making our nation any healthier.
I was content to let it go at that. But friends? Zinczenko has gone batty. He may be the editor of Men's Health magazine, and he may even get to third base with B-list celebrities in the middle of A-list restaurants, but the man appears to be flat-out crackers. He has officially jumped the couch.
When trying to map the downward turn of Zinczenko's grasp on reality, future historians will probably hold up as evidence the email, leaked today, in which he compared his book to...um..."Barak Obama" [sic]. Yes, in a lofty internal email written after Super Tuesday, he compared his colorful book — the one that ponders whether it is better to eat a Big Mac or a Whopper with cheese — to the historic milestone that is our nation's possible first African-American president (via Gawker).
(Oh, yeah, he did. His reasoning is that since his book and Obama are both media darlings, they both have a growing appeal among women, they both have 'taken on fast food', and they both evolved into their own brand, he and Obama have, you know, more or less the same historical significance. According to Zinczenko, his book offers "an idea that is so big that it demands the attention of its target audience... its own circle of spinoffs, its own destiny.")
But that email is not what I shall point to as Exhibit A in the Hall of Whack. No, I will instead point to the second book (but not the last, as his email makes clear) in the 'Eat This! Not That!' series. 'Eat This! Not That! For Kids!' does the same thing that the adult version did — it offers color photos of better/worse choices at fast-food and chain restaurants, with corresponding nutritional information and tips. In this book, though, he focuses on menu items that would appeal to children.
Now, I know that Zinczenko canoodles at Balthazar, has written books on sex, teaches people how to kiss on talk shows, and is on record for his mediocre...er...never mind, but as far as I know he's never actually fathered a child. Nor am I sure he's ever actually seen an actual child. So, I'd like to invite Zinczenko to come hang out with me and my children, as well as a bunch of other real-life rugrats. Together, we can hit the local DQ or BK. Then, as the kiddies jump up and down, happily anticipating french fries and soda, I'll pull out his book and try to logically explain to their tiny, wholly illogical brains why they cannot have the meal that they want, and why they should make a better choice, say the meal with 20% fewer calories and 18% less saturated fat.
Then, when the whole dining experience collapses into a giant cesspool of whining and failed explanations, maybe Zinczenko will see just how insane his approach — the one where you try to keep your kids healthy while continuing to dine regularly at McDonalds — really is.
At the very least, he might change the book's title to 'Eat This! Not That!: How to Quibble With Your Kids Over Calories, While Failing to Teach Them Healthy Habits.'
Because I'm not yet completely out of my mind (mark my words, though: I will be by the time his promised 15th or 20th book in the series comes out), I'll recommend this: instead of swinging by the bookstore to pick up Zinczenko's latest, take your kids to places where you don't have to nitpick their choices in order to avoid obesity, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease. Take them to places where nearly all of the options are good ones, where they'll learn that there are vegetables besides iceberg lettuce and fried potatoes, and where they can see food as something that nourishes, instead of yet one more thing that must be negotiated.
Take them to a farmer's market, for example. Or a CSA. Or even the produce section of a grocery store. Then take them home, and show them how to cook something, so that maybe someday they'll have a fighting chance of living out a normal life span, instead of dying prematurely due to all the crap in franchise food.
My approach might not be flashy. It might not get you on the Today Show. It probably won't convince Julia Allison to let your fingers to do the walking inside a restaurant booth.
But at least it is grounded in some kind of reality.