Dr. Eric Rimm knows the “slippery slope” of temptation that comes with a plate of French fries. The professor, who teaches in the departments of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, insisted, “Who doesn’t like fries?! I very rarely order them but frequently get them when I forget that they come with a sandwich at a restaurant.”
But Rimm is a fry-lover who knows his very specific limits; in a piece published in The New York Times Thursday, titled “You Don’t Want Fries with That,” Rimm was an expert voice arguing that the ideal serving of French fries is six. With a side salad.
The Twitter backlash was predictable, and vicious. Some suggested wedgies. Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi said, “I don’t have time for this kind of negativity in my life right now.” And Rimm, even in the middle of a business trip to London, noticed. “Am I really a monster?” he wrote in an e-mail to Vanity Fair. “A lot of tweeters in the U.K. and the U.S. act like I just caused a third world war!”
But no amount of Internet infamy will inspire Rimm to back down from his position, or his heroic skills at self-restraint when presented with a plate of what he called “starch bombs” in the Times. When they sneak in as a side, he’s faced with a conundrum: “What to do? Send them back? Certainly not, because once they are in front of you, and you smell and taste just one, you fall down the slippery slope. Fifteen minutes after the meal, I am reminded (again) by the feeling in my stomach why I shouldn’t eat a whole order and why I should have stopped at six.”
All Rimm wants, he said, is the option of something smaller, regardless of whether you can limit yourself to six. “I was just suggesting restaurants could give much smaller options of fries for those of us who might need a taste but don’t need a whole basket in front of us with a meal,” he said. “For goodness sake, a large order of McDonald’s French fries has 510 kcal. That’s almost four 12-ounce Cokes. How’s your stomach feel now?”
Wear a mask for those role models you looked up to as you grew up, who are now are relying on you to make smart decisions.