Food Pyramid We Hardly Knew Ye

Posted on June 3, 2011


Yesterday the United States Department of Agriculture announced it was abandoning the food pyramid icon and moving to a new icon called “My Plate”.

The USDA gave the following reasons for the change:

1. Many people found the food pyramid confusing, especially on the matter of whether food should be served from a pyramid instead of a plate.  The new My Plate icon clarifies the plate as the most efficient tool for serving food.

2. Some parents worried their children were subliminally being taught about Egypt through the use of the pyramid, a clear violation of their rights as parents not to teach their children about the existence of other countries.

3. The constant visual presence of the food pyramid may have subtly conditioned Americans to be more trusting of and give money to pyramid schemes.  Americans proved especially susceptible to pyramid schemes selling shares in the pyramids and pyramid schemes seeking an overland route to the pyramids.

Food Archimedean Spiral?

Although I’ll miss the pyramid, a circle makes the most sense of all shapes if the goal was simplification.  I wish I had known the USDA was trying to make the chart less complicated before I started an office pool guessing the new shape and put my money on the concave polygon, the Lemoine hexagon, and the Archimedean Spiral.

Once the USDA had decided on a circle, the plate was not the automatic favorite, suffering from the lack of a plate lobby representing its interests in Washington, and giving an early edge to more powerful circles like the pizza, cake, and pie lobbies.  Early drafts of the new healthy eating program gave pizza, cake, and pie a chance to represent the circle, but somehow these didn’t test effectively in encouraging youth to eat better.

Helping to unveil the new My Plate icon were First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin.  During the press conference, both women emphasized that exercise was also an important step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and demonstrated the ease of getting some quick exercise by performing a short waltz.

Wait, are we doing the Viennese Waltz or Country Western?

The audience was not impressed when the women stumbled through a poor start as neither woman seemed sure who should lead and could not decide on a consistent time as Michelle favored a 2/4 and Regina would not budge from a 5/4.  After several awkward moves and a few hisses from the audience, they tried a tango.

One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four.

Regina: Maybe I should try leading.
Michelle: Doesn’t it seem like I should keep leading?  I’m six feet tall, you know?  How are you going to twirl me?
Regina: You’ve been leading this whole time and you haven’t twirled me once.  I don’t think you’d know a twirl if it twirled right past you.
Michelle: Oh, no, you didn’t!

Regardless of the success of their impromptu dance, kudos to these two ladies in showing their enthusiasm for improving public health.

Goodbye pyramid.  My biggest concern is with the timing of the announcement.  Did we really need to eliminate the pyramid at a time when Egypt needs our support?  What message are we sending as we appear to be symbolically rejecting Egypt at the very time it attempts to transition to democracy?

Congratulations to the circle on its food icon victory!  But don’t get too heady circle, I’ve heard some parents are already complaining about the circle as a subliminal message subverting their right not to teach their children the world is round.