Ethnography on WINTER DIET
Hailing from India, especially from the south (Chennai) which is closer to the equator we are used to the heavy dose of warm temperatures coupled with at least 70% humidity and not to forget the tainting of dust and pollution. The whole concept of winter, diet and everything that spins around it is a huge experience on the other side of the spectrum even after decade long living in South Dakota and Minnesota where we get to experience -35 Degree C.
When we think about what happens between November and March especially with food and diet apart from other health concerns such as from flu, winter accidents, falls etc. once has very few concepts to think about. In that regards ethnography is an excellent research tool where one gets a feel of peoples experiences and thoughts regarding winter diet. I have to admit that this topic is somewhat difficult to explore in short time and more of a "hot research topic" that the world would like to explore and learn more about it.
In general when I think of winter diet I can't hesitate to think why the snowman are always shown Fat. Does it imply something?
Hmm, may be he should consult an nutritionist and a physician so he is intact from November-March.
For this assignment the recommendations to perform ethnographic research are ASK, OBSERVE and EXPERIENCE by setting and engaging in activities related to winter diet. Unfortunately, it was quite difficult for me to observe people and also engage in activities in regards to winter diet given the limited time. As suggested, I did some literature review to study the annual consumption figures for vegetables and meat throughout the year to get an idea on whether or not there is a significant difference during winter. There wasn't any article that pins down this information. However, i was able to come to a consensus that on an average fresh vegetable consumption in general is slightly lower during winter and people tend towards frozen vegetables if they wish to have vegetables. Meat is readily available throughout the year and it is mainly peoples life style behavior that they tend to consume more meat between Nov-March period. However, I was very confidant that by asking people their experiences about winter diet, I could narrow down a problem area that would need improvement or change.
I interviewed 3 people a Post-Doc (Medical Physicist), MD doctor (Radiologist) and a Graduate Student (Biomedical Engineering) in the Mayo Clinic campus. I had a semi structured interview questionnaire that I wanted to hit to get the maximum out of the few minutes I had with them. All of them were mainly open ended questions to share their experiences about the main areas of eating habits and food choices. I was able to audio record the interviews for my future references, but they did request not to publish for common access.
The post-Doc was originally from Canada and I was very excited to learn more about winter diet experiences he had through the years. When asked about winter eating habits he said that there isn't much difference except that lots of candies and sweets gets consumed a lot during the winter holidays. Also meat consumption is increased especially turkey and beef. He particularly liked to avoid frozen vegetables and also fresh vegetables during winter just simply because they are cold and turn towards more meat. Warm beverages are preferred more which subsequently reduce water consumption. Overall, he concluded saying that people tend to eat lots and lots of food than usual during winter which is worsened by the winter holidays where people tend to eat extra and more sugary products that totally blows out the winter nutrition out of control.
The Radiologist was from Northern China who has immense experience living through harsh winters and enjoyed sharing her experience for this assignment. She said they consume more amount of lamb, beef and cabbage which helps them generate more heat to keep themselves warm. Additionally more apples, dumplings and hazel nuts are the their choices during winter which are less common during other period of time. As expected the quantity of food consumed increases a lot with more frequent consumption throughout the day. She also mentioned that consuming vegetables decline significantly and people people shy away from raw vegetables significantly and tend to depend on long cooked food which is also very hot to keep themselves warm.
The graduate student had more things to complain about food in general as he lives alone mostly cooking for self and then depending on fats food restaurants throughout the year. Especially winter makes it worse for him as he has less choice of vegetables that he likes to consume. Unfortunately he says there is a tendency to eat lots and lots of candies during the winter holidays and his integral complaint about winter diet is "people tend to eat more than what they want and also need". He is rather health conscious and tends to burn his extra calories in winter with extra dose of exercise and tends to keep himself fit and doesn't really worry or have any concerns whatsoever about winter diet.
Opportunites /Problem areas:
By talking to these people it is very clear that "Extra food is consumed in particular unhealthy during winter" mostly to comfort themselves to battle the cold by generating heat. The choice of the food is mainly dependent on what they like during winter and also believe that it would help them with winter. Both water consumption and fresh vegetables are severely compromised which are most needed to keep the body going. Physical activity is also proportionately reduced that adds to the complexity of winter health issues. There is no speculation that an easy advice one can give regarding winter diet is " PLEASE stay away from anything that tastes good". Is it even possible? How can you forget that turkey during thanks giving? The beef? The candies? All those holiday parties?
Here is my Persona that came out of this interview. Jill is a 25 years old young lady who really wants to focus on vegetable heavy winter food but in actuality and reality the beefs, turkey and candies doesn't let her alone!
(1) Jill a 25 years old young woman needs a way to motivate herself towards more vegetable oriented winter diet because she is very health conscious and worries about the weight gain in winter due to heavy meat and junk food consumption during winter.
(2) Samuel, a 35 years old man needs a way to increase physical activity and consume more water than beverages during winter because he doesn't want to compromise on his usual heavy dose of winter junk food which he really relishes.
This assignment is one of my favorite so far as it is indeed a research problem that needs due attention. Being an Asian Indian especially from south, there is no category such as winter diet as pretty much throughout the year we follow same eating habits and food choices except on occasions of festivals which at least two show up each month, one gets the extra dose of food of course mostly unhealthy. However when I think of Jill, I do come to a consensus that winter diet is indeed a pivotal issue that people do realize its impact but often care less about it and just enjoy their winter food and holidays.