Sunday, July 25, 2010

Attention. The Systems are Down.

Continuing the conversation from my post on Friday…

The article gave 4 tips. Essentially, eat more vegetables and fruits and less fats and meat. Oh, and exercise. Apparently, we're not doing that. Is this news? The rate of obesity has been on the rise for almost a century. The public hears recommendations that experts and the USDA suggest, but for some reason, they're not following them. Why not?

The article touches lightly on it. “For Americans today, healthy eating is like swimming upstream.” The system does not allow for people to make the best choices. Sheer human will power has something to do with our failed health but I’d say the majority of it has to do with the systems that touch upon food. The systems I am covering are very complicated. There are multiple facets that would take years and years of blog posts to cover. What I’m offering are my high level thoughts on how they impact our inability to make healthy choices.

The food system is completely distorted and extremely complex in the US. The government has a very large hand in the food industry and that really shouldn’t be the case because it has its other hand(s) in making laws, the country’s economic wellbeing, and a much much more. The agenda of government sponsored groups are a bit hazy. Who are they working for? The people? The industry lobbyists? The US economy? I’ll let you decide for yourself.
The reality of the situation is that vitamin and antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables are not subsidized by the government while soy, corn, wheat, milk and meat are. And because of the way those foods are subsidized, farmers and livestock growers try to produce as much bulk as possible, sacrificing quality for quantity. The citizens’ health and wellbeing are not concerns. Shouldn’t the food system and the food pyramid be based on healthy BMI’s or blood pressure and not $$$?? There are many more aspects of food and politics. If you are interested, I’d suggest one Marion Nestle’s book Food Politics and her very informative

The issue with the education system is 3-fold.
1) Food education itself is minimal. What I remember learning about food was a brief overview of the food pyramid and minimal cooking experience in a 7th grade Home Ec class where I remember making cookies and cakes vs. kale or hummus.
2) School food is an atrocious excuse for food. It's the garbage pail for the subsidized food system.  If a student is receiving any adequate information on healthy eating, he or she experiences an extreme disconnect once they get into the cafeteria. School food needs to align with what we teach our children and we need to teach our children correctly.
3) Physical education aka gym class is being eliminated or drastically cut from many schools in favor of more classes to meet demands of higher test standards. This is counterproductive, people! No kid is going to sit through 3 hours of class without fidgeting or acting up-then they get diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.  They are full of boundless energy and our schools need to embrace it. Let's allow our kids to release that energy so that when they get back into the classroom, they can learn!

We are a capitalist society. Although it's built our country to becoming pretty powerful, our economy has us prioritizing money over public health. This happens every day in America. Our children are preyed upon by big food corporations with artificially colored cereals and gummies and with funny, entertaining commercials for cookies and candies. Restaurants and fast food chains offer the biggest bang for the buck with big portions or low cost, low quality foods. Some doctors have even admitted that their practice is a business and if their patient wants to come in for a second bypass surgery, they’ll let them. Prevention and taking vitamins is not encouraged because it doesn’t make any money, honey! When the economic engine of our country is run by drivers with $ signs in their eyes, our health takes a back seat.

Society is broken. Our values are no longer driven internally or by our family. Instead, we are constantly reaching out externally to learn and adopt unhealthy values. One such value is the value of beauty. Our society’s value of beauty usurps that of emotional intelligence and logical intelligence as well as just being a damn good person. Our standard of beauty is unattainable with ever-shrinking Barbie dolls being an ideal image to girls AND boys. Beauty ads have models airbrushed to perfection. Many of us grow up under the idea that we need to become physically perfect. We ignore the bags under the skinny girl’s eyes or the steroids that the bodybuilder is injecting into himself.
Another value is the value of our selves! Society says it’s a “no-no” to concentrate on you. No matter if you are a mom, dad, daughter, son, student, dog owner, entrepreneur, accountant, line cook, psychologist, or even a doctor, you are not a priority to you.
Society is complex and I only brought up 2 values-keep the conversation flowing. This is something to change overnight. It will take a generation or two. Don’t your grandparents or parents still have the same values they grew up with?

Yikes! This is that big dustball that keeps getting swept under the bed. The difference this time is that Obama is cleaning house! There are a multitude of issues with the healthcare system, only some of which is being addressed so far with the reform. Our healthcare system is not about health. Some, like my teacher Joshua Rosenthal, would say it's a disease management system.  Let's practice prevention-not reactional therapies!  

We need to take the reins back and take control of our environment and change them so they support a healthier lifestyle-not butt heads with it. Start with yourself. What is one thing you can do to better your health? Then move onto family and friends. How can you support and/or educate them to eat and live healthier? Then go on to your community. Can you talk to the PTA and start a wellness committee at your school? Maybe start a community garden? Change the local school lunch program? The possibilities are boundless. You don’t need to do any large like eradicate pesticide use or hormone raised meat. Start with ONE small thing. Maybe buy the cookies without the trans fats for your family next shopping trip and let them know why you are doing it. Take a “ME” day so that you are more focused at home and work and are a more pleasant person to be around.

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