Saturday, January 16, 2010

The BIG Problem

I'm fat. It's no use mincing words, it's the truth. But I'm not alone. For the first time in history, being overweight kills more people than being underweight (according to the World Health Organization). In the United States, I've heard it said obesity is at epidemic proportions.

I want to be thinner. I want to be at a healthy weight. I want my tummy troubles to go away. I want to stop taking the prescription medications that I know are necessary because of my weight. Again, I'm not alone. Just ask anyone who has bought any of those ridiculous, gimicky exercise devices profiled on a late-night infomercial that either flat out don't work or become coat racks 30 seconds after they're delivered.

So why, if we're so eager to lose weight are we having such a difficult time doing it? You would think a society that lusts over models with visible rib cages and regularly tunes in to "pretty people" reality shows would know how to make this happen.

We do know how to make it happen. The problem is that the fast-food industry and our microwave convenience culture are in direct opposition to eating properly. The vast majority of food products available to us are loaded with 40% of our RDA of fat, 300% of our RDA of sodium, and 3% of our RDA of vitamins and minerals that have been artificially reinserted because the 10% that are in the product to begin with are stripped out during processing.

I won't go into the problems of "healthy" products trading off fat for sodium or cholesterol for calories. I'll just concentrate on the most important factor in food selection: Price. Eating healthy is expensive. The healthy entrees cost more and have less volume than the regular entrees. Diet programs like Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig, as effective as they may be, cost to be a member and you have to buy your food from them for the program to work. Bottom line is it's difficult and expensive to eat properly.

This country is not going to reverse its obesity problem until the food production and food service industries make it easier to eat properly. A massive nation-wide education program devoted to healthy eating wouldn't be a bad idea, either. But I don't think either one is going to happen until we see a tobacco-style class action lawsuit... and that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

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