Food Extremes and Obesity in the USA

Is it food or just nutrition you are eating?  The media and mega manufacturing have been pivotal in pushing nutritionism, the trend of looking at food as ingredients for an individual ingredient’s value and not the overall food that contains the ingredient, to the masses.  A great example is the benefit of omenga-3 in a diet but suggestion people take the easy road and take a supplement instead of a salmon dinner.  Another would be using foods in ways they were not naturally designed—high fructose corn syrup anyone?  Society needs to get back to eating actual food as a pillar to a healthy and balanced life.  Other important pillars, in my opinion, are exercise and plenty of sleep; which will work in concert with a healthy food diet.  I do not mean dieting but eating a balanced diet where nothing is in excess.  For example, if you love french fries then by all means eat french fries—just once a week instead of daily.

Author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, wrote a thought provoking and in-depth article on eating for The New York Times Magazine several years ago that is as relevant today as it was when it was published.  If you care about your food health consider it required reading.

His lengthy article can be summarized into several objectives to introduce food back into your diet and not the highly processed creations that come to market every year.  Do not try to incorporate all of them at once but work on one or two at a time until it becomes a habit and not a shopping or eating stress.

  1. Eat real food. Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.  It’s OK to be a food snob.
  2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims.
  3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
  4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
  5. Pay more, eat less.
  6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  7. Eat more like the French; or the Japanese, the Italians, the Greeks…
  8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden.
  9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet.

Why should you be concerned?  If you live in the USA, or almost anywhere in the world, obesity is increasing quickly with more ‘fast food, ‘ specialty drinks and processed food and far less cooking or eating at home. 

I have researched and written previously about this topic, and with an almost morbid curiosity, I look forward to seeing the statistics each year from the CDC’s survey on obesity in the USA.  The reason is two fold–I hope that states will drop in the rankings, such as Georgia did this year, and that my home state of Colorado continues to lead the nation with a healthier lifestyle ranking.

According to the CDC during the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. In 2009, only Colorado and the District of Columbia had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%.

Thirty-three states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25%; nine of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 30%.

Not the growth of a nation we read about in history class…

Where does your state size up?

Gaining momentum in the right direction are numerous initiatives to improve the eating and thus health of the nation.  Chef Jamie Oliver started the Food Revolution, a program that educates and inspires people around the country to eat fresh unprocessed foods in schools, at home, in their community, and in restaurants.  And speaking of restaurants I must commend Chipotle’s efforts to provide Food with Integrity buy using locally grown and organic produce and meats whenever possible.  If you have never eaten at a Chipotle I highly suggest you give them a try.

Use a tried and true method instead of a fad diet.  Eat less, move more.

As an athlete I am often asked for nutrition and training advice.  Since I am neither a nutritionist nor a trainer I first suggest talking to a nutritionist and a personal trainer if a person is serious about changing their lifestyle and/or losing weight.  Often health clubs and gyms will have a nutritionist on staff making it easy to accomplish both goals.  Or you can find a certified nutritionist HERE.  Do not overlook the value of talking to your physician before starting such a major life change.  They can provide valuable health advice to help you avoid injuries common to starting an exercise and diet change. 

The only advice I will give is stick to your plan and it will become a habit.  So turn off the TV, get up off the couch and go take a walk!

Get out and explore the World!

About Haliku

Mountain climber, ultrarunner, scuba instructor, world traveler, student of life
This entry was posted in Food & Wine, Muses, Training and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Food Extremes and Obesity in the USA

  1. Xenia says:

    Here, here! The problem is the only way we can get the majority of obese Americans to read anything sensible like this is to post it on a McDonalds wrapper. I think this whole thing stems from a decrease in patience in our society–we want it and we want it now. Sadly, that doesn’t work the same with weight loss. At least not long term weight loss and management.

  2. ultrathon says:

    This is really well written and so true.

    I shouldn’t complain too much… because people well,…. basically their stupidity and/or ignorance and/or denial gives me job security, despite how sad I am witnessing all that I see.

    I’ve often thought after giving the same advice over and over, day after day, “I should write a book.” Of course, if we ever wrote a diet book… it wouldn’t sell. The title would be: “Eat right, move more, oh yes and don’t forget your vege’s….and fish and nuts and….”

    Nobody would buy it because it would say what everybody already knows.

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