We Americans Are Eating Ourselves To Death

If you read my columns from time to time, and I am deeply grateful if you do, you might envision me crafting them as I sit quietly at my desk in my study at home. Sometimes, that is precisely where I do my writing, but not always. Very often, I kill two birds with one stone. Such is the case with this literary offering.

Here’s a mental picture for you: I am engaged in the act of putting together my monthly installment for The Concordian on my feet and on the move. You see, I have a little workout room in my house and in that home gym is a treadmill upon which rests a jury-rigged shelf placed strategically across the safety arms thereby allowing the use of my laptop computer. I write while I walk.

47-calories burned since I wrote the first words you just read.

As has been widely reported, we are facing a crisis in this country that will have long-term, tragic, and totally avoidable consequences for tens of millions of Americans. We’re fat. We’re really fat and getting fatter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of the adult population over the age of twenty in the United States is obese. But a far higher percentage than that is overweight. Who do you know that can’t afford to loose five or ten or twenty pounds? Most of us can. I recently lost fourteen pounds with another ten left to drop to get down to a very trim weight for my height and physique—which explains why I am typing away with my fingers while my legs are marching along at a pace of two-and-a-half miles an hour on this treadmill. Much faster, I have found through experience, and it is very difficult to type accurately.

78-calories and counting, by the way.

Please don’t think that I am being obnoxious or holier than thou by discussing my walk-while-I-work approach, it is to make the point that staying as fit as possible requires each of us to demonstrate a little discipline and a reasonable amount of consistent effort. My boss, the News Director at ABC-7, always keeps a variety of chocolates for the taking on his desk as a friendly gesture and as a way to encourage the rank and file to wander into his office to say “hello.” For years, being a chocoholic, I could not resist the temptation of a late afternoon sugar rush and so I would visit Kevin’s office every day and grab not one or two, but ten or twelve pieces of candy. Do that everyday and you can imagine what one starts to notice on the scale. Therefore, for the past few years, instead of chocolate in the afternoon, I fix myself a snack plate of carrots, snap peas, a few pieces of fruit, and a small handful of almonds. It is much more filling and far better for my waistline and overall health. So now, I eat with more discipline and purpose during the workweek and allow myself some chocolate or a bowl of reduced-fat ice cream on the weekend. Combine that with four to five days of rigorous exercise each week and I can really tell the difference.

157-calories vanquished, just to keep you updated.

It is so profoundly important for each of us to do as much as possible to get into better shape and to maintain a healthy weight. It is better for our individual health obviously, and so critical for the overall financial health of the country. The links between obesity and a host of terrible and terrifying diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and so many more are very well documented.

We Americans are quite literally eating ourselves to death.

Visit any number of other countries and you will not typically see the kind of obesity rates that we have here. Why? In many parts of the world, much of Europe and Asia for example, they walk and ride their bicycles to get from one place to another and they don’t snack all day long as we do. And what they do eat does not tend to include the large quantities of processed food that is a staple of the American diet. In parts of the world where a western diet is becoming more prevalent, so too is a corresponding rise in obesity levels.

Even more alarming, and certainly much sadder, than what is happening to the grown-up population of this country, is what we are seeing happening to America’s children. Twenty-five million kids are over-weight or are in danger of becoming over-weight. It makes me angry to see parents allowing children who are already heavy to eat fast food and donuts and ice cream.

Part of the problem, of course, is that the foods that tend to be the worst for us also tend to be the least expensive and a lot of families simply cannot afford to make healthier meal choices for their children. But even those with little means can make decisions that will improve the quality of the food they feed their children. Buy a bag of carrots for a snack instead of a bag of chips, for example.

What Really Matters is that while the politicians debate health care reform in Washington, each of us can take action to reform the way we care for our own health at home. It is a matter of life and death and we have significant control over it.

940 words written, 206 calories burned, 2.51 miles walked.

Finis. TC mark

This post originally appeared at The Concordian.

featured image – Flickr / pointnshoot

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