Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Americans and Food: A Deadly Obsession

Unfortunately, one should never have to write an article/blog about death or mortality. But some people, like myself, are on the front lines of a war. It's not new news to hear that Americans are some of the fattest people in the world. Some even go far enough as to say that this "fatness" is a reward for being at the top or being the most successful country, and that it's just an innocent byproduct of our hard working society. Is this something to be proud of or is this something to loathe and hate enough to fight against it? As an intensive care nurse, I have first line ability to witness the dismantling of a large percentage of our population due to their inability to control what they eat. Confronting people about their overall general health, eating habits, and exercise habits is just routine in my occupation, and the results are usually startling. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, hypertension, blindness, gum/mouth disease, early menstruation, intelligence, mood, reproductive and mental health have been linked to what one consumes.

A very scary fact that is hidden from plain view is also the link between genes and how one's diet has the effect in expressing or silencing certain diseases that run in families. Most of the young people I talk to have no clue as to the health problems they may be subjected to solely based on their genetic makeup. During my health background interviews I perform with patients, I always ask them to analyze their parents ailments and diseases, because these are the health problems that they will be more likely susceptible to. For example (and this is true), it is predicted that 1 out of every 2 African-Americans and 1 out of 3 Mexican-Americans/Hispanics will be diagnosed with diabetes in the future years. This little known fact has a lot to do with simple connections between genetics and culture. I'm not being racist, because the rate of diagnosis of diabetes in caucasians is rapidly increasing as well. Increasing numbers of Americans are mysteriously being diagnosed with liver and pancreatic cancers of unknown origin. Diet is believed to be the main culprit here as well. The linkage of overall mental and physical health has its roots in ones basic diet. Like the old saying, "You get what you pay for," well your body "Gives back to you what you put into it." If you feed it shit, it will look like shit, feel like shit, and perform like shit.

Why is America getting fatter? I think there are numerous factors to the widening of waistbands. Technological advances have afforded our children the luxury of never having to leave the house to be entertained. Recess and P.E. in schools are being removed so that our under productive kids can slave away over more school work. Health class has been relegated to just a way for kids to get an easy "A" without ever having to learn anything. Clubs such as the FFA are obsolete in inner cities. High fat, high cholesterol, and highly processed foods are too easily accessible and unregulated by the federal government. Parents are uninvolved and overworked to spend quality time with their kids at the dinner table and cook a nutritious meal. And don't count out the lobbyists and the pocketed politicians that create absurd policies in the food and health field. I also file blame upon all the health companies out their (and there are thousands of them) that peddle bullshit weight loss schemes to millions of Americans. These are just a few of probably many reasons that can be attributed to obesity in America.

What can be done about it? Change has to happen. Ironically a lot of the major widespread positive food trends are being created/resurrected by those whom worship food the most, foodies. I consider myself a foodie, or a hardcore food fan, but that doesn't mean it pardons me from taking care of my general health and well being. A balance has to be sustained; "everything in moderation." Many people have lost touch of food in general. They have no connection to how food is grown and harvested. Many like to forget that much of their food had to die to reach their plate, as if by not knowing that an innocent animal had to be clubbed to death their conscience can remain clean. It's ridiculous, how mass production has altered the foods we eat. What used to be natural has become unnatural and the unbelievable to become reality, not good. The healthiest thing foodies have demanded and advocated are the return to BASICS. Yes, I said it, BASICS. Food is not complicated, it's simple; organic soil plus water plus organic seed plus sunshine and complimentary weather equals healthy food. Any adulteration to these basic elements of food is unhealthy. Pesticides and fertilizers of any inorganic origin is detrimental to one's health. Also the revolution and return of local produce will, hopefully, continue to grow throughout the United States. By growing produce locally, it would kill the need to ship vast amounts of food from far off areas of the world to feed our insatiable appetites. Plus growing your own food or eating local produce is much more nutritious, because the longer the food has been plucked from its source, and the longer it has to travel, the more nutrients are lost in transition. People also need to reconnect with seasonality. Foods aren't naturally available all year round, each vegetable eaten is grown in a certain season, and after that season is gone its time to move onto the next vegetable. Sounds crazy right? Not really. It's only been done this way for the last couple thousand years, all the way up until the last hundred years has it not. Disregard all the crap about the health pyramid that they show you in school, that crap is confusing. If you eat a majority of fruits, nuts, and vegetables and reduce the amount of fats, dairy, carbohydrates and meats one eats, it is easy to stay healthy. The less processed foods consumed the better. If you got more canned or boxed products than you have fresh produce in your shopping cart while pissing away your life in a Wal-Mart line, then you probably have a problem. The main reason that I hear people can't eat the right way is that local and organic products are too expensive. If that is the case then just eat conventional foods but in the same proportions of more vegetables, nuts, and fruits compared to the rest, you will still improve your general health greatly. Trust me, triple-bypasses, kidney transplants, and heart stents are wwwaaaayyyyy more expensive than a few extra dollars spent on organic groceries. Please invest in your future!

Now that one is eating right, the other most important ingredient to fighting morbid obesity is exercise. You got to get off your butt and get your heart pumping to stay healthy and prevent that side of bacon fat from attaching to your ass. Diet tricks and fads only work to a certain point in losing or maintaining weight. All the diet tricks lead to one result, decreased metabolism. If you eat less calories then your body decreases its metabolism to meet the lessened calorie consumption. So after knowing this fact, weight loss comes down to very basic, simple math. The calories taken in minus the calories burned equals the amount of weight lost, plain and simple!

It has been pretty sad to see our great country looked down upon by other countries and have them pity our quality of life. This current generation is the first to see a decline in the life expectancy in America. And most embarrassing of all is that we have the greatest health care system in the world, but our life expectancy doesn't even match that of Cuba! The United States ranks almost 40th in life expectancy among all the countries of the world, and the odds are that we may continue to slip even farther. The fountain of youth is a mortal concept actually, and that by returning to the basics of life, like eating appropriate organic foods and adequate exercise, will we ever be able to find it.

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