Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Raising a Generation of Obesity

The majority of the food industry couldn't care less about your health - or the health of your family. They care about profits and shelf life. They care about making more and more foods using less and less real ingredients, replacing them with chemicals and processes.

Most restaurants are interested in things looking good and tasting good - not being good for you. Have you any idea how much salt, fat and sugar goes on your plate. How much stuff is injected in your food before it gets to the restaurant where the "chef" (ha ha) dumps it in a fryer of grease?

Have you really looked at the ingredient list on the foods you buy? Do you know what half that stuff is? Are you comfortable putting things in your body that you can't pronounce and can't find anywhere else in the grocery store (because it's not a food!!!!)? How many different names for sugar does the food industry use to cover up the fact that the product is mostly sugar? (The answer is lots).

And if you are a parent and remain in the dark about what you're putting in your body, you will be in the dark with what you put in your child's body. It is not the food industry, the government, the school system, or anyone else's job to keep you and your family healthy. That job belongs exclusively with you. Check out an excerpt from an article in a recent issue of Time Magazine.

If you're a settler, you eat a lot of buffalo in part because you need a lot of buffalo — at least after burning so many calories hunting and killing it. But what happens when eating requires no sweat equity at all, when the grocery store is always nearby and always full?

What happens is, you get fat, and that's precisely what we've done. In 1900 the average weight of a college-age male in the U.S. was 133 lb. (60 kg); the average woman was 122 lb. (55 kg). By 2000, men had plumped up to 166 lb. (75 kg) and women to 144 lb. (65 kg). And while the small increase in average height for men (women have remained the same) accounts for a bit of that, our eating habits are clearly responsible for most.

Over the past 20 years in particular, we've stuffed ourselves like pâté geese. In 1985 there were only eight states in which more than 10% of the adult population was obese — though the data collection then was admittedly spottier than it is now. By 2006, there were no states left in which the obesity rates were that low, and in 23 states, the number exceeded 25%. Even those figures don't tell the whole story, since they include only full-blown obesity. Overall, about two-thirds of all Americans weigh more than they should.

"Sit down on a bench in a park with a person on either side of you," says Penelope Slade-Royall, director of the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "If you're not overweight, statistically speaking, both of the other people sitting with you are."

If there was any firewall against the fattening of American adults, it was American kids. The quick metabolism and prodigious growth spurts of childhood make it a challenge just to keep up with all the calories you need, never mind exceed them. But even the most active kids could not hold out forever against the storm of food coming at them every day.

In 1971 only 4% of 6-to-11-year-old kids were obese; by 2004, the figure had leaped to 18.8%. In the same period, the number rose from 6.1% to 17.4% in the 12-to-19-year-old group, and from 5% to 13.9% among kids ages just 2 to 5. And as with adults, that's just obesity. Include all overweight kids, and a whopping 32% of all American children now carry more pounds than they should. "There's no way to overestimate how scary numbers like this are," says Seeley.

Obese boys and girls are already starting to develop the illnesses of excess associated with people in their 40s and beyond: heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, gallstones, joint breakdown and even brain damage as fluid accumulation inside the skull leads to headaches, vision problems and possibly lower IQs.

A staggering 90% of overweight kids already have at least one avoidable risk factor for heart disease, such as high cholesterol or hypertension. Type 2 diabetes is now being diagnosed in teens as young as 15. Health experts warn that the current generation of children may be the first in American history to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents'. "The more overweight you are, the worse all of these things will be for you," says acting U.S. Surgeon General Steven Galson. And, warns Seeley, the worse they are likely to stay: "When you're talking about morbidly obese kids, zero percent will grow up to be normal-weight adults."

It's hardly a secret how American children have come to this sickly pass. In the era of the 64-oz. soda, the 1,200-calorie burger and the 700-calorie Frappuccino, food companies now produce enough each day for every American to consume a belt-popping 3,800 calories per day, never mind that even an adult needs only 2,350 to survive. Not only are adults and kids alike consuming far more calories than they can possibly use, but they're also doing less and less with them.

The transformation of American homes into high-def, Web-enabled, TiVo-equipped entertainment centers means that children who come home after a largely sedentary day at a school desk spend an average of three more sedentary hours in front of some kind of screen. Schools have contributed, with shrinking budgets causing more and more of them to slash physical-education programs. In 1991, only 42% of high school students participated in daily phys ed — already a troubling low figure. Today that number is 25% or less.

The food industry counts on you looking for convenience, a good deal, or a dining "experience". They also count on you becoming "addicted" to the taste of salt, fat and sugar - that's what keeps you coming back.

I will be the first to admit that it's not easy!!! Being educated is not enough. Knowledge is not power. Applied knowledge is power. We have to take what we know about nutrition and exercise and apply it to our everyday lives.

Don't let "them" control you, or your family's, health.

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1 comment:

  1. I agree that something should be done. We are a nation of people getting bigger and bigger.