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Posts Tagged ‘medicine’

What’s wrong with our food culture?

With more access to both high quality information and such a wide variety of foods, one might think we would have fixed so many of the health problems associated with diet and weight control.

But the reverse is true – more people are sick and unhealthy.  More people are overweight, obese, or depressed, than ever before.  And there is so much at stake that it has now become a political issue in many countries.

People’s pockets and health care systems around the globe are straining under the burden of illnesses, quite often, that may have been simply averted all together by their sufferers eating a healthy diet.

Watch a channel like the Food Network in the United States, and you can see why well over 60% of the US population is overweight.   Some of the programs encourage cooking with ingredients that should NEVER be eaten, particularly in combination with each other, and some celebrate indulgence on a scale that can only be described as completely irresponsible.  Portion size in the US has grown to unimaginable sizes, and celebrated on some of these programs.

Also in the US, there is a non-stop barrage of advertisements for drugs on television. Many of these are to combat high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, there are even depression medications to supplement depression medications.

It is astounding to think of the statistics around Diabetes 2, or adult onset diabetes.  In some areas, over 50% of the population has this mostly preventable condition.  Ditto for high blood pressure, heart disease, many depressions and cancers.

What is going on? Well, in the lands of plenty, quite simply, most people are choosing to eat terrible food.  Abundance is all around, yet people punish their bodies, and the bodies of their families.

This is not only punishment with fast food, but with processed foods, ready meals, bad ingredients and bad food combinations.  People are spending thousands of dollars each year at the supermarket, on food that is killing them.

With regard to fast food, I cannot imagine why people have chosen to be there, to consume these terrible foods.  Many people, after reading books like Fast Food Nation and seeing films such as Supersize Me, have stopped eating regularly at the obvious fast food pit stops.  But with such low price points, and such high levels of addictive fat and additives – perhaps it is just an easy solution that they rationalize about later.

But many restaurants, chains, and roadside pit-stops are just as bad, and have unfortunately become the mainstay diet for many people.  Many reassure themselves that “once in awhile” surely must be OK, right?  It is not OK, and I envisage a day when we will look back on fast food for what it is – irresponsible.

Another thing we should realize is that most of our dietary patterns – recipes and food combinations, come from a time when calories were scarce and people worked long hard hours mostly doing physical labor, and when there were no cars!

These days, even though people have a much lesser need for calories and a greater choice of healthy fresh food options, they consume more calories, contained in some of the worst food.  Most people – 70% of people, are consuming more than their bodies need, every single day.

Additionally, there are endless diet programs and exercise machines, which promise to solve whatever problem you need to address, in a couple of weeks or even in an instant.

My favorite is a drug that prevents the body from absorbing fat, and if you happen to consume enough fat while you’re taking it, it helps you to leave a vile ring of oil behind you in the toilet.  What a lifesaver!

It is totally indicative of where we are with weight loss and obesity – choosing to select solutions when we are at the end of our tether, rather than looking at the root of the problem.

In the 1970’s, where I grew up, there were virtually no fat people.  It was very odd to be fat.  I ask anyone who can remember that age to think back – to look at photographs and recollect those times.  What has happened?

My view is this:  Firstly there were developments in technology and packaging – the microwave oven and frozen pre-prepared foods came on the scene, and people started cooking less.  Fast food restaurants opened en mass.

More women began leading double lives as parents and breadwinners, and spending as little time in the kitchen as they had spare.  While this was initially viewed as a luxury by men and women who had grown up in an era when food really was scarce, our “disconnection” with food ingredients and cooking has cost us very dearly in the longer run.  But that’s only part of it.

I think there was, in the 1980’s some sort of trend toward acceptance of virtually everything.  Free to be you and me.  Love me as I am.  Beauty on the inside.  Fat people need loving too.  Its not my fault I’m fat – I can’t help it.  I have a slow metabolism…

Over time we have added computers, remote control, cable television, satellite dishes, VHS and DVD players and video games to our home environment.  And the internet, which is ironically the most vital source of information about the prevention of disease, now accounts for more of our personal time than nearly anything else.

So, less accountability in the kitchen, “easy options” for food preparation (or non-preparation), more consuming of “sold foods”, as opposed to preparing foods, and lots and lots and lots and lots of screen-gazing – it’s a bad equation for health.

(Don’t get me wrong, I think we should celebrate the technological achievements of humankind, but let’s not forget the achievements of nature.  If we forget that, and fail to celebrate and respect it, we will be missing out on so much that nature has provided, in particular, good food.)

So, as a result of these cultural changes people have totally different lifestyles to those led in the pre-1960’s.  Our lives, particularly those of children, are more sedentary.

Our food, for the most part, has become appallingly over-processed.  Should I demonize the processed food industry?  Perhaps.  But people have brains, and we have choices.

Health is a two-way street, and we can’t always blame others.  People who are super-fit and healthy know that it takes good decisions and good actions to get that way.  They don’t blame others – they take control.

It is very hard work for many people to even cook a simple meal using fresh ingredients.  Some people cannot even SHOP for fresh food.  They can’t cook it so they don’t buy it.  They often do not even know what it looks like, or what it is.  Moreover, they are oblivious to how to read the label on many common foodstuffs, with many simple good foods simply being overlooked – forever.

Who suffers most?  Children, of course.  The future generations.  Many children have a diet of sugar, full fat processed dairy products, processed foods, institutional foods, ready meals, takeouts and junk food ONLY.  As a mother I find this very disturbing.

Children need proper nutrition not just to learn and grow, but to ensure their moods are not artificially elevated or depressed.

Also, how are children to learn about good nutrition if they are not eating it?

You know, we have no need to wonder about why children are hyperactive, lethargic, or cannot concentrate or are overweight.  Between the white sugar, chemical additives, bad fats, dyes, hormones and antibiotics present in so many foodstuffs, too many children are suffering from a lack of good general nutrition.

If you are feeding your kids sugary boxed cereal for breakfast, relying on an institutional school lunch, processed snacks in the afternoon, and a questionable dinner prepared on the move – at what stage of the day are they actually nutritionally primed to meet the demands of their bodies and the learning tasks that are set to them?

I say you can get better results when your children are eating sound, nutritious food, and they will thank you for it later in life.  Children rely on adults to guide them to making sound decisions.  Don’t let them down.

Life can be described as one action after another, one step at a time.  Make your actions and your steps count.  In my view, it is everyone’s responsibility to look after their weight and their health.  Sure, you have a right to choice, a right to make decisions about your life, and the right to enjoy yourself and “indulge”, but this must be tempered with a view toward the broader picture.

Heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes… we all pick up the tab for overindulgence.  Being overweight, even moderately overweight, costs both individuals and society, a fortune.  Money, that some maintain, could be better allocated elsewhere.

For diseases and accidents that could be prevented or avoided, often the approach is with a wanton abandon – a selfishness and stupidity that is truly amazing for an allegedly advanced civilization.

Many people say – “I don’t have time to cook, I don’t have time to read labels, I don’t have time to exercise, I am so busy with my kids I have to feed them what I can, I can’t afford certain ingredients…”, etc., etc.

Well, the real time and money stealers are health problems.  Sitting in the doctor’s office, sitting perhaps with your children at the doctor’s office, buying prescriptions, undergoing tests, having operations, getting sick and having time off work, developing diabetes or cancer.

These steal time, and in many cases – whole lives.

If you don’t look after your body, it will not look after you – and trying to mend a broken body is most assuredly very time consuming.

Make time today, to eat and cook well.  There’s no shortage of information on how to do so.   The decisions and actions – are yours.