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The Obesity Epidemic

Here is a bit of conventional wisdom goes:

You don’t change people’s diets by telling them what to eat.

Nobody likes to be lectured on what’s good for them and what they should eat. But the truth is that we do tell people what to eat, every day, and we tell them the wrong things on a regular basis.

The problem is most of never listen. (This concept also works with smoking cigarettes.)

In 2010, American food companies spent $8.5 billion marketing food, beverages and candy to the public; meanwhile the American government’s primary healthy eating program was budgeted at $44 million. Food companies are telling people what to eat, and they are doing it almost 200 times louder than any attempt by governments to tell people to eat healthy.

So it is really no surprise that America's Obesity Epidemic now effects 34% of American adults.

On a global scale 850 million people go to bed hungry each night, so we know that the system is broken. America is fat and unhappy about their weight while children overseas are starving. It all seems silly, doesn't it?

People make personal choices. They see the marketing. They know they are being pitched advertising, but they CHOOSE to overeat because food is by its very nature comforting.

Junk food is artificially cheap, abundantly available and highly tempting for the most impressionable people — children and teenagers. It is too easy to choose the high calorie foods that make us fat... just look at Shoppers Drug Mart which sells weight loss items in one aisle and sells junk food / sugary drinks near the cash registers. Thus even if you are there to pick up something boring like Aspirin you still have to walk past the chocolates, candies and sugary drinks on the way to pay for your Aspirin. And some people just have a sweet tooth, too much money and can't resist the urge.

Heavy food processing is a win-win for multinational food companies. Processing and preservatives adds value and increases the shelf life of products, allowing them to be manufactured, distributed and sold on a huge scale. The corn syrup, cereals, vegetable oils, sweeteners and flavourings used in processing are often highly subsidized, making it financially beneficial for companies to replace healthier ingredients.

And corn syrup is the biggie. When you open a can of Coca-Cola its not really sugar in that water. Its corn syrup (which is essentially highly concentrated liquidized sugar).

Chances are likely that if you have kids and live in North America that they are addicted to corn syrup. Corn syrup is in most of the processed foods you find in a grocery store. You can find it on the ingredients label. Its called GLUCOSE. Its often the 2nd thing on the list of ingredients.

And glucose / corn syrup isn't alone.

There is also fats, trans-fats, saturated fats and other ingredients which aren't healthy for you. Some of them are even carcinogenic and cause cancer, but people keep eating them anyway.

Children and teenagers become hooked on the junk foods targeted at them. Processed food is generally cheap and therefore more available to poorer population groups, with negative health impacts disproportionately affecting women since more women are below the poverty line or comparatively poor.

And then there is picky children who just hate vegetables. They only want to eat sugary cereals like Frosted Flakes (private note: I was addicted to Frosted Flakes when I was 10 years old). So what is a parent to do? You buy the stuff you know your kids will eat because its better they eat something rather than nothing... and some parents just spoil their kids.

Meanwhile fresh and locally grown food is undercut and too expensive. It is forced out of business by multinational food processors. Even the organic food industry has become multinational. So really only people with lots of $$$ can easily choose to make a healthier decision. If you are poor and have kids to feed its a lot more difficult.

But it can be done. It just takes practice, discipline and smart budgeting.

#1. Don't bother buying organic unless you can actually afford it.

#2. Find local producers for your favourite foods and ask what it would cost to buy the food directly from them instead of from the grocery store.

#3. Use a notebook and collect coupons of healthy foods.

#4. Look for the sales on healthy foods.

#5. Learn what foods are actually HEALTHY, instead of just looking healthy. ie. Avocados are actually fattening, a rare property for a fruit.

You have a choice. You don't have to be part of the Obesity Epidemic. You can choose to be healthy, get lots of exercise and eat foods that are good for you.

Or you can choose to sleepwalk with the rest of the zombies into a growing obesity epidemic with alarming public health consequences. Diabetes and heart disease are just 2 of the big health problems.

There is also economic problems: Economic losses from obesity will reach 8% of China’s GDP by 2025. And that is just China, a country with a low obesity rate. Just imagine how bad the economy in the USA is where the obesity rate is 34% of adults.

In every person's life there is a time when they have to stand up and fight for what they believe in.

So the question is do you believe in sucking down corn syrup and dying an early death? Or do you believe your health care is worth fighting for?

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