The Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report last week about obesity in this country and it is not a pretty picture. Sixty-nine percent of adults and thirty-two percent of children in this country are overweight or obese at a cost of over $190 billion annually in chronic obesity related illnesses such as diabetes care. The recommendations in the report identify five keys to reversing this trend which are:
- Integrate physical activity every day in every way
- Market what matters for a healthy life
- Make healthy foods and beverages available everywhere
- Activate employers and health care professionals
- Strengthen schools as the heart of health
Healthy food and beverages are hard to find, and sometimes priced out of reach. Good luck trying to find nutritious food if you travel across the country in a car. And at work, you will need willpower of steel to steer clear of the birthday cake in the break room or the muffins served for breakfast meetings. I noticed recently at a venue that caters to the corporate and executive crowd that they serve cookies and candy during afternoon breaks. It is simply beyond the willpower of many people, myself sometimes included, to steer clear of candy and cookies during a weak afternoon moment even if alternatives like vegetables are placed nearby. The siren song of broccoli is just not as strong as the song of an M&M for many people. At least I think that is true for the culture that most of us in the United States grew up in. Employers, schools and health professionals know these things to be true, but they don't always walk the walk.
We as a nation should be horrified that about one third of our children are overweight or obese. It is one thing when we as adults make the wrong choices, but kids don't really have a lot of choice about the food they are served. If they eat school lunch, they are at the mercy of us as a society valuing children enough to give them a healthy, nutritious meal. And it is not always easy as kids don't understand this problem and in many cases they really would rather eat candy or chips. It means that sometimes they won't like us because we are trying to get them to eat eggs or spinach or fish. But whether they appreciate it or not, our children deserve a chance to live at least as long as their parents and not to be saddled with diabetes and obesity in childhood. Whatever it takes to get there, this problem is just too big and too important for us not to get it right.
Also published at kelly the kitchen kop's real food Wednesday