Let’s Get Real
I am an Encourager by nature. I prefer to write articles that spur you to make positive changes through mostly positive reinforcement. Unfortunately, there are situations and statistics in my environment and the world at large that require my attention today in a whole different way. A large part of the Earth’s population is eating itself to death. Today I am appalled at the disease and dysfunction that we bring on ourselves and on those that we profess to love. I am not guiltless in this offense. It has only been in recent years that I have quit bringing sugar into my house. When we truly realize how destructive empty calories are, we are accountable for that knowledge. Who is depending on you to make healthy choices for them? Who needs you to live a long time and be healthy? Are you being accountable?
Childhood Overweight and Obesity
As of a 2016 World Health Organization study (1) there was an estimated 41 million overweight children in the world under the age of five. Think about that. Children that are solely dependent on adults to feed them are overweight. That is the caregiver’s fault. These children are more likely to develop noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease at a younger age and carry those diseases into adulthood. When we allow our children to dictate their menu to us, we are setting them up for a lifetime of ill health. When we pull up to the sign at the drive-thru and they start screaming for “dessert with that” it’s all too easy to give them what they want in an effort to keep peace. The answer to this dilemma is to drive past, not through, and make a quick meal at home. A cold cut sandwich made with high quality sandwich meats is better than that carb laden kid’s meal that they are wanting. I have noticed that quite often when children get these meals, they want to upgrade the dessert into a huge adult portion such as a milkshake or a cookie as big as your head. When this happens the already negative health impact of a lot of these meals skyrockets. Since it’s so hard to deal with these temper tantrums of a sugar addicted child at the window, just go home. You can make a meal in the time that you would set at the drive-thru at rush hour. It’s not quick to get through that line. Keep chicken tenderloins on hand and saute them and give them a serving of a dipping sauce that they like. Most children love a baked potato with their favorite toppings. That takes 15 minutes. Open a can of green beans and let them simmer until they are almost dry while you are preparing the chicken and potato. BAM! Dinner in less time than you would have set at the drive-thru. We have to rethink our habits. We have been duped into thinking that fast food is fast. No, it’s usually not and then you have to consider the time and money that you will almost certainly be out when that child gets sick more often. Is this a price that you are willing to pay?
Just the Facts
According to the World Health Organization, (2) raised Body Mass Indexes increase the risk of breast, colon, prostate, endometrium, kidney and gallbladder cancer. Overweight and obesity have adverse effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. The risk of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke and Type 2 diabetes mellitus increase steadily in relation to an increasing BMI. Mortality rates increase with increasing degrees of overweight and obesity. So often we try to rationalize our behavior but is the cost of gluttony really worth the extra food and sugar. Sugar is so calorie dense that it causes rapid weight gain. As each fat cell is born, there is a chance of error in that individual DNA code. If that happens, you may have cancer. Cancer is a healthy cell that got the wrong code. Sugar can increase your odds of developing cancer simply by increasing the number of times that you generate a cell. When you create more cells, there’s more chances for your body to get this wrong.
In 1975 the obesity rate for men was around 3%. In 2016 that rate had risen to 11%, more than triple the rate in 1975. In 1975 the obesity rate for women was 6%. In 2016 that rate had risen to 15%, almost triple. We always hear about the obesity of the United States, which is absolutely staggering at 36.2%, but there is a key to a contributing problem for the world at large when you look at the “Countries with the Highest Prevalence of Obesity” chart (3). There are small Pacific Island nations that top that list. Most of their food is imported and expensive but fast food restaurants offer cheap food. There are Middle Eastern nations that also top that list in an area where western fast food is being increasingly welcomed and embraced. How many times per week do you or someone you love frequent the drive-thru? Do you see a pattern here? I have observed this problem repeatedly in my dealings with obesity, including my work to help an obese family member. The high salt, fat and sugar in most fast food creates a fast preference for these foods that borders on addiction. We gravitate towards these foods as much for the dense caloric intake as anything else because we have an instinct to pack in the calories to survive. In a world where food is scarce this instinct preserves our lives but in this world where so much food is available to so many, this instinct that is meant to sustain us becomes a nail in our coffins.
It is a known fact that co-morbid conditions that arise from obesity such as insulin resistant diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease have negative consequences on the brain. A high BMI does increase the risk of dementia because of the hormone compounds that are secreted by fat cells. This is an area of ongoing research but as the BMI has increased, so has the incidence of various dementias. In my lifetime, the rate of both has soared.
Look at the list in the first paragraph of this article, various cancers, heart disease, diabetes, is that the life that you want for yourself or for anyone that you love? We are so much more powerful than we understand. We hold the power of life and death in our hands so much of the time. Do you realize that you are the most powerful being in your life? Regardless of your situation, when you take control of your health and the health of those that you are able to influence, you become a superhero. Your resources may be limited. Your situation may be beyond difficult. You are still the most powerful being in your Universe. Take control and change the future for yourself and those you love.