How Pointing at the Obesity Epidemic Fattened Me Up

July 1, 2010

(or) Don’t Bother with Not to Do; Focus on What to Do

I wasted an hour watching “One Nation Overweight” on CNBC—an hour I could have spent exercising. Twenty minutes in, all I’d seen were a bunch of overweight people in a hospital. Then I watched a high school in Virginia roll out a “candy cart” to raise money. This came with the obligatory stats on childhood obesity and diabetes along with the rationalization from the school’s principal. Then we were on to interviews with pharma executives talking about the next miracle obesity drug. At the completion of the hour, I learned nothing new and left with zero ideas on what to do about it.  

When I was at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, raw food guru and author David Wolfe, speaking about health in America, urged our class “to stop pointing at the problem” and instead, take an active role in the solution. The media loves to get us riled up because outrage sells. But what good does it do for me to get frustrated when I watch the CEO of Domino’s defend why his company sells so much “nutritious” pizza to schools.

In the majority of my columns, I have lists with action items. I might start by pointing at a problem (like microwave ovens or cell phones) but ultimately I’m going to tie it back to what we can do about it. In that spirit, a quick recap of the problem: 200 million Americans are overweight, which costs $147 billion a year, a figure that keeps rising. Agro-business and pharma companies are out to make a buck, often at the expense of our health. The government approved Aspartame and subsidizes high fructose corn syrup and makes policy often at odds with our health. I could go on pointing at the problem as my blood boiled, but I’m only stating what we already know.

As a shout-out to David Wolfe, let’s get to some solutions.

What to Do About the Obesity Epidemic

  1. Vote with your wallet. If you have an issue with junk food, stop buying it. If you want to support local farmers, buy their food.
  2. Vote with your feet. Walk to your kids’ school or your boss’ office and ask for healthier choices in the cafeteria. Offer solutions as well as your time and support.
  3. Vote with your eyeballs. If you have an issue with glamorizing skinny models or marketing junk food to kids, stop reading magazines and watching programs that do.
  4. Make your own choices. If your school, employer or local market doesn’t change, don’t eat their food.
  5. Make one lifestyle change to improve your health.
  6. Elevate and inspire your family, friends and colleagues (and reduce the cost of healthcare) by looking fantastic and radiating good health.
  7. Actively support organizations like the Center for Food Safety that fight to make our food healthier.

I wouldn’t be offering these solutions if I wasn’t living them. I’ve lost 60 pounds through my own process of trial and error. I spent $800 for a holistic health counselor when I was nearly broke. I now spend the majority of my money on my health—yoga classes, a gym membership, organic food, chiropractic, and fasting retreats in Thailand. I’m not asking anyone else (especially the government, which is to say, my fellow Americans) to pay for my sickness and I’m not interested in paying for anyone else’s sickness. There, I said it. Shoot me. (Actually, I’d prefer that you don’t shoot me but rather express your opinion in the box below. Keep in mind that I am willing to pay my fair share for our health).

Looking to your employer, school, government, or to big pharma to fix obesity is disempowering. Pointing at the problem is a waste of time. Taking your health into your own hands seems like your only choice. While I don’t know that boiling blood actually fattens me up, I do know that sitting on the couch, pointing at the obesity epidemic, does.