Friday, July 31, 2009

Profiting from Our Ignorance

The Hollywood diet, Atkins, pills, plastic surgery, gastric bypass, proper diet and activity. Just like in Sesame Street, which of these things does not belong?

Our country is insane. Every street corner is littered with fast food chains, yet the image of what is attractive is impossibly skinny. It's like giving a kid candy and telling him not to eat it. We are the most overweight population in the world, but we sell our women as being size 0. Millions of people watch football while they eat chips and drink beer (wings, wings are my fav). What the hell are we doing? Instead of changing our habits we look to science, who is only too willing to answer our prayers, and try to find that quick fix. Every new-excuse-to-make-poor-choices gimmick that comes out reaps billions of dollars, and there is something new all the time.

They (they being the diet industry that milks our wallets like the hungry little piglet it is) have recently discovered the answer to many people's quest for a wonder cure and it has to do with brown fat, this nifty little bit of tissue that burns energy, unlike white fat, and could be used to combat obesity. Now if I were psychic, which I am, I would say that this awesome discovery will come at us with a huge price, like all of the other obesity wonder cures that are out there. And like all of those other cures, it will come with another excuse for us to sit on our asses and eat whatever grease soaked, oil fried, chemically abundant, sugar covered crap we want and then bitch that we can't get out of the lazy boy. The answer to our problem is not drugs or manufactured fat.

The problem is that we eat too much and move too little and this is only half of our health conundrum. The other half involves a shrinking self image. Teeny little women called "movie stars" have created a false ideal of what attractive is. Combine this with a bombardment of "food" that barely resembles actual nourishment and a lack of education about real nutrition and we have a problem. The question is, who is to blame?

Our parents didn't teach us the right way to eat, how to monitor calories, how to get outside and play.

The restaurant industry refuses to work out healthier options and get rid of the Blooming Onions (2310 calories!!) and feed us the right way.

The government is not getting involved in how we eat and what is available to us. If they would just regulate the food industry, then we wouldn't have to think for ourselves.

No, I think the problem lies within ourselves. We know what is good and what is bad. We know what will happen to our waist line when we enjoy a bit of chocolate cake, but we also know how good that slice of cake tastes (352 calories a slice, damn you you delicious chocolaty treat).

The problem seems to lie in the balancing of being good and being bad. We are not a country that is good at finding a balance.

It is a sad statement that the following statistics are real:
  • Nine percent of 9-year-olds admit to having vomited in an attempt to lose weight.
  • Forty-two percent of first-, second-, and third-grade girls say they want to be thinner.
  • Fifty-three percent of 13-year-old girls say they are unhappy with their bodies.
  • Seventy-eight percent of 18-year-old girls say they are unhappy with their bodies.
Nine year old girls are worried about their weight!?! Nine year old girls should be worried about things like school, or cooties (do those exist anymore?), not ways to be skinnier. Then again, can you blame them? When the Jennifer Love Hewitt or that Kardashian chick have been labeled as fat, what hope does a teenage girl going through massive hormonal changes possibly have? The bar has been set in America for females to be no bigger than a size 2 with body fat under 20% (and I am being generous there). That is just stupid. A healthy percentage for women is in the 21 - 30% range, depending on age. This image of the perfect woman has driven over 8 million females to develop eating disorders.

The drive for women to look a certain way is fueled by everyone. The media displays models and actresses who are unnaturally thin. Men drool over said women. Women do that thing that women do that make other women feel self-conscious. (I am a man, attempting to describe what women think would be like discussing quantum mechanics.)

We are all to blame, but how do we change it? Damn good question. We could change media standards to show more women of normal size. We could all learn to accept each other for who we are on the inside. We could also all go around in burlap sacks. Maybe if we just realized that this size zero woman is not a good idea, that it is unnatural, unhealthy and unattainable for 99% of our population, then something would change.

I just don't get the need for us to alter our bodies in such a drastic way to be considered attractive. But, then again, as a man I am not subject to such harsh ideals. I know, WTF?

Now for the other side of the scale; we, as a country, are overweight.

Fast food spends billions in advertising its calorie dense, nutritionally lacking food to the American public, and we love it. The double cheeseburger craving I get every few months could be likened to crack, if crack were two mostly-beef patties with processed cheese, pretend onions and pickles between two halves of a highly refined and processed hamburger bun. Good thing McDonald's restaurants can be found world wide, and in hospitals, airports, college campuses, and in the bathroom of Starbucks (which would put them on every corner of everywhere). With nearly every state in the country becoming more than 30% obese, we may have a problem here, but with fast food restaurants pulling in between 250K to 2 million a year, I don't see them stepping down. (56% of Ohioans are overweight or obese, 13% of the population exercise for 30mins 3x/week)

The drive for the dollar outweighs the drive for social responsibility. If Burger King would just serve health conscious food, we would be all good. If the mighty government would get in and say, "hey, you naughty fast food vendors, stop serving crap and marketing it so damn well" then we would never have to think about it. Better yet, if each one of us stopped and said, "I don't really need a Baconator (830 calories, 450 of which are from fat), I think I will grab something with some actual nutritional value," then off down the road to a better, healthier America we would go.

Stop for a minute and think. The crap that goes into all the crap food is about as good for you as smoking a pack of cigarettes. The difference being, cigarettes can give you cancer. Eating like shit can give you diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, liver problems, sleep apnea, and pregnancy complications ( And before anyone thinks it, the answer is no. I don't think that fast food or processed food should be banned like the aforementioned cigarettes. We just need to get smart. Healthier food may be a little more expensive but it is a false economy in comparison to the costs of obesity related disease down the road – medical insurance companies are also laughing all the way to the bank! You wouldn’t put a mixture of sludgy crap with a dash of petrol in your car why do that to your body?!

A woman I work with has lost nearly 40 lbs without any artificial help. No drugs, no crash diets, no brown fat injections. She decided to take responsibility for herself and her hand-to-mouth movements, lose the weight and did. (In fact, if you are a bit lazy like me, it is nice to know that she didn't even get into a workout program.) The plan was simple, check the labels and count the calories. That's it.

It may not be easy, but it is that simple.

I know that you will be shocked when you start to read the labels on the food you eat. There is so much that we don't know, and not because it isn't available. Getting healthy is in our hands, and for everything out there promoting fast food there are a dozen resources to show the alternatives. I'm not saying that the occasional piece of super awesome chocolate cake with chocolate icing is out, even Jillian Michaels has said that it's all about moderation. I am saying that it is important to find the balance.

So, why all the drugs?

Our pharmaceutical businesses love the work we are giving them (40 billion dollars worth, Diet pills fill shelves with promises of fast results. The fact that these miracles only work with proper diet and exercise is mentioned in the microscopic print at the bottom of your television screen. The really amazing thing is, proper diet and exercise will work all by itself and you wouldn't have sold your first born for a bunch of pills that just make you poop a lot (which would be better than the heart attack that is an awesome side effect of some). There is even evidence that these pills don't work as well as they advertise. Five of the leading diet-drug pill manufacturers have been taken to court for using fitness models in their before and after shots. They were taking post-pregnancy pictures of models with their baby weight, paying them to train like crazy for 12 weeks and then taking the after shots.

We are killing ourselves with extremes. Too many are eating too much or too little. Yes, the media plays a big part in this, but remember that they only show us what the research says we want to see. If interest in healthy living becomes profitable, that is what we will see. Just take a look at the popularity of shows like The Biggest Loser, people losing weight with healthy lifestyle changes. No more images of a size 0 starlet sending our little girls to the toilet, or the psychiatrist. There will be less food with nothing to offer us and we will all be living on rainbows in peace and happiness. We control it. It is in our hands.

For a personal trip down the weight loss trail read The Fractured Anecdote - 10000 lbs.
An awesome website that offers free help:

For more on the diet pill and its effects check out:

For more on brown fat:

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