The Answer to the Obesity Epidemic
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The Answer to the Obesity Epidemic

We were talking with friends on Sunday about cycling on local trails. They prefer to take a more leisurely pace; hereas, we prefer to pump up our heart rates while taking in the scenery. The conversation ultimately landed on our Fitbits, how they show us what is happening throughout the day with our heart rates, sleep, etc. This seemed a bit of a concern to our friend because his job requires sitting at a computer most of the day. There is a common theme in our culture and in other countries. The waistlines are expanding and scales are groaning under the weight of an obesity epidemic. Pharmacies are filling an outrageous number of prescriptions for blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes medications. What is the answer to this problem?

Is your community health--conscious? When I lived in the Akron area, the offerings of healthy activities was great. I loved the bike trail system in the Cuyahoga Valley. It was absolutely awesome! There were a lot of fitness centers in the area, healthy restaurants, and activities that helped keep people active and healthy. Several churches in the community offered exercise classes and bible studies fostering healthy Christian living. Since I moved to Michigan, I've been extremely disappointed about the lack of healthy lifestyle options in our community. There is a mentality here that feeds the obesity. How? By a lack of encouragement to exercise, although there are some fitness centers around, but the bike trails are sparse. Most of the restaurants offer up a hefty food fare. Alcohol seems to be one of the many popular drugs of choice. Families don't seem to care about being healthy until someone contracts an illness forcing diet and exercise for treatment. If your community is a healthy, active community you have been blessed. If not, it's time to turn it around.
your church foster health, fitness, and wellness church-wide? If your church is like most churches, every activity is laden with food and sitting during social time. Some offer donuts with coffee to take away the excuse of "no time for breakfast" so more people will come. There is a movement in contemporary churches toward living healthy which is encouraging. Still there is the problem of the ever expanding waistline of congregation members. It's time to turn it around.

Does your family embrace a healthy active lifestyle? Maybe you've started losing weight through diet and exercise, but your family members roll their eyes at you while they toss a frozen mini pizza into the microwave. It started early in your family, like most families. When the kids came along, you smiled as the little ones savored foods you like. Maybe you even took lots of pictures as they smeared Spaghetti-os in their hair. You enjoyed the large family-sized popcorn with large sodas for all at the movie theater. Unhealthy lifestyles are cultural in nature. There are no quick fixes because this problem has been building over a very long time. It may be an uphill battle, but it's time to turn it around.

The answer to the obesity epidemic starts at home.
  If you have begun eating healthy and exercising, you are off to a great start! It's going to be challenging to have a positive impact on your family, church, and community. Every change needs to be prayed over, then put into practice with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Be sensitive to the Lord's "Yes" , "No", and "Wait". Here are some ways you can help make a total paradigm shift:

Home
  1. Allow only healthy, nutritious foods into your home. If it's not healthy, it goes in the garbage. Period. Say it with a positive, upbeat tone, but follow through.
  2. Begin interspersing physical activity through fun games with what everyone is used to doing. For example, before you can go to the movies, you and your family can play a game outdoors. No physical activity, no movie. 
  3. Get everyone in your family activity trackers. Set up some friendly competition for 4-6 weeks at a time. Have fun non-food rewards for the winner(s) to choose.
  4. Get the kids involved in making fun, healthy treats. There are loads of them on the internet, so have them help pick what to make.

Church

  1. Encourage healthier foods at gatherings by bringing delicious, nutritious foods to share. Someone is bound to ask you for your recipe!
  2. Make suggestions for fellowship activities and ministry outreaches which encourage movement such as a scavenger hunt for the local food pantry, a 5k fun run/walk for a community ministry, or Christ-focused exercise classes and Healthy Lifestyle Groups.
  3. Encourage someone who is trying to lose weight to go walking with you or to have lunch with you at a restaurant that serves healthy foods.
  4. Encourage the children’s and youth ministries to keep kids physically active and offer to donate fun, tasty treats for them.
  5. Talk with your pastor and church leaders about the concerns you have. Ask for healthy lifestyle studies, a walking trail on the property if there is enough space, or for exercise opportunities. Present only one idea at a time. Give them time to prayerful consider, then follow up in 1-3 months. Don’t be pushy, but do use the concept of personal stewardship in your request. Be willing to get your idea going if they approve your ideas. 

Community
  1. Write to your city and county officials if there are not places for people to be physically active such as parks, walking/biking trails, and recreation centers.
  2. Volunteer to pull together others in your community to clean up and refurbish old playgrounds for the children.
  3. Join existing initiatives such as the Rails-to-Trails to get bike/hike trails in your area.
  4. Encourage local clubs to help in your efforts such as the Rotary Club, Lions Club, and others to help with your ideas. Be willing to be the spearhead person, if necessary.
  5. Attend city council meetings to bring your ideas for more physical activity into your community. Do your homework online to see what similar communities are already doing, then draft a proposal that would help them see your idea working in your community.
  6. Invite neighbors and friends to join you in exercise and other great healthy activities.
  7. Ask your local library to bring in speakers about healthy nutrition and exercise. If you have a flare for making fun healthy treats for kids, offer to do a workshop for families with children so they can make them, too.
  8. Do the surveys from your grocery receipts. Your dollars speak volumes. Encourage your grocery stores to keep stocking healthy food choices. They will always have junk food, etc. But you can help encourage healthy foods to be brought in by letting them know-kindly.

Whatever you do, don't be that annoying "health nut" because people will tune you out. Always use love and grace to share your love of healthy living wherever you go. Invite others with similar concerns to join together with you to make some of these ideas a reality. Who knows? They may be able to brainstorm for even better, more acceptable ideas. May the Lord bless and guide you as you make a healthy impact in the people around you.


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