Lately, I've been studying to renew my certifications. One of the courses I recently studied demonstrates the multi-layered effect of changes in our social structure which feeds the obesity epidemic. Most people are aware of some of the ways this phenomena plays out, but I got the big picture view in this study. At one point, I was so disgusted and angry, I slammed my book shut and ranted to my hubby. The poor man looked over his glasses at me and said, "It's okay, Honey. Really." I think he was ready to run to the store to find gluten-free, allergy-friendly dark chocolate to throw at me from a safe distance! No, I wasn't having a PMS moment, I was going through righteous indignation.
It's a Set-Up!
We do love our conveniences, but we've painted ourselves in the proverbial corner as a result.Not because we want to, but we've fallen prey to a lot of different traps along the way. Here's how we've done it:
- Labor Saving Devices We love our appliances, remote controlled sweepers and lawn mowers, power tools, and more. Those great tools were meant to save wear and tear on our bodies, not turn us into couch spuds. It used to be unheard of for anyone to live into their 70s and 80s. Now, the pendulum is swinging back that direction as people die younger of heart attacks and strokes.
- We can have it all. Cheap! Cheap! We want to get more for our money for less money. As a result, a lot of our goods are now being made in countries who are willing to work for a mere pittance. More families have a tough time making ends meet. Jobs pay less which mean less money to fuel the car to get to work, less money to buy food, less money to live in a nice community with hike/bike trails and playgrounds, less money to pay for a decent gym membership. It takes Dad and Mom both working to pay the bills, which means the kids are eating frozen micro pizza in front of the t.v. listening to the latest commercial about their favorite sugary cereal as they sing along to the jingle. Dad is sitting in his special theater chair playing a Facebook game while free-willingly giving out personal information being sold to third parties who do the market research to reach back into his wallet for even more cash. You should see the salaries for those people behind this in the marketing firms!
- Companies are making millions and millions of dollars we freely give out of our very own wallets because we cave in for impulse buys at the store and online. In fact, most people are too tired on Friday night at Piggly Wiggly Supermarket to hunt down healthy food and make dinner from scratch. Instead, we load up our carts with ready made foods full of practically zero nutrition then take it home to zap it in the microwave for the family. What a vicious cycle.
- We have longer commutes to work and school nowadays. Our personal vehicles, which cost as much or more than my first house, take us there. Physically capable people jocky with other drivers for the nearest parking spot to avoid walking far to their favorite restaurant, store, cinema, and so on. We hop on the elevator or escalator rather than take the stairs. Who owns a bike anymore? Walk? Who are you kidding? We pay our hard earned cash to people barely making ends meet to cut our hair, make our food, sew our clothing, pick our veggies (those mushy things in the can, you know). Oh, by the way, when was the last time you took the bus or train for your commute to work or school? Just a thought.
- Our children are pre-programmed for food addiction beginning around age 2. The pictures of the foods, the characters in the ads, and the music work into their young brains in ways carefully crafted to get them to bug us at the store for that product. While we push our carts, the kids sing the jingle so we don't forget what they want. Did you notice the junk food item on the conveyor belt at the checkout? Hmmm. How did that get there? By the time they are in school, it's a battle to get them to eat anything unprocessed without some sort of sauce.
This all seems pretty dizzying, doesn't it?
Run! Go Counter-Culture!
Although it may seem we are set up for failure, there are ways to circumvent this monstrous machine in which so many people are caught up in it's cogs. Here are a few ways we can keep our hard earned money in our pockets and live so much better. It's all part of personal stewardship:
- Get busy! Go take a hike, ride a bike, mow the lawn, but don't take it easy.
- No, thank you. Don't let people guilt you into not eating the food at the potluck, Aunt Betty's version of the Bloomin' Onion, or accepting the extra sides suggested by the server. Simply help it pass you by.
- Monitoring influences. Limit the television time, internet surfing, and the smartphone's influences. You can stop letting your children be pre-programmed for food addictions and get them moving to physically play. Hey, let's go play ball!
- Just say, "NO!" Stop answering questions to ridiculous games that claim to give you your I.Q. level, tell you what your spirit animal is, and all that other junk. It's all about marketing. Seriously, you are too smart for that.
- Vote with your wallet or vote with your feet. Stop darkening the doorstep of fast food establishments, restaurants, or the local cheapo store every other day. But do answer the surveys on the bottom of your receipts and get the shopper's rewards tags to let marketers and retailers know what is really important for them to stock on their shelves. Make your voice heard to bring better outdoor exercise and recreation opportunities to your neighborhood. Or simply walk away.
- Disconnect and be social in real time. Your kids don't need smartphones and tablets with internet access 24/7-- and neither do you. Get outside together, spend time together making meals, sitting together at the dinner table, Reduce depression and anxiety by tuning out the noise from the media and tune in to the Lord's presence through prayer and devotional time. Grow a garden together, rake the leaves together. Stop being "social" online so much, and be social with your neighbors.
- Heads up! Notice the needs of others around you who struggle from day to day. Donate nutritious food to the food pantries and soup kitchens. The money you were wasting on junk is now free to help provide shelter to the homeless, don't you think? Invite other families to join in with yours to become active and eat healthier with you. Pick up someone who doesn't have a ride to church.
Our health and fitness doesn't have to be a set-up for failure when we go counter culture. With a determined plan, you are able to take charge of your health and your family's health. Who knows? We may influence others to do the same.
Hey, Hubby didn't dash out for the chocolate! He looks relieved. *Sigh* Good man.
May God bless you!
Resource: Reversing the Obesogenic Environment by Rebecca E. Lee, Kristen M. McAlexander, and Jorge A. Banda. Copyright 2011. Human Kinetics.