Changing the Culture – One Small Step at a Time

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Trust for America’s Health came out yesterday with new projections for obesity rates in the United States.  It is not good.  It is not good at all.

According to the report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012, “If obesity rates continue on their current trajectories, by 2030, 13 states could have adult obesity rates above 60 percent, 39 states could have rates above 50 percent, and all 50 states could have rates above 44 percent.”

So basically, the majority of Americans will be obese in less than 20 years.

Obesity levels in my home state, Indiana, have moved in the wrong direction – from 16th to the 8th most obese state.  Also in the report was the current estimate of the medical cost of adult obesity in the United States, which ranges from $147 to $210 billion per year!

I am one to believe that everyone is beautiful no matter what weight  or size they are. I think it’s horrible that there is prejudice and hatred that is often projected to kids and adults that are overweight and obese.  I know that weight problems can be genetic and extremely complex. I am not one to judge and my concern has nothing to do about looks and everything to do about health.

The increasing number of  overweight and obese Americans is clearly not because of genetics. It is the American culture, which needs to be changed.

Over the years, my husband has stated comments about  “the culture” of his basketball teams. Some times he loves the culture, other times he has thought that a change was needed.  It is much simpler with a team of 15 college guys than it is with a country. But, the point is the same. If the culture isn’t healthy and positive, with players and coaches who are dedicated and selfless, it is really challenging to have success.

Instead of following the norm or riding along with the current unhealthy culture of our country, why can’t we do our part to make a difference in the change that is needed?

 We can be healthy and positive.

 We can commit to making changes and influencing those around us.

 We can create a new norm.

It is going to take a long time to change the engrained culture of the US, but every small step helps.

Here are just a few simple ways that we can contribute to make a difference.

1)   Vote: Policies are a huge factor in changing the culture of the nation. How our government leaders prioritize health and wellness, nutrition, prevention, and healthcare should be something you think about during the election this November – not only with the President, but Senators, Representatives and local leaders, as well. My dad and father-in-law both have political backgrounds, but I am embarrassed to admit that I rarely pay attention to politics outside of the President.  This year will be different.  Do you know how the Farm Bill affects your nutrition and environment?  I didn’t until recently.

2)   Policy Change in Schools, Sports, and Workplace:  Government related policies are important, but even more important are the policies closer to home.  These are the ones that you can actually have an impact on.  If you are a parent – did you know that the federal government requires every school to have a wellness policy, but does not follow through to see if they are actually implemented?  This is where parents can play a role to encourage more activity during the school day, implement a healthy snack rule, and eliminate junk in vending machines, to name a few.  Make healthy snacks, not cookies, the norm.

Do your kids play sports when snacks are given after the practice/game? The norm is Capri-Suns, packaged snacks, Oreos, etc. I’ll admit – I even contributed to this in years past. But, why can’t the norm be no snack, or fruit and water?

What about your workplace? Does your employer have a wellness policy? Do you take advantage of the benefits? If there are no policies in place, why not talk to your employer to implement change? One of my friend’s companies gives her a longer lunch if she works out during that time – no pressure for her to exercise after a long day and more productivity in the afternoon, which benefits the employer!

3)   More Physical Activity: Of course, regular exercise is important, but just as important is daily physical activity. How close to do you get to the door when looking for  parking spot? Are there places you can walk or ride bikes instead of driving?  This is one we are working on.   We are fortunate to live in a community where  it is possible and safe to walk/ride bikes to the elementary school. But, my 2nd grader often complains, so instead of changing the norm, I have been giving in and driving him or letting him ride the bus. This is something simple that I can change. I realize that not everyone has this option, but most have the option of turning off the TV, computer, Wii, iPad, etc. and choosing something active instead.  How much time do you spend outside? Going for a walk is cheap, refreshing and great for you!

4)   Improve Nutrition. The norm in the US is processed food, lots of sugar, eating out, sodas, etc. Instead – buy local foods, go to your farmer’s market, plant a garden, eat real food, load up with greens and fruits (don’t forget about the Dirty Dozen), if you eat meat – choose grass-fed.  Ignorance is not bliss (as I have been telling myself for years) when it comes to our eating habits. Educate yourself about what you are putting into your body and healthy eating will be much easier! Much more to come on this topic with lots of great resources!

5)   Prioritize Holistic Wellness.  We often forget about the whole person when we think about our health.  It is not just physical, but mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and intellectual. Which of course, is the main reason I started Love Well Live Well!

 

Too often, I have given in to the “norm” instead of standing up for the changes that need to me made. It takes small steps. Each day, instead of doing what we always have, why not make a small change? Instead of being overwhelmed with the enormity of the problem, try small steps each day.

This morning, when making my 7 year olds lunch, I finally said no when he begged me to put his sandwich in a plastic baggie (instead of the reusable bags) like his friends have.  Why can’t reusable baggies be the norm?

Our local farmer’s market is on Wednesday afternoons and it is always a fight to get my kids to go because they would rather stay and play at home. And often, I give in. But, I shouldn’t. And today I won’t.  Supporting local Farmer’s Markets is an easy way to improve our nutrition and improve our community.

Those are my small changes for today.  What about you? Will you do your part to be the change needed in the world?

Love,

Molly

 

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