The world didn't end on December 21 as scheduled and so once more it is time for New Year's resolutions and weight is the object of most. It is also the time when the health newsletters I receive concern obesity and how to solve the escalating problem.
One newsletter urges me to contact the governor so that he will do something about the problem of obesity in Arkansas. Another tells about the harm being done by drugs designed to help with weight loss. Another article talks about how we are going to have to raise taxes on everyone to cover health care (which is actually disease care) for sicknesses caused by obesity and diabetes.
With all the money that has been spent, articles written, talk shows, etc that tell us to eat real food and stop eating fast and processed foods, there has been little improvement. At the present rate of diminished health, more and more parents are going to have to watch their children die. Each generation becomes a little sicker while the focus of the nation seems to be on other issues.
Remember the days when cigarette smoking was the thing to do? It was not only cool and accepted; cigarettes were actually pedaled around on carts to patients' rooms in hospitals. When I had a ruptured appendix many years ago, as they rolled me into the hospital, I pleaded through excruciating pain for them to please not put me in the room with a smoker. Not only was I put in a room with a smoker, the smoker's visitors all smoked and I lay and breathed smoke night and day until I was developing upper respiratory problems. I refused to eat hospital food and had friends and family sneak in healthy foods and supplements so I was able to get out in four days, instead of the doctor's predicted 10 to 14—or else I might not be alive today.
Today, you cannot even smoke close to a hospital, on an airplane, in restaurants, and cigarette smoking is no longer cool. How did it happen? It wasn't because laws were made or taxes raised; it happened because of education and great numbers of people changing the way they thought about cigarettes. It became "uncool" to smoke. Now, you almost have to sneak around to some little room somewhere to smoke. In some towns, people don't even smoke on the streets. We don't think it is macho any more; it is just a dumb addiction. After people became educated and decided they were not going to breathe cigarette smoke, the laws were made; they caught up with what people knew to be right.
It used to be that drinking and driving was not a big deal. You might get stopped by a policeman if you were really reckless but you were told to watch out, given a slap on the wrist, and went right on. No one thought a thing of drinking and jumping into a car and driving. Today, if you get caught drinking and driving, you can be in big trouble and even end up in jail and without a drivers' license. This change took place because of the organization called MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) who raised the consciousness of masses of people. MADD began with a mother who lost her child in a drunk driving crash. She turned her grief into positive change; then the laws caught up. This movement has saved more than 300,000 lives so far.
Page 2 of 2 - If we are to solve the problem of obesity and deteriorating health, it will have to happen the same way. It will happen because of the awareness of the population. It will become unpopular to drink sodas, eat sugary fast and processed foods. Large numbers of people who are in charge of school lunches and parents will have to say, "No more junk food for our precious kids!" When enough people refuse to be a part of health destroying behaviors; when we know that we are destroying our health by what goes into our mouths and have the willingness to turn away from such eating, things will change. When it becomes popular thing to eat healthful foods and junk food is ridiculed, others will follow. Only when we are sick and tired of being sick in great numbers, will we change the way we eat.
In all these cases, someone has had to go against the grain of what the masses have accepted to be normal. I see it beginning to happen with the diets of Americans. At least 60 years ago, a man wrote and distributed a publication saying eating fruits and vegetables could prevent cancer. He was ridiculed and actually put in jail for making such an outrageous statement. Now respected researchers are saying the same thing. When enough of us believe it and we start practicing what we know, health will improve.
Yes, even a few doctors are advising their patients to give up sugar and eat a mostly plant based unprocessed diet.
Be part of the movement; when enough of us do it, the whole world will change and we will see health and vitality once more become "normal".
(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, taught home economics, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, has taught numerous health and nutrition classes, and wrote a weekly newspaper column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)