The government came up with a food pyramid illustrating things you should get out of your diet and a reasonable proportion to represent each as a "step" or "building block" of this pyramid. It was a well thought out derivation of what the human body needs to survive based upon our omnivorous nature. It was pretty reliable source until the advent of "fast food" and overly processed pre-packaged meals became available.
These handsome delectible devils first arrived in the form of frozen TV dinners, pre-cooked lasagna, pot pies, etc. They were touted as the "futuristic" savior of the busy American family and the "modern" housewives' best friend. Many companies adopted and turned these frozen miracles into big bucks.
Later came pioneers of the "fast food" nation offering fast cheap alternatives to cooking at home. You could take the family out for an intimate meal in the car or you could pick up a fast meal to take home. Soon these drive-ins changed the face of America's youth. Not only were drive-ins a popular teenage hangout but everyone could afford a little slice of the new "Americana."
It didn't stop there. Other companies came up with variations of "fast food" that went from easy dips to meals in a box (just add the meat) to the lowly instant no-bake cheesecake. Cheap, easy and fast became the new American way of dining. From that point on new problems reared their ugly heads.
Have you ever stopped to read the contents of that prepackaged miracle you fed your kids? Many of the "ingredients" are practically unpronounceable preservatives or salt additives, colors, and flavors. There are thickening agents and antimicrobials that you would not normally eat if you knew what they were, let alone feed them to your kids.
We are the fattest nation on earth. With a staggering obesity rate of 80% of our entire population it makes one wonder where we find any skinny people to be celebrities. No wonder many of our popular actors come from other countries. Who could fit in those size 0 dresses? Definitely not us.
We in the medical community are all to intimate with the complications of obesity and improper nutrition (or malnutrition but the common person on the street believes malnutrition to only be a disease of the anorexic). High blood pressure, type II diabetes, coronary artery disease, and increased risks associated with many types cancer, osteoporosis, respiratory diseases, and arthritic complicatons are topping lists for common causes of morbidity and mortality.
"Common" is a word that should not be associated with ANY of these disease states. The medical community, the government, and even special interest groups are spreading the word that in many cases all of these things can be prevented, treated, or even REVERSED with proper diet and moderate exercise.
A good example, although extreme, is the show "The Biggest Loser." It takes a group of obese to morbidly obese men and women and teaches them how to make better food choices, reasonably estimate fat and calorie content, control portion size, and set exercise goals including tips on how to work exercise into a busy day even if that activity does not necessarily seem like exercise. All of the people are seen by a physician that reviews their medical history, takes their current full physical (including a lipid panel, blood sugar reading, and HbA1c) and discusses goals and health risks associated with their current status and family history. They are broken into teams that each get a personal trainer to act as a mentor and motivator for each days workout or challenge. Sure the ultimate goal is to win the money at the end of the show but it also shows America that it can be done through follow up with contestants who were voted off the show. They even check up on former winners and contestants years after the show to see how they maintain their health.
I am just taking a drawn out long way of saying it can be done. We need to motivate people with taking charge of their health with lower insurance premiums for non-obese patients, mandatory yearly physicals for every person in the nation (it could be used as mandatory to get welfare assistance--I will get into a welfare rant later, school entrance--it is a mandatory free government service to the public and their physical ed requirements need to be revamped, and a federal tax break for healthy families that are no more than 20 pounds over their ideal body weight. Yes, I know there are downsides to all of these suggestions but it is surely a step in the right direction to use government programs to educate and motivate people to take care of themselves.
Medication is not the way. It is like putting a band-aid over arterial spray. It may stop a little bleeding but the patient dies from it anyway. I am suggesting the creation of a fifth food group, the "danger" food group or "impending doom" food group. It should have a symbol like Mr. Yuckmouth to let the public know that it is not the best healthy alternative for nutrition. There would need to be regulations for the warnings. My suggestions are:
1. anything with greater than 35mg of salt per serving size
2. anything with added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or similar sweeteners
3. anything prepared with more added fat than a pat of whole butter
4. anything that has added man-made chemical color
5. anything that has added man-made chemical flavor
6. anything that has added man-made chemical preservatives
I am not saying we should all be eating completely organic or that food preservatives are causing cancer (or am I, cancer rates, mainly upper and lower digestive tracts, are steadily on the rise). I am saying that our packaged food and fast food industries are selling our health down the river in the name of profit. YOU need to take care in food selection and preparation. YOU need to make healthy choices for yourself and your family. YOU need to live happier, healthier, and longer! So don't forget to tell your patients!