Wednesday, May 20, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: The Elephant in the Room

"Conditions that can be prevented by eating better diets have roots in childhood.  Rates of obesity are now so high among American children that many exhibit metabolic abnormalities formerly seen only in adults. The high blood sugar due to "adult-onset" (insulin-resistant type 2) diabetes, the high blood cholesterol, and the high blood pressure now observed in younger and younger children constitute a national scandal." 
                                    --Marian Nestle from Food Politics

Hydroponic farmer Alex Gomez talks with kids and a Rotary Club volunteer
attending a Growing Healthy Kids' workshop. 

Obesity is the elephant in the room.  We act as if it's not there.  We don’t talk about it.  We tiptoe without saying a word.  The prevalence of obesity among adults in the U.S. was 42.4% in 2017-2018. The prevalence of obesity in children ages 2-19 was 18.5% in 2015-2016, or almost 1 in 5 kids.  Obesity rates, especially severe obesity, are still on the rise.  Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. 

Every time I get into my car to drive to grocery stores to get the foods I need and want for my family and for my healthy cooking classes, I know how fortunate I am.  I have a car and can go where I want.  I am aware of the foods that promote health, not disease.  Many people live in neighborhoods that are food deserts and lack transportation of their own to travel to full-service grocery stores.  So their only choice is buying ultra-processed foods, often at inflated prices, from the neighborhood store, foods that promote disease, not health.

Buying and eating highly processed foods contributes to poor health outcomes.  Processed foods often contain little or no dietary fiber, a key element in achieving satiety, preventing overeating, and regulating blood sugars.  Check the ingredient list on any "food" that comes in a box or package.  If there are more than 5 ingredients, consider selecting something else with less ingredients.  Minimally processed foods do not contain dozens of ingredients. 

As the weather warms and farmers begin harvesting their crops, this is a great time to start planning how locally grown vegetables, together with fruits, legumes (beans and lentils), and whole grains can be central to what you eat. A plant-based way of eating is proven to get to you a healthy weight as well as to control and reverse diabetes for most people.  Think of what you can do to redecorate when the elephant is out of the room! 

With love,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder and Wellness Architect
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.