At dinner last night with my wife and one of her co-workers we were discussing the declining state of health in our society. There is no longer any question that most of this is due to poor health habits. We eat bad food, we eat too much of it, and we don’t exercise enough. The result is that type 2 diabetes and other related lifestyle-induced diseases are the fastest growing illnesses in the world.
I’m in favor of a national health care system of some sort. Dave’s main problem with this is covering people who don’t bother to try and keep themselves healthy. On this point, I concur, but I pointed out that we do this now. While we don’t have an actual health care plan we do have a national system. In this system anyone can use an emergency room. So now our ERs are filled with people who have minor ailments, which interfere with those who need emergency treatment.
While the above paragraph somewhat summarized to talking point of the left and right on health care, the actually issue lies elsewhere. The solution is health practice. As a nation we could easily afford to take care of those who are sick and injuries if we could get rid of the problems associated with poor eating habits and lack of exercise. We’ve done it in the past, with both alcohol and tobacco, when we realized the national impact it was having. It’s high time we begin doing the same thing with other lifestyle behaviors that are costing society.
I’m not going to cite any numbers or details yet. These are just my opening thoughts. I’d like to start formulating a plan. If we can formulate a compelling argument we can use to three or so million of us associated with Beachbody to make ourselves heard on a national level.
Part I of the plan: Food labeling
We need to make the next step in food labeling. Our current macro-nutrient profiles can hide how our foods are often devoid of phytonutrients. What we need is to have every packaged food to be given a grade by the FDA: A – F.
Then, like using Michi’s Ladder, you’d be encouraged to eat higher grade foods. Of course we’d have corporate lobbying and disputed grades but, for the most part, good foods would still be obvious. For example, maybe a good potato chip would get a C while a bad one got an F, but no potato chip could ever get better than a C because no matter how you look at it these have no place in your diet other than as an indulgence. Ditto for ice cream and most desserts. All fruits and veggies would be A or B. No sense splitting hairs here. We’ll want to do this as consumers but veggies from nutrient depleted soil are still better than the best French fry.
Next, the government only allows food stamps to pay for A and B grade foods. If we don’t allow them to be used for beer and smokes, how can we allow them to be used for Coke and Cheetoes, which are arguably worse for you? There is no way a person on assisted living should be able to be obese. Yet this demographic is now highly obese and putting a huge strain on our health care system because of it.
The insidious reason why is because their diets are mainly made up of cheap processed food. There is no logic to why processed foods should be cheaper than those that take no processing until you understand how large scale food companies operate. Most “convenient foods” are made up of many bi-products from corn and soy production. These ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, etc, etc, should be waste products but we’ve clever found ways to not only use them in our foods, but make entire foods out of them. Oh, the wonders of what chemical flavoring agents can do with what is essentially trash.
Most of this doesn’t have much nutrient merit so we fortify with just enough cheap vitamins and stuff to label it food. Obviously, this gook will be lacking some of nature’s subtleties but, hey, if it’s crunchy, tasty, and fills us up who’s to question it? Maybe the FDA can step in here and do some good.
We may be eliminating health class in school, or having our nutrition taught to us by the soda companies, but it’s not going to take an educated person to understand that if their cupboards are filled with D and F labeled foods that they probably could eat a little better. I think this one step would end up saving our country billions of dollars in health care costs. And it’s just step one. Next time I’ll present my exercise ideas.