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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Are People Just Giving Up??!!

As far as I travel and no matter where in the world I live, the United States will always be 'home' to me. I'm stateside, right now, and it's great to be back. It's clearly evident that the US is in a bit of an economic 'dip' right now -- at least as I observe what's happened in this beach resort town where I presently lay my head and hang my hat. Shops and businesses that have been here for years have closed. Shops that have hung on don't and CAN'T provide the good old-fashioned customer service that they did before. There are less people here at this time of year and I've heard from the year-rounders that this was the case all summer long. It appears that less people are going on vacations -- they just can't afford it! It's such a shame. People are still very friendly and accommodating -- there's just an air of insecure haste and urgency -- something that this far north end of this lovely beach city, situated smack dab on the Mason-Dixon line with its curious mix of Southern hospitality and Northern expediency, never-ever seemed to emanate. It's still wonderful to be here -- the beaches are, in my opinion, one of the best in the world and the overall atmosphere is still relaxing and fun. I really hope and pray that stability, if not gentle growth, is soon restored here and a sense of renewal permeates the hearts and minds of all that work and play here. Also, in my opinion, the USA, in general, is STILL the easiest, most enjoyable, the most HOPEFUL country to live in. Which is why, it has REALLY hit me on this visit back 'home' how UNHEALTHY so many MORE people look and move this time round. Regardless of what the statistics record or don't record, empirical observation affirms that obesity is on the rise here. It truly seems that people have just thrown their hands in the air and given up! When I talk to people -- not professionally -- just in conversations on the beach and in the shops (people know I'm an RD! -- so conversations often seem to veer toward 'diets' -- sigh...) -- no one seems to be concerned with how being obese or overweight affects their HEALTH -- it's more about how it affects their LOOKS! No one seems to be making the 'connect' between their shortness of breath, their sleep apnea, their high blood pressure, their skin rashes, their hormonal imbalances, or even their full-blown non-communicable chronic diseases -- whatever they may be-- and their obesity!!! Despite what the overload of messages coming out from government and private health agencies from all kinds of conduits -- newspapers, magazines, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, popular and learned publications, in medical offices and supermarkets, in schools and clinics, etc. etc -- people seem to STILL be ignorant of the HEALTH ASPECTS/ PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH BEING OBESE. The whole nation seems to be IN DENIAL! People still seem to be upset about being obese and overweight ONLY because it affects how it makes them LOOK -- what other people think of them because of being chunky, what clothes they can or cannot wear, what vibe they give off, how attractive they are to possible mates. And if they ARE obese or overweight and feel they LOOK GOOD, then they see absolutely NO PROBLEM with it! Somehow, the SUPERFICIAL MESSAGES ABOUT WHY OBESITY IS WRONG FOR PEOPLE seems to be getting through loud and clear while the deeper HEALTH ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH OBESITY ARE NOT BEING HEARD OR HEEDED! Of course, when a person does get a health affliction as a result of obesity -- Type 2 diabetes, CVD, COPD, certain cancers, GERD, whatever -- the health message seems more real -- but guess what?! It's often too late! OK -- it's never too late to change and start making healthier lifestyle choices -- but it DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! People should not be getting these obesity-related health afflictions to begin with! I don't know the answer. Perhaps we need to stop emphasizing the LOOKS aspects a bit more when it comes to the 'wonders' of being svelte and beautiful or super-chiseled or 'buff' with 'six and eight packs' and all that nonsense! With the celebrity-obsessed culture we live in -- perhaps we've raised the bar way too high for ordinary people -- they feel they can never be as beautiful as the 'beautiful people', so why bother with just being fit and healthy! Even though deep-down, ordinary people are aware that performers, models, and celebrities go to extraordinary lengths and expense to achieve their looks and perfect bodies -- many many celebrities don't ADMIT the extreme methods they endure to be thin and buff. I KNOW that many celebrities also DO lead healthy lifestyles and I'm all for it when they speak about the diets they follow and the exercise regimes they adhere to, but only if they are being honest. It is their job to look great and they need to follow healthy plans, so just SAY THIS! And when they DO intersperse extreme regimes here and there in their quest for youth and slimness -- just OWN UP TO IT -- just SAY IT! It's much better for ordinary people to know that this is what people who look SUPER LEAN, if not downright scrawny, do to get that way and that it is NOT NORMAL or 'good genes' or even healthy! Don't make ordinary people feel like poor slobs who can never look good. Everyone has their individual claim to beauty and is entitled to shine! Being healthy is THE way to liberate the beauty. The point is BEAUTY and LOOKS STARTS with HEALTH -- not the other way around! We really need to do what it takes to help people make the 'connect'. Those of us that are health professionals need to be more direct and CORRECT and get the help our patients REALLY need -- not pills all the time, not a barrage of costly tests, but a referral to a registered dietitian or to a weight loss program WITH subsidized coverage. The media needs to be more responsible about glorifying the wonders of being scrawny and/or unattainable chiseled and buff states. Celebrities or those who KNOW they have a big effect on the public need to be honest. Overall, I would really like to see the day when ALL people, no matter what their socio-economic status is, can have ACCESS to BEST TREATMENTS. MONITORING, and ATTENTION. I know this may mean that government subsidies may have to be allocated to enable this scenario, but, in the long run, it might help with imminent escalating, unsustainable Medicare and Medicaid costs in the future. If you have any thoughts or ideas on this topic -- feel free to comment/share! Be happy, healthy, and beautiful! Mary-Jo, MSc, MMSc, RD :)

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