Wednesday
Jan252012

Killer at Large – Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat

“Obesity is the terror within”. From a 12 year old weighing 213 lbs preparing for liposuction to the fact that 2/3rds of the country is overweight or obese, this documentary brings to light the true danger of the American diet.  Diabetes is rampant and “obesity is a crime on the body”. There are brutally shocking pictures of the damage of diabetes on the extremities.  When I was a podiatric surgical nurse I saw in person the damage that diabetes did to patients’ feet.  From ulcers to lost toes the damage is equally spread among both the old and the young.

With clever cartoons and professional interviews, this movie explains that natural selection would never have allowed us to live in a society in which we would have to restrict our eating patterns as our ancestors had to fight for enough nutrient dense food to live. As we have adapted to our environment we have automatically changed our eating behaviors to a system where we decide between 200 different food choices a day without thought.  Portion control does not reflect the real amount of food that our body wants to consume; we look to the packaging instead of using common sense. This documentary consistently notes that the kids’ meals in any fast food restaurant are actually the correct portion size for an adult!

We now have pastries and poor food choices everywhere; in vending machines, car washes, book stores and gas stations. We have more stress in today’s world, we work longer hours and we have a culture of fear.  Stress and fear cause the production of cortisol in our bodies, which in turn signals our brains to eat and our stomachs to store food.  We are becoming a society of overstressed, overweight and under-exercised people.

There is controversy surrounding the effectiveness of liposuction as a method to eliminate weight. The young lady, Brooke age 12, received the liposuction but 7 months later she gained the weight back. It is clear, in Brooke’s case, that she has tied her self-esteem to her body size. 

President Clinton confessed his own joy for food and expressed concern over how his diet affects his health.  He had a quadruple bypass surgery and has since changed his eating patterns.  He notes that this generation of children will likely have a shorter lifespan than their parents because of eating behaviors.

Eating addictions, such as binge eating that is discussed thoroughly in my dissertation under the Good Psychology Papers and Downloads section is described by several teenagers.  They related their binging to emotional disorders and a need to comfort themselves.  As they gained weight, they dropped out of school because of being made fun of and not being able to fit into the school chairs. One boy gave up his addiction to food and then turned to drugs.  Interestingly the same area of the brain that is stimulated by sugar is also stimulated by drugs so it is a natural transition from one bad behavior to another.

Later in the film, a small farmer also discusses the benefit of his naturally grown foods.  He feels it benefits your brain and also is gratified to provide nutritional fresh foods to others. He grows a variety of vegetables in small contents and small plots.  However, what has now changed is that corn farmers get subsidy payments for the production of corn whether they need the subsidies or not.  And, corn is in everything now.  Corn alone isn’t evil, but the sugar that it creates and is put in all of our food is highly processed and a cause of obesity.

The importance of eating locally grown, natural foods is also discussed.  For example, we might be “eating oil” because of the relationships corporations have with corn, oil and pharmaceutical companies. Depending upon your political views and how much you value these facts there is a statement from the film: “10 calories of fossil fuel used for creating corn production equates to 1 calorie of processed food in our country. For every pound of weight we have gained, we are using 30 million gallons a year more in fossil fuels due to our weight as Americans”. Shop locally! (Dr. L’s opinion).

$1 dollar buys a lot more processed food.  For each dollar, in the processed food section (junk food) you can receive 1200 in caloric intake.  However, in the fresh food isles you can only get 250 calories for your $1 dollar.  We have a system where the least healthy calories are cheap. More Americans could eat healthy if we went back to the natural farmer based systems instead of our Costcos, Wal-Marts or commercialized systems.

$5-6 dollars are spent in schools on soda by each child per week. Many schools are eliminating this practice but many families still allow their children to bring them in their lunches. Vending machine owners state that the kids will still drive to gas stations to get their junk food and “be hit by cars” as a threat to the school systems!! That was their (vending machine owners) rebuttal to removing junk food from school systems.

Additionally, why does our society allow marketing practices that destroy our children’s health and these marketers use a “cradle to grave” marketing tactic that gets them early (hooked) to negative products? Billboards show children that are as young as 6 months drinking sodas.  We are designed to consume more based upon our economic strategies. Cartoon characters often poison our children with deceitful commercials to entice them to consume poor nutritional products.  The media has addressed this, but lobbyists blame it on parent choices.  Hmmmmm……

This documentary also addresses my pyramid.gov.  The conversation states that this model is controversial because it does not explain effectively how to eat for those who do not have nutritional education.  Although it is about calories in and calories out, this model was mainly based on the food industry suggesting that we can all be healthy with exercise choices that allow us to “burn off the calories”.  This does not acknowledge the manner in which we need to eat less and avoid foods that are full of sugar.  (Dr. L’s note: there is not a section that talks about water consumption).

In the end, we all have to be responsible for our own health choices and the choices our families make. Our job is to educate and inform our friends, families and colleagues about correct choices. And we can do this together!  I believe this!

Thursday
Feb042010

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. is an excellent movie documenting the industrial food system.  Although I am aware of the many horror stories about how chicken companies inject their food with growth hormones for size, water and chemicals before packaging for plumpness, and colors for a “pretty chicken look”, I still have a hard time stomaching (pun intended) what we actually eat. 

Before watching this movie I have to admit I was unaware of the complete biochemical makeover that corn has undergone.  Why are we feeding fish, such as tilapia and salmon, corn? That is not right.  That means we are using cheap grain (corn) to feed animals in concentrated animal feeding operations.  Cattle are meant to eat grass, but corn makes animals fat, and we are eating these animals. 

Food, Inc. discusses the outbreak of e coli because the cows produce more e coli due to eating an unnatural diet of corn, the e coli not only gets into our meat supply but the runoff of manure from factory farms gets into spinach and other vegetables.  Bad pathogens get spread “far and wide”.  One hamburger patty contains pieces of meat from thousand of cows due to the slaughtering process.  The movie goes on to discuss societal repercussions of eating overly processed foods including meats, vegetables, and simple carbohydrates which are the obesity epidemic, deaths by food poisoning, the onset of diabetes, and the ecological health of the whole food system. 

Big corporations have a social responsibility with regard to this issue.  I was glad to see that Wal-Mart is jumping on board with the organic movement (according to the film).  They noted that one million dollar purchase order from Wal-Mart results in tons of pesticides not entering our food and ecological system.  Also, perhaps they can contribute to the economic gap in the cost of organic foods with foods riddled with pesticides.  However, Monsanto is coming across, in this movie, as sort of a bad-guy because of their “no public seed policy”.  This basically means they own their genetically altered seeds and even if their seeds accidently cross pollinate with a farmer’s crops that uses organic seeds, Monsanto claims a patent violation and prosecutes the farmers.  They actually sue the farmers in a fashion that discourages independent farmers. 

Personally, I pretty much cook with organic ground buffalo meat instead of ground beef and I know we are lucky to have that meat in our grocery store.  This is partially due to our location being in Colorado where buffalo are prevalent.  However, I fear that soon this meat will too become common place, fed corn, over processed, and will be the same as just regular hamburger.  I hope not.  I am going to express my opinion with my wallet. 

Thursday
Jan282010

Super Size Me

I know many of you have seen this movie but I just finally got around to watching it.  I, like the star's Grandma of the movie, cook from scratch all the time and I think that makes a difference in my family’s health. But the point this documentary makes is that home cooking, for most, is a thing of the past.  He starts out this adventure with pretty good health with a normal BMI but I think we all know where this leads. 

The gynormousness of super-sized fries still shocks me, but Morgan Spurlock explains the affect of eating them best by referring to his stomach as McBrick and McStomach-ache, and having McSweats and McTwitches.  This is an excellent movie to give a simple look at the role toxicity and laziness has in our overall health. 

The deterioration of his body and his health is shocking.  Obesity is the obvious problem with fast food, but what is interesting is the fact that the documentary notes the onset of depressive feelings and this mind-body connection is often overlooked in the media.

The worst part for me is the fact that fast food IS affordable and, in this economy, often the choice for families on a budget.  Don’t get me wrong; I am guilty of an occasional Filet-o-Fish value meal.  But, even if you have already seen this documentary, it might be good to revisit the idea and remember how Spurlock looked and felt at the end before we pull into that drive-thru.