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Ounce

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The other day while driving in the car I heard a commercial. I’m not even sure what it was for because the first sentence set me off. The commercial opened with, and I’m paraphrasing here, that “with the rapid rise in cases of diabetes in this country, it is time we work on coming up with better treatments for this growing population.”

I nodded at first, but then almost immediately yelled “No!” to no one in particular.

Really? That’s the answer?

You see, this is the problem with society today. We always, ALWAYS, treat the symptom instead of focusing on prevention. How much money is going into treating those that become diabetic due to lifestyle? How much of YOUR health insurance premiums are being used to pay for treatment of a preventable diseases?

Now don’t get me wrong. Those with lifestyle induced diabetes need to be treated and I would never, ever attack those that were born with diabetes or those that became diabetic due to health related issues out of their control. There is, however, a rapidly growing population (pun intended) in this country that is putting itself at risk unnecessarily, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

As people and politicians struggle with fixing our health care system, everyone seems to be ignoring one of the oldest sayings in our short history – “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Poor eating habits, lack of exercise and the government’s insistence on subsidizing the corn industry are leading us down a path that will require pounds of cure compared the the ounces of prevention we could be putting in place to(yester)day.

It is too easy and costs too little to eat poorly. I can’t blame the McDonald’s, the Burger Kings or the KFC’s of the world. They are businesses doing what they can to make a profit.  They are not in the health business; they are in the money-making business. Until people stop eating what they serve (and I’m guilty once in a while), they will continue to do what they do.  Until there is a change in their bottom line, there is no reason to expect them to change what they feed us.

And how do you argue with a parent who has little time and $20 to feed her family of four?  For $20 she can buy 4 fast food value meals that are loaded with calories from the McD’s around the corner or she can spend some of that money on transportation to the grocery store and try to piece together a meal with what’s left.  I get it.  But throwing our hands up in the air and saying we can’t do anything about it is not the answer. Coming up with treatments to deal with the results of eating McDonald’s every night is necessary, but short-sighted and still not the answer. The journal Health Affairs reported last year that overall obesity-related health spending reached $147 billion in the U.S., about double what it was a decade earlier. (Yahoo News). $147 BILLION!!!

That money is coming out of YOUR pocket!

There is no magic bullet, but there are a few simple steps we can take on a local and national level.

At the local level we can insist that our children are physically active for at least 30 – 60 minutes a day. The habits our children learn today are the ones they will default to as adults. Do you want to raise a pre-diabetic, lethargic couch potato or a physically active go getter? There’s also science that show that kids who are active for 30 minutes in the morning BEFORE school starts score higher on tests.

The best way to achieve this is through example.  If your kids see you active, they will be active.  As much as we like to think children will listen to what we say, they are much more likely to “listen” to what we do.  If you don’t have kids, think of your spouse, your love interest, your friends.  Science has shown that friends and even friends of friends DO influence each other when it comes to physical activity and behavior.  If one person in a group of smokers has the strength to quit, others are likely to follow.  It is the same with physical activity.  If one person can break the cycle, others will follow.

At the national level we need to convince our government to stop making it so cheap to eat poorly. Subsidizing the corn industry has created a society that eats HFCS’s constantly.  It’s in EVERYTHING.  And it has practically no positive health benefits.  How about subsidizing the farmers who make the healthier foods?  Which in turn can help families just scraping by afford more nutritious meals?  I don’t want to put the farmers out of business, just re-deploy them.

So, what’s it gonna be?  An ounce or a pound?  Are you already at a pound?  Well, then is it going to be a pound or sixteen of them?  The longer we wait, both as individuals and as a society, the harder it’s gonna be, both on our bodies and on our wallets.

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