Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A New Take on Independence Day

This weekend we’ll celebrate Independence Day—but are we really—independent? Are we self-determining, self-regulating? You know this is a wellness and well-being blog, so you can guess where this is going. But, read on . . .

Food for thought: Many of us are already focused on the traditional hot dog / hamburger cookout on the grill, accompanied by chips, soft drinks . . . the list goes on. But, what if we use this Independence Day as the time to shift our “food focus,” just a little bit at time? If we do, we can take a giant step in declaring our independence from chronic illness by Independence Day 2011 . . . a goal worth pursuing, a battle worth winning.

Here’s why: The foods we choose to eat on a daily basis contribute 80 percent to whether we will develop diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. Already, almost one-half of all Americans report having a chronic illness—and those illnesses account for 75 percent of our national spending on health care (and we are all well-aware of those costs). Furthermore, almost 80 percent of all chronic disease is caused by three preventable health behaviors—obesity and overeating, physical inactivity, and smoking. The good news . . . weight loss, as modest as 5 to 15 percent of total body weight in a person who is overweight or obese, reduces the risk factors for some diseases, particularly heart disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says obesity has roughly the same association with chronic health conditions as 20 years of aging. It contributes to 53 diseases including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some types of cancer. Obesity costs our health care system about $147 billion a year. To put that figure in perspective, the American Cancer Society estimates that all cancers combined cost our health care system $93 billion a year. So ending obesity would save the health care system fifty percent more dollars than curing cancer.

How about this? What if this Independence Day (even if it’s after the big feast) we declare our independence from overly-processed, junk and fast food? What if we look for healthy substitutions? What if we find ways to work in a little more physical activity? What if we make just one modest yet meaningful change in our nutritional behaviors each month? If we as a nation of individuals can each make the effort to independently create a positive change for ourselves, we will collectively do great things for our country—and our own long-term health and wellness. “We the people” can take control of our wellness behaviors—and outcomes. “We the people” can become the solution rather than part of the problem. We are all stakeholders in this effort, and together we can turn the epidemic of overweight, obesity, and inactivity around and reduce our risk factors for preventable chronic illnesses.

Yes, it's a mouthful, but don’t you think it’s something well-worth chewing on?

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