Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Everyone

Without going into why this topic comes to mind . . .

You and every other person now living, who ever has lived or ever will live, have been given a gift. No two are the same. None are perfect. Some get broken, some you abuse, some you worship, some you ignore, some you adore.

We’re talking about your body—the system of skin and tissue that holds together your bones, muscles, blood vessels, veins, organs—you get the idea. It’s the one thing each of us truly has in common. And more than 65 percent of us don’t take care of it. In fact, the most of us seem to be doing our best to destroy it.

We feed it too much, or we feed it the wrong things. We don’t ask enough of it. We don’t let it do what it was designed to do. We clog it up with chemicals, additives and just plain junk. We pay more attention to what we do and don’t put in our kitchen sinks and garbage disposals than what we put into our own bodies.

Statistics provided by the National Institutes of Health show that 67 percent of Americans age 20 and older are overweight, 34 percent are obese, and projections indicate 40 percent of the population will be obese by 2018—in just 7 years.

Now, consider that life expectancy during the 20th century increased more than 27 years, from 49.2 to 76.5 years, largely due to the reduction in mortality among children. But that was then, and this is now, and for the first time in 200 years, today’s children are looking at shorter lifespans than their parents. Why? Childhood obesity and associated chronic illnesses. The leading causes of death have shifted from infectious diseases to chronic diseases. This is our own doing.

We have developed a discouraging set of self-destructive habits. The U.S. food industry aggressively markets high-fat, high-sugar, super-sized foods. We tend to literally, eat it up. It’s fair to say it’s not all our own faults, but the question is whether our collective weight gain and sedentary behaviors are more a matter of individual responsibility, or whether a society that makes it so easy to get fat should look closely at itself and its values. At stake is the health of millions of Americans, the lives of adults and children, and more than $147 billion in annual obesity- related health care costs. And, where the blame lies is not as much the issue as what we intend to do about it.

Obviously, we can’t control every factor that influences our health and wellness. And yes, healthy people do get sick. But, there’s a lot we can control. Maybe now’s the time to think about and do those things we know make a difference—and keep those birthdays coming.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Time to Polish Up Your “Health Halo”

Here’s the science . . . it’s well-known that the way we perceive a particular trait of any person is influenced by how we perceive other characteristics of that same person. A person with a positive attribute we admire actually radiates a halo, meaning we believe other traits of that person are also positive.

Now, research shows the halo effect also applies to foods and even influences what and how much we eat. The study conducted at Cornell University’s School of Applied Economics and Management found that people tend to consume more calories at fast-food restaurants claiming “healthy” meals (or at least healthier offerings) than they do at a fast-food restaurant not making those claims. When you think a food is more nutritious, you let your guard down. Counting calories takes a backseat to healthful eating—and boy do we eat. If it’s healthy, we tend to feel at liberty to indulge.

Now, how does this apply to healthy labels? Consider the organic label. Hear the word “organic” and you probably immediately think “healthy.” Think healthy, and according to the study, you might feel entitled to more. Not necessarily so.

Organic foods don’t necessarily taste better. They aren’t lower in calories. They aren’t especially more nutritious. They do tend to be more expensive, and they do tend to make us think we’re getting something more.

And, sometimes we are—more than we need—because we think it’s OK to take consumption to a higher level. Judging a “food by its cover” isn’t license to eat more of it. Calories are still calories. So, maybe that halo effect really does need polishing. Maybe we need to shine it up to see what it’s really reflecting.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thinking About a Baby?

Warning: This Blog post isn’t fun, amusing or humorous in any way, but rather very disturbing—on several levels. It should also be thought-provoking, and it should be a call to action.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall. She weighs 165 pounds. According to BMI standards, the average woman is overweight and only 10 pounds away from falling into the obese category. Here’s why this is important, and why we’re only talking about women here . . .

A study published this month in the journal Human Reproduction cites research that finds “women who are obese during early pregnancy have a significantly increased risk of their baby dying before, during or up to one year after birth.” By “significantly increased risk” the study means an obese woman has nearly double the risk of the baby dying in the womb or up to one year after birth than women of recommended weight. (If you don’t know your BMI, you can check it here on our website.)

Obviously, you don’t want to try to lose weight during pregnancy, but reaching and maintaining a healthy weight before becoming pregnant is a necessary step to giving a baby the best possible start in life. This in itself should be important enough to make those behavioral lifestyle choices that lead to better nutritional health, wellness and recommended weight—for a lifetime. Don't you think so?