The Weight of Our Choices

I’ve not followed the HuffPo’s advice to not watchThe Weight of the Nation, in no small part becauseI was hoping it would focus more on this:

The fourth section:

“… CHALLENGES, examines the major driving forces causing the obesity epidemic, including agriculture, economics, evolutionary biology, food marketing, racial and socioeconomic disparities, physical inactivity, American food culture, and the strong influence of the food and beverage industry.”

This part of it is FASCINATING, though short shrift is given to the inherent race and class distinctions in health-related amenities in rich and poor communities. I could watch a whole series just about the disparity in parkland between lower-income communities of color and wealthy, primarily white communities, in the profit margins between soft drinks and bananas and how that figures into where they’re sold. There are a billion Dunkin Donutses and fried chicken places on every corner one neighborhood east of me and swanky little local organic lunch places one neighborhood west. If the store on the corner only stocks one kind of thing, that’s the kind I’m going to take.

I talk all the time about how my grocery store is badly lit and sticky and the produce is less than appetizing while the Jewel one town over is practically a Whole Foods and you could eat off the floors. Same with the park sitch: I run in the mornings in a park that has a walking path and a sledding hill and baseball diamonds and all kinds of jungle gyms and stuff. I take the train downtown in the afternoon past vacant lot after vacant lot, rusty chain link fences, busted, littered sidewalks. And I’m lucky enough to live in an urban hellhole where running and walking to and from the train and biking around is the norm, where there are several grocery store chains to choose from and if one store sucks I CAN go one town over.

Forget paying to go to a gym or a boot camp or whatever; what if it’s not safe to go outside after dark where you live? Then your excercise hours are limited, especially if you’re working long hours. Forget that, even; what if your neighborhood is safe as houses but you have no sidewalks and it’s dangerous to run or walk your dog in the street? It’s not that it makes healthier ways of living impossible; it’s that when you make one thing inconvenient of course people are going to choose another.

Assuming your body can tolerate typical amounts of physical activity (another “choice” that’s often overlooked), one thing people usually don’t realize is the investment of time in serious exercise. A friend who does triathlons was getting up at 5 a.m. to put in hours of workouts every day before work. When I was commuting an hour each way in my old job, or when that job stretched to 18-hour workdays, I was eating fast food in my car all the time and the idea of spending another hour at the gym made me itch. As people work longer and longer hours at jobs (that are not primarily physical), the amount of time they have to devote to their own health deteriorates. And that’s before we get into wingnuts calling anybody who eats an organic apple an American-hating pansy.

It’s easy to talk about making better choices, like of COURSE we should all have more bananas and zucchini and go swimming three times a week, and another to face the reality of not being able to make those choices because society has dictated we live another way, has rewarded developers who create walk-less communities, has subsidized farming conglomerates that overprice healthy food and underprice unhealthy, has rigged the game and then pitted us all against each other in it.


5 thoughts on “The Weight of Our Choices

  1. ” rigged the game and then pitted us all against each other in it” THIS. Answer to every frigging question anyone might have about life in the US and why nothing is ever a serious conversation with point/counter-point that leads to compromise and progress.

  2. Started watching the series yesterday while doing laundry. Creepy good and yet amazingly frank. When you’ve got two guys flipping a couple aortas around to show you how shitted up McD’s food makes you, it’s enough to give even a hard-core junk freak like me pause.

  3. People’s genetics haven’t changed in a single generation, and it’s not likely we suddenly all lost our willpower together. Obesity has gone up hugely in the last few decades. Only possible conclusion: the causes have to be various kinds of environmental.
    Fast food ads, agricultural policies, anti-walkable cities and burbs, they’re all important.
    But one thing doesn’t get mentioned near enough. Endocrine disruptors. They’re a byproduct of plastics and pesticides and the like leaching into food and water. They imitate some of the actions of some hormones in (as you might expect) unnatural and unhealthy ways. One of those actions is fat deposition. Yes, pollution is making people fat.
    So to solve the problem, part of what we’re going to have to do is realign manufacture of plastics and pesticides, and farming practices. No wonder they keep telling people to diet and just hoping that’ll work.
    (For the calories in = energy out crowd: The body, under hormonal and other signalling molecule control, decides at what point you have enough “food” circulating in your blood and it’s safe to bank some as fat. When the set point malfunctions, ie the hormones send the wrong signals, the body can go to fat depositionbefore metabolic requirements are met. In other words, you can literally be starving while gaining weight.)

  4. Stopped eating McD’s and most fastfood while on Katrina exile. Wish it would have led to weight loss but my arteries are less cloggy at least.

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