Okay, this I could tell from spending a semester abroad a couple years ago, but it still kind of surprises me:
There are twice as many obese adults in the United States as there are in Europe.
Twice. This statement comes from an article on MSNBC.com that outlines a study done by the Emory University School of Public Health. Seriously, twice? Yup, they say, and this helps contribute to the massive amount of overspending in the United States when it comes to health care.
What does that say about the future adults of our country? The children, both young and grown, of the nearly 33 million obese Americans, are at exponentially higher risk of settling into poor health as they become adults as well. Excess weight, especially obesity, is one of the main risk factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes, some cancers, and more! (See www.3four50.com for more info on chronic disease as a true world-wide epidemic.)
Are we just destined to get bigger? Should we be content that we have the food resources to sustain such a large population, in all senses of the word? In ancient (and even not-so-ancient) times, size was sometimes viewed as a sign of wealth and prosperity. Now, though, the places have been switched. Excess weight can be seen as a sign of disadvantage – being unable to afford or find adequately nutritious food for yourself or your children.
These days, though, it seems that everything is a risk factor for something. People living in cities are at higher risk for breathing issues (oh wonderful smog), while people living in the country have less access to health care and and have a whole host of other ” risk factors” to contend with. But, these risk factors are real. And, somehow, we must each parse out just which “risk factors” have the most play in our lives. Because, diabetes and cancer and lung disease are not maladies that I would wish upon anyone. There is no significant territorial/ecological difference between Europe and the United States that can account for this difference in waist size and pocket-book emptying when it comes to the health care system. No, it seems to me to be more of an ideological difference, where preventative medicine, care and lifestyle is not practiced in the states nearly enough. I am not saying we should copy all things European…they have their own host of problems, but I do believe there is something to learn from our friends across the pond.
Until then, why don’t we try to remember our American ideals? Have we forgotten the American dream of a house with a white picket fence, 2.5 health children and plenty of wide open spaces with which to play fetch with Fido? I know the ’50s are long done and over, but maybe we can remember the old pioneering spirit upon which this country was forged and plunge into the modern wilderness of healthy living. Go camping, eat organic, enjoy that vast amount of land that we hold over Europe. Seriously…we have more room!
Enough with the overture of metaphors. Maybe we should just quit talking and learn to eat like French women.