Watching wave after wave of Coca Cola and McDonalds commercials throughout the Olympics coverage has been, to say the least, distressing. More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Not overweight. Obese. In 2008 alone, medical expenditures associated with obesity cost us somewhere on the order of $150 billion dollars. This gargantuan price tag continues to rise yearly.
Our childhood obesity rates reveal an even greater tragedy. In the past three decades, obesity rates have tripled. Somewhere between 16 to 33 percent of kids under the age of 18 are now obese. Not overweight. Obese. That's before they enter adulthood. That's before they begin the sedentary phase of their lives.
Diabetes is out of control, heart disease is out of control, and french fries are celebrated during the Olympics. I've seen enough toes fall off in the clinic. I've seen enough forty year olds die of massive heart attacks. We need a national discussion on this epidemic of obesity. We need to get a handle on it before an entire generation of Americans ends up spending half their lives in the hospital.
I know there will be no miracle cures, but there is certainly room for hope. Nathan in the above video is twelve years old. He is demonstrating how to turn this mess around: via sweat and patient struggle. The rewards of his struggle will be great. He will know the pride that comes from saying, "I did this. I built this. This is my body, and I have guarded it against harm."
But there are also some very easy things each and every one of us can do. We can have dialogues with our physicians. We can make battle plans for our futures. We can avoid drinking soda. We can simply ban sugar water from our homes. We can park at the far end of the parking lot. We can use that stairwell at the office. We can avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup. We can ask the waiter to prepare our food with less salt. We can giant food conglomerates that we will no longer tolerate them shoving poison into our mouths. We can demand that they do better by us—and refuse to hand them another cent until they do.
Or we can feel sick. And our backs can ache. And our ankles can swell. And we can never not be sweating. And a flight of stairs will look like a mountain top. And those that hoped to see us during Christmas will be lighting candles in our stead.
Me, I'm going to follow Nathan's lead. Greatness sounds pretty good.
Disclaimer: This is an advocacy piece, not medical advice. Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new diet or exercise regimen.