Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the factors that have led us to systematically gain weight over the past few decades.
Although the ramifications of childhood obesity are becoming clearer and clearer with every passing year, we, as a nation, are still flummoxed when it comes to addressing it in a meaningful way. We know that obese children are statistically very likely to suffer from preventable and chronic illnesses when they get older, and yet we are nonetheless seduced by the ease and convenience of foods and activities that only contribute to the problem. According to a recent study, a child’s likelihood that he or she will struggle with obesity as a teenager or adult is determined by the age of 5 years.
Fast foods, processed foods and other convenience foods are all viewed as being essential in our day-to-day lives. Since most of us are largely not able to source our foods directly from farms or farmers markets, and we moreover do not have the time or inclination to prepare our foods from scratch, we lean on sustenance that we can access quickly and easily, with minimum preparation. Unfortunately, the foods that satisfy us the most are the foods that serve us the lease.
We cannot rely upon marketing to help us make the better choices, either. Foods that are ostensibly healthier and have a higher nutritional content are often loaded with sugars. If you scrutinize the labels of seemingly innocuous foods, you are likely to find ingredients prefaced with the phrase “high fructose,” or in a more wholesome guise, like “evaporated cane juice.” Unless you cook all of your foods without processed ingredients of any kind, and abjure prepared beverages, there is no way to accurately determine the amount of sugar you consume in a day.
Our activity levels have deteriorated as well. We are a nation of automobile transport – we use our cars to get to destinations only a few fractions of a mile away. While our level of exercise has been on the decline for decades, with the internet making it possible to purchase items that were once only accessible from remote locations, we are even less inclined to leave our homes than we were even in the heyday of catalogs.
In an effort to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into our increasing dependence on communications tools, there have been numerous applications dedicated to aiding us with our fitness and weight loss goals. There are even children’s video games that have been developed specifically for the purpose of engaging the entire body. However, it isn’t clear if supplementary activities tied to digital media are actually successful in helping us to become more active. Yes, there are apps designed to help us work out efficiently and eat well, but if we are so tied to our computers, are we really going to be inclined to just get out and experience the world in a personal and healthy way?
What will the future bring us in terms of our health and wellness? Medical innovations are focused on fixing dangerous medical problems, but we don’t address our health in a meaningful way. As we become more and more intertwined with communications technology, and as we are becoming an economy of haves and have-nots, we are very likely going to fracture into vastly different fitness categories – the very fit and the very unhealthy. We have to develop a strategy that can be adopted across cultures and economic strata that will help to move us toward a fitter and healthier future.