By Mel Damski
Recently, I went to a local eatery for a very inexpensive buffet lunch. What I saw basically ruined my appetite–a parade of overwhelmingly obese people lined up at the trough.
You might think that’s not a very scientific sampling–people mostly on vacation looking for a cheap, all-you-can eat buffet–but unfortunately it is a microcosm of what is happening around the country. In Washington State, over 26 percent of our population is considered obese.
Darwin would have a tough time with this scenario. Aren’t we supposed to have evolved into a smarter, healthier species? Somewhere along the journey from hunter gatherers to farmers to industrial workers to white collar computer users, we’ve lost our way.
If you spend your day working your ass off, literally, to make enough money to feed yourself and your family, you’re not going to have to count calories. But if you can sit on your ass all day and make enough money to buy a 1500 calorie lunch at McDonalds, you’re going to have a problem.
So many of us have jobs that simply don’t require any exertion. We drive everywhere, even around the corner. We have to invent ways to exercise, and even hire trainers to help keep us on task.
We mostly eat food that has been has been over processed by huge corporations, laced with hormones and preservatives to be shipped long distances to look good on the supermarket shelf. (See the Oscar nominated documentary Food, Inc if you want the scary details.)
After a big dinner, we sit in front of the television or at the computer, or in many cases, both. Our brain continues to process but we aren’t doing anything to help digest all of those carbs.
And when I say “we”, I mean it. I love pizza and french fries as much as the next guy. I’ve struggled with poor nutrition and weight issues my whole adult life. Recently, I went through old family pictures and either cropped myself out of them or dumped the whole damn picture in the trash. How did that college wrestler turn into that fat guy? No wonder I’ve had two knees replaced!
I’m a big supporter of health care, but when I see the parade of overweight tourists walking down First Street in La Conner, I just don’t see how the numbers are going to work. So many diseases accrue from obesity: heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure. Can we really afford to subsidize that kind of lifestyle?
And these are the grown-ups. Our children and grandchildren have replaced kickball and capture the flag with video games and social networking. The rate of adolescent obesity is alarming, and if they aren’t getting exercise as kids, the future can’t be rosy. Science and medicine say that obese kids grow up to be even more obese adults. (Statistically, American kids have three times the obesity rate of kids in Europe, where national health care has been successful).
Diets make for good reality television but we all know that fad diets don’t work. We have to figure out how to compensate for our sedentary lifestyles. We need healthier food, and less of it.
We have a store in town named Go Outside and another called Step Outside. It’s a great concept. Let’s get the kids back on the playground. And let’s take a long walk after a nutritious dinner of locally grown food.
After all, we live in one of the healthiest environments in the world. Fresh air, fresh food, clean water. If we can’t do it, nobody can.
By Mel Damski – the Producing-Director of the TV series “Psych” and winner of the Best General Interest Column by the Washington Newspaper Association.