Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ever eaten a bug?

I pay quite a bit of attention these days to the supersized debate that is being served up buffet style on the issue of weight. I read an article this week in Time about a program designed to help young girls understand how they are marketed to regarding body image and the need to be thin to be loved and successful. It claims this idea is all a construct of the marketers need to sell you stuff. I’m sensitive to it on several fronts.

First, I have a little girl and I’m currently navigating the very tight course of teaching her good eating skills, encouraging behavior that will keep her healthy but not creating a future person with an eating disorder. Second, I have a family member who struggles with obesity in a profound way. I hurt for her. You don’t have to tell her that thin, beautiful people make more money, have easier lives, are more successful and are generally happier people. She lives it everyday and I can’t imagine the prison of a body in which she is living. Third, while I am not an overweight person I’m not where I want to be so I’m currently working to take my fitness to a new level and it has made me very conscious of what I’m eating, when I’m eating it AND what others are eating and when they are eating it.

So within that framework of that experience I have been more than thinking about the subject lately. I’ve found myself contemplative about it and today I was thinking what must others in developing countries who struggle to feed themselves think of us? Our general obesity, the money spent on things like the Lap-Band and Jenny Craig must be completely beyond their contemplation. Really, even the idea of a diet at all might be beyond them completely like it is beyond me to understand what it would be like to live with the wealth of Warren Buffet. Can you imagine trying to explain the concept of a diet to them? Then I thought the same thing about my current endeavor, exercise. My wife’s grand mother I know must look at me like many of their generation and before would look at us all dressed up in workout gear running on treadmills, stairmasters, lifting weights, etc and think how stupid we look. For most of them their daily work gave them plenty of exercise. My relatives were farmers and the idea of exercising after work must be the most ridiculous idea ever. So when I go to the gym and see row after row of people mindlessly burning energy running and going no place I think what would my grandfather think of such things? What if could harness that energy? Remember our parents saying that we need to clean our plate because some kid in China is starving right now?

My personal goal is beyond how I look though that is a big part of it. I run, bike, swim, eat less and better because I want my kids to know how to be healthy by watching me not hearing me. I want to have a body that is earned and shaped from hard work but also being humble enough to know that my good genetics also play a critical role. I decided earlier this year that taking that for granted is a shame so I decided to do something about it.

This whole notion of food and health is more than vanity or even health but a geopolitical issue and an economic issue. In the same Time magazine issue I referenced earlier there was another article about eating bugs and how it might, if we can get past the idea of it, could solve all kinds of problems for us like climate change, obesity, health problems and economics and it isn’t crazy. The article discussed how much less energy, water, etc it takes to grow bugs compared to raising beef, chicken or pork and how it much more efficiently provides our bodies the protein and minerals than those aforementioned things. Our desire to create less dependence on fossil fuels has led to increased ethanol production which has lead to the increased cost of the grain we use to make it. This has been good for the long struggling American farmer but horrible for us who like cheap food.

So how does all this intersect with the human condition which we are all currently struggling? I’m not sure I know but I know it will have a profound impact on us all as we move forward in the next few years. The cost of everything will depend on the solutions for it. Economically, people will be forced to consider these things and make changes. I think about how a guy like me who used to laugh at people paying high prices for organic food from Whole Foods as well as shake my head at the fat person eating a McDonald’s supersized extra value meal and I realize I’ve changed. Now, I’m looking for a farmer’s market and someplace to buy farm fresh eggs. I’m a republican who looks at people who drink bottled water when the tap is right next them with disappointment. I say to myself do they know how wasteful that is…..the bottle is make from oil, and some truck shipped it probably thousands of miles to get it right here and they could have just turned on the tap. How I’ve changed in just a short time. I think to myself if we all just change a little bit…..in how we eat, what we eat we could be healthier, our planet could be better off, our economy might be stronger. And as I struggle to get these few pounds off and as I look to tighten up and sculpt my body and see how hard those little gains are I have extreme sympathy for the obese people struggling to just get healthy.

By the way, it is way more than marketing that conveys to us that skinny, pretty people are the successful and happy ones, it is deeper in our core. It is apart of who we are and the marketers are just letting the laws of human nature trigger our innermost desires and needs. So, now that those resolutions have just about worn off and you are back to your old ways I’ll challenge you to eat less, eat better, find stuff grown locally, and do anything you can to drive less. We’ll all be happier and better off.

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