Thursday, April 8, 2010

Recent Musings...

Figured I would post a couple of rants I have submitted to local newspapers recently in response to articles they ran. The first was published, the other I'm awaiting word on.

First, submitted to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

In response to Dr. Quinlin’s letter from Sunday’s PG (“Obese people generally don't have a choice,” Nov. 23), as a health & fitness professional with 10+ years of experience; I must respectfully disagree.

The original article ("Fat and Fact," Nov. 22) finally brought to light the elephant in the room. While people may not choose to be fat, they do “alone decide how much they eat and how much they exercise (or how little).” It’s not necessarily laziness; it also stems from a lack of education on effective ways to do so. Folks may be surprised to know that the size and scope of their primary care physician’s education on the subjects of nutrition and exercise is extremely small. Even the American Diabetes Association, up until very recent years, was giving dietary recommendations that were actually compounding the problems and symptoms of those following it. These, combined with the large disconnect between medical professionals and health & fitness professionals; are largely contributing to our failure to sufficiently address the obesity and diabetes epidemics.

While I agree with the doctor that genetics play a large role, and that we know very little about the subject as a whole; there is science supporting specific dietary and physical protocols that have significant success. The idea that obesity cannot be controlled or managed any more than eye and skin color is simply not accurate. The responsibility of the individual cannot be understated.

While the obese population may “wish for a solution far more than any policy wonk”, do they know how to go about it and are they willing to make the necessary changes to do so? The multi-billion dollar sales of the supplement industry and FDA approved drugs such as ALLI, combined with the staggering rate of increase in obesity and diabetes in both adults and children suggests that the answer is no.

And most recently for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

RE: School districts expand healthy menu options - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

While the increased attention that the systematic poisoning of our children at the hands of our nation’s school lunch program has been receiving lately due to the efforts of Jamie Oliver and subsequent articles such as Thursday’s “School districts expand healthy menu options” excites me, the content and comments contained within suggest while meaning well and on the right path – we still have far to go.

I applaud the removal of the fryers - and more importantly the harmful canola/vegetable oil contained within them - in the Moon Area School District. But I decry the idea that by offering kids “baked chips, SunChips or pretzels” that it is somehow healthier. It’s not. It’s still processed junk. Why are we even offering snacks in the first place? A school is a place for learning; students need nutrients in order to do so - those snack choices offer no nutrients to speak of, rendering there availability illogical.

The allocation of more funds via legislation like the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is good on the surface, but to “enable the secretary of agriculture to establish national nutrition standards” is not necessarily helpful. Not if that person decides, such as the case in Huntington, WV, that french fries count as a vegetable. Or that canola oil is healthy (it’s not). Or that saturated fat is somehow unhealthy (it’s not).

Again, I do believe that Ms. Lazzaro, and many others, “have the kid’s best interests at heart”. I do. But it’s not enough. Our educators need educated. The idea that “fat-free pudding and reduced-fat cottage cheese” is “cutting edge” – or healthy for that matter – is laughable. One would have thought the fat-phobia phase went out in the ‘80s right with Olivia Newton John. Those products are anything but healthy once you look at all the chemicals and additives that are poured into them to make them palatable. Not to mention many of our most vital nutrients and vitamins are fat soluble; remove the fat and you absorb nothing. Nutrients don’t function in isolation.

There is nothing inherently wrong with carbs, fat, or protein. The devil is in the refinement and processing of each of them. The solution is simple on the surface – eat REAL, nutrient dense foods. For all of the fuss about food labels, if what you are buying has a food label – chances are you shouldn’t be eating it in the first place.

The deeper issue is captured beautifully by Michelle Tejchman of Moon Middle School – “I’m a junk-food person.” Judging by the alarming rate of increase in obesity and diabetes – in our children – she is far from alone. But WHY is she a junk-food person? We can throw money at this problem just as we have at education in general. But it won’t be enough. Until there is a fundamental shift in the home - and America as a whole, the nation’s health will continue to decline right along with its intellect.

Jamie has done something beautiful. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a new movement, one which I intend to be a part of. The question is….

“Who’s coming with me?” – Jerry McGuire

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