“Weighing” in on Health Care

A few news topics have caught my eye over the past week or so. To the casual observer they may seem unrelated – but make no mistake, these topics are so inter-related they might even be considered one issue.

Heath Care Reform is the subject du jour but this headline brings up a valid point; “Health Care Reform Idea: Put Down the Donut”. The article asks where personal responsibility is in the health care debate. It’s a valid question.

Here’s another; “Obesity Related Illness Nearly 10% of Medical Costs”. Those donuts cost us 147 billion dollars in health care costs every year. It doesn’t matter if YOU are obese or not, EVERYONE of us who uses medical care in any way, shape or form helps to subsidize medical costs.

And last but not least; “Gut Health Driving Functional Foods Market”. Digestive issues like GERDS,  and irritable bowel are affecting millions of Americans, and as a result prebiotics and probiotics are now being added to all kinds of foods.  In fact, MiraLax, an over the counter laxative, was the third best selling non-food product last year, closely following Alli, a weight loss product. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

It comes down to this: No matter what you think about health care reform, it’s probably time for a little personal responsibility. 65% of Americans are overweight, and 31% are obese. There’s all kinds of reasons how we got this way; more sedentary types of work, more hours spent at work, less active leisure time, suburbs designed for driving not walking, proliferation of fast food establishments, lack of basic nutrition and cooking skills and a huge selection of processed “foods” that are so full of chemicals they only vaguely resemble the item they are based on. But no one forced any of that on us. Although many of us might feel like we are chained to a desk, nobody really is. And we choose to stop at Burger-King (and use the drive  through window so we don’t even have to stand up!) and grab an unhealthy meal option instead of planning a better tasting and healthier meal at home.  And every day we learn new skills like how to take great photographs, or how to knit, or even how to maneuver Facebook. So why can’t we learn something that will help us and our family live longer like how to cook? I’m sorry but there is no fairy godmother here waving a magic wand. It’s time for a little personal responsibility. We are responsible for getting ourselves into this overweight mess, and only we can get ourselves out of it.

But maybe you don’t see a real reason to practice restraint. In my consulting business I run across people everyday who say, “I don’t want to eat fewer (burgers, beer, candy, whatever), I’ll just die sooner”. It’s an interesting approach, but not necessarily one that I recommend. 147 billion dollars goes to dealing with obesity-related diseases that are completely preventable! That’s a lot of moola. Medical costs for the obese are 42% higher than medical costs for people who are of normal weight. So being overweight or obese doesn’t just cost us more, it adversely affects our health, including the above mentioned gut health. GERDS and irritable bowel, like diabetes or high cholesterol, or cancer, are diseases that affect all kinds of people. But the obese are more likely to suffer from one of these maladies. Every pound lost  reduces the risk of these and other debilitating diseases. And if all that isn’t enough, there is some anecdotal evidence that swine flu may be particularly deadly to the obese, even if they are otherwise healthy. Click here to see my recent article about this issue.

Personal responsibility isn’t easy. But who said it was supposed to be? Losing weight isn’t easy. Getting healthy isn’t easy. Staying healthy isn’t easy. But it isn’t impossible either. Some people may be able to lose weight and get healthy on their own. But most of us need some kind of support and help, like a nutrition consultant or coach, or a partner working towards the same goal. That’s ok. Practice personal responsibility by taking the first step.  Seek out a coach. Save health care costs over the long term. Don’t settle for dying sooner. And put down the donut.

That’s my soapbox for today. If you need more information about nutrition coaching click here, or do a Google search on “healthy eating coaching”. I am always happy to answer questions in this blog format too.

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at SeedToPantry.com and HestiasKitchen.com.

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