Huffpost Healthy Living
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Christina Pirello Headshot

Why Society Works Better When We're Afraid and Fat

Posted: Updated:

America suffers from an insatiable hunger...for food, technology, houses, money, power, fame, knowledge, phones, gossip, information, clothes, cars, computers, televisions. But with all that we know; with all the information at our fingertips; with all our security systems and firewalls, it only takes a news sound bite to send us scurrying into the corner, trembling with fear. You know it's true. But why? Simply stated, we have lost our vitality, our strength, our character. We rely on 'apps' on our phones for information, our GPS to direct us and our Wii for exercise and resort experiences. We have created a fake world to distract us from the reality that we have grown weak and vulnerable, unhealthy and compromised; the perfect prescription for manipulation and fear-mongering.

Think about it. If every American changed their lifestyles and grew slim, fit and healthy, what would happen? What if we minimized or even eliminated all of the 'lifestyle diseases' that keep pharmaceutical and special interest fat cats on yachts and in villas...and you sickly and dependent on them for your very life.

Americans spend a staggering $200 billion on pharmaceutical drugs each year. And Big Pharma companies contribute up to 90% of continuing medical education for doctors (according to Greg Critser, author of Generation Rx). More than 44% of Americans of all ages are taking some sort of pharmaceutical to get through the day...or night so you have to wonder who has the biggest stake in us being afraid and fat.

'Pharmaceutical' comes from the Greek word, 'pharmakon' which means 'remedy and poison' and therein lays the rub. Now before you get your prescriptions pads in a twist, hear me out. We need pharmaceuticals; we do. (There, do you feel better? If not, there's a pill for it, I'm sure.) But we need to consider what has happened to the quality of our lives since we gave away control of our bodies and we must learn to use pharmaceuticals more appropriately and not medicate ourselves into oblivion.

The Mayo Brothers and their vision of group medical practices and team care for patients, as well as specialized medicine resulted in lost power for the individual. 'Specialists' wear an intimidating mantle of knowledge and within that model of medicine the patient's knowledge of their own body was buried in language they couldn't understand and the big disconnect with personal health began.

We've forgotten two very important facts in life: We are the premiere experts on these organisms in which we live; we really do know them and the fuel we give these bodies can create or destroy our health. It really is as simple as that.

I just read an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Timesby Charlotte Allen, telling the 'food snobs' of the world (like Alice Waters and Michael Pollan) to stop criticizing Americans for their love of cheap things: furniture, generic brands and of course, food. Calling those experts who speak to the benefits of eating whole, unprocessed foods elitist and arrogant, she extols the virtues of cheap stuff, particularly food in these hard economic times.

Well, I am here to tell you (and Ms. Allen) that we can't afford cheap food. Our health, our children, our planet can't afford the junk being marketed to us. The price of the $.99 cheeseburger is far higher than the money you paid for it.

So what is this really about? Look, Ms. Allen is fully entitled to her opinion and her Ikea furniture, but to denigrate the idea that healthy food is essential in a time of a staggering obesity epidemic is simply sticking her head in the sand and encouraging the rest of us to join her.

America has changed from being a hotbed of creativity and manufacturing to a hotbed of consumption. Each and every night we are bombarded by commercials selling us things we don't need and can ill afford. And then there's the food. A parade of ads for food that will kill you dance across the screen, all eaten on air by beautiful, fit-looking models and actors, (none of whom touch the stuff they're selling in real life; if they did, they would more like the schlubs you see in the mall who do eat it and haven't seen their feet in years). And in between are the ads for the industry that has sprung up around the consumption of the foods that are creating these lifestyle diseases. Diabetes meters (now in designer colors, wow!), cholesterol lowering drugs, anti-depressants (that can increase your thoughts of suicide...isn't that a contradiction in terms?), asthma treatments, 'alli' for obesity, erectile dysfunction drugs (lots and lots of them), all with their breathy little disclaimers for side effects that are nearly as scary as the ailment they are treating.

America's love of cheap food and lots of it has resulted in the world we live in today. We are weak and easily manipulated, brainwashed by the media, advertising and celebrity endorsements, outnumbered and out-moneyed by special interest groups that want to keep things just as they are.

In the raging health care debate, Americans must look deeper than the words they hear. Phrases like 'death panels' and 'euthanasia' are being thrown around for one reason...and it ain't your health. There is great interest in keeping America afraid and sick. When Republican leader John Boehner has taken campaign contributions from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, what kind of health care reform do we think he wants to see?

If Americans took control of their health, choosing to eat healthy, unprocessed foods and being fit and strong, we'd see real change. We'd see an America revolt against all the things that don't serve the purpose of our lives. We'd see a demand for better quality food, truth in advertising, better government, truthful labels.

People often say that to change the way America eats would spell economic collapse and the loss of jobs. How silly. If America was healthy and fit, new innovations would spring up; new ways to create healthy food would emerge. Gone would be pizza with cheese stuffed in the crust; we'd never see sandwiches using fried chicken for the bread. We'd see delicious innovations using natural foods; farms would thrive in new ways; supermarket shelves would be filled with real food so everyone had access to it. We'd see it because we'd demand it. And they want our money, don't they?

Now before you tell me that I live in 'La-La Land' and these kinds of changes are blue sky dreaming, let me tell you that you're right. You're right because you have been conditioned to believe that we can't change this. It's time to break the choke hold that advertising, pharmaceutical companies and special interests have on our health and well-being. It's time to show them that we're not sheep being led to slaughter, but cut from the same cloth as our Founding Fathers that created a nation on revolution. It's time to be the change we want to see and stop talking about it.

Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much (Michael Pollan). The truth hurts and change can be uncomfortable, but change we must. Otherwise, we remain enslaved, afraid and fat.

From Our Partners