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Dr. Jeffrey McCombs

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A "S.A.D." Lifestyle

Posted: 11/17/08 03:23 PM ET

As our country deals with the effects of past deregulation and the current financial crisis, I am struck by how America has also become deregulated in the area of its dietary choices and the resultant health crisis that is developing as a result. Sound dietary practices have been dismantled and replaced by eating whenever, whatever, and however it suits us in the moment. Common sense management of our food choices has been neglected in favor of fad diet fixes and Flintstone vitamins.

The wisdom of the body as a temple that needs to be cherished and cared for has been replaced by the philosophy of the body as an amusement park and I've got a season pass.

It's no mistake that the acronym for the Standard American Diet is S.A.D. When America exports the dietary principles of S.A.D. to another country, a decline in the health of its people quickly follows. It also holds true for foreigners who immigrate here, as they quickly find out that their health declines and their weight increases when eating as the natives do. In all fairness, America should have signs at its entry borders that warn of the risks that go with adopting our S.A.D. lifestyle.

Using the government's Body Mass Index (BMI) standard, a calculation based on height and weight, over 66% of Americans are overweight and 34% are obese. If current trends continue, by 2015, it's estimated that 75% of American adults will be overweight or obese. By 2030, that estimate increases to more than 86 percent of adults, and by 2048, well let's just say that finding a normal weight person will be like finding a needle in a haystack. The BMI standard isn't without just criticism, as other body measurements are not considered. When considering the overall trend, however, it's obvious that Americans are getting fatter and the associated illnesses and healthcare costs that accompany this trend are also on the rise.

Being overweight increases our risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, liver and gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, infertility, and various other related diseases and conditions. All of these are signs of lifestyle mismanagement, not medication deficiencies.

I imagine that a pharmaceutical company's Board of Directors looks upon America's sedentary lifestyle and standard diet much in the same way that a cannibal looks upon a newly caught fat missionary prior to feasting. Our gains become their gains.

The pharmaceutical industry continues to propagate the philosophy of there's nothing wrong with us. It's not our fault. It's just genetics, hormones, and other uncontrollable dysfunctions in our bodies that they will soon have a drug for. So, don't worry, keep eating. For heaven's sake, there's no need to deprive your self of anything. Eat! You've earned it. Eat! You deserve it. Eat! It's the holidays. Eat, eat, eat!

President-elect Barack Obama keeps reminding us that we need to prepare ourselves for making sacrifices in order to correct the excesses of the past. This applies as much to our diet and lifestyle choices as much as it does to the economy. If sacrifices are to be made, then we can choose to sacrifice stupidity for wisdom. We can live up to our potential and leave behind the excuses and reasons for not taking care of ourselves.

Over half of Americans lead a sedentary lifestyle. The current government recommendation calls for 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. I have always thought that the government usually gets it half-right. Exercising 60 minutes 5 days a week is probably even better. Start where you are and go from there. Leave the "have to do it/be it/have it now" attitude behind. Evolve your desires to allow for gradual progress to have its impact.

In his book "What May Be" Piero Ferrucci states, "You must not follow your feelings. Your feelings must follow you." We must begin to exhibit an emotional intelligence that directs our food choices. We must eat with a conscious awareness of how we wish to transform our bodies, for our bodies are transforming from moment-to-moment whether we like it or not. How it transforms can be up to us.

So as Thanksgiving approaches, I believe that it's time to be thankful for the abundance and opportunities that we have as Americans. It's time to invest in ourselves and our future. We can create something remarkable with our lives and share our life stories with others. We can be a nation of everyday heroes, ordinary people living extra-ordinary lives.

As an old adage states, "If not now, when? If not me, who?"

Dr. Jeffrey S. McCombs at www.mccombsplan.com.

 

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