Ever wonder why two-thirds of all adults in the United States are overweight, if not dangerously obese? Starting from your first cartoon and continuing through your teenage years, you've been bombarded by creative junk food ads pushing high-calorie, low-nutrition fast food and snacks. You've been told from birth that you can eat anything at any time, stay up late, and hit the drive-through after midnight. As you get older, the beer commercials overtake you, and just like those fast food ads, the alcohol companies overwhelmingly connect you with attributes particularly important to your youth -- such as friendship, prestige, sex appeal, and fun.
Your long-term childhood exposure to these campaigns encouraged and capitalized on your appetite for immediate gratification at the expense of your long-term health. Now, as an adult, you're likely hooked and addicted to lifestyle choices of unhealthy food, alcohol, and late night sleep deprivation. Those messages you heard growing up that sounded fun, tasted great, and looked cool, became adulthood habits that are now detrimental to your health, and speeding up the aging process. There is nothing youthful about the consequences -- wrinkling skin, expanding waistlines, low energy, and chronic disease.
We have raised four daughters, young ladies now between the ages of 17 and 24. So, we've been deep into young-brain-thinking for several years now. We've learned that what children crave most are the same foods so many adults are still eating today -- cereal, chicken nuggets, pasta, chips, and dessert. While most children can eat that stuff and stay slim for a while, adults cannot. Today, cereal makers are catching on and are zeroing in on our childhood addictions. A Lucky Charms ad airing now shows two 30-something adults eating Lucky Charms. One even eats the marshmallow cereal while walking around the house. Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a popular snack for 20- and 30-somethings while playing video games at night. Recognizing this, General Mills sponsored a video game conference last year in Los Angeles -- promoting and fueling our childhood desires to keep eating junk food as adults. The Trix cereal Rabbit turns 60 years old next year. After a lifetime of "Trix is for kids," today's grown-up rabbit likely pours a big bowl both morning and night. Unfortunately, still eating these "kid" foods -- tasty, sweet, salty, and fatty, primarily consisting of sugar, processed carbs, and adulterated ingredients, has resulted in the obesity and chronic diseases that are pervasive today in our adult lives.
Although the alcohol industry maintains that its advertising aims only to increase market share and not to encourage underage people to drink, research suggests otherwise. Society today tends to view drinking alcohol as a rite of passage. Movies, music, and advertising portray drinking as a desirable, adult activity. Reaching age 21 and "being legal" are matters for special celebration. Television commercials and movies make youthful drinking look like so much fun, and we agree -- sure, it sometimes can be. However, hangovers aren't fun, ever. The long-term side effects of heavy drinking well into adulthood include liver damage, beer bellies, and loss of skin elasticity. One in 10 deaths among adults between the ages of 20 and 64 are due to excessive alcohol consumption, the CDC says in a recently-released report. So, while once alcohol looked appealing as a teenager, today it is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Are you a heavy drinker? It doesn't take much, according to this report.
Adults snacking and playing video games into the late hours will find their food looks really good the next day following too little sleep. Studies show that sleep restriction increases hunger and appetite. So, not surprisingly, obesity and weight gain are linked to lack of sleep. As adults we stay up too late and get up too early. We interrupt our sleep with food, alcohol or work. And we overstimulate ourselves with late-night activities such as watching television and surfing the Internet. The average adult in the United States is sleeping only 6.5 hours a night. According to a recent Gallop Poll, 40 percent of Americans actually sleep less than six hours a night. Our bodies need about eight hours of restorative sleep for our brain to function properly and for cell repair to be effective. Lack of sleep has consequences that mimic alcohol by negatively affecting our mental and physical response times the next morning. Our daughters could skimp on sleep and typically recover to the point of being somewhat normal the next day. However, that childhood grace period doesn't last very long. By your mid-20s, recovering from a night with little to no sleep becomes harder and harder to do, as health and weight consequences accumulate. Over time, sleep deprivation will send your appetite and your waistline through the roof.
It is never too late to get control over our childhood desires that are now firmly engrained, unhealthy adult habits. Fortunately, our bodies are created and equipped with amazing healing, restorative and regenerating capabilities. To get started you will need mindfulness, an action plan, and focus. Start small, one change at a time and set yourself up for success. Regardless of where you stand now with your busy life, health, weight, or circumstances, step back and look closely at your typical day. Create a list of the harmful lifestyle habits and thought patterns you've established over the years.
Beginning with your food choices, evaluate how often you eat fast food, convenience store meals, junk or processed foods. Make the switch to real whole foods, such as healthy meats, good oils and fats, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. You'll immediately recognize real foods in your grocery store as something your grandmother used to cook. It is possible to eat real whole foods, even if you have a demanding job, young kids, after-school activities, and picky eaters. Breakup and end your relationship to the dollar menu. In between meals, end the snacking habit-you're a grown up now. You should be able to survive five or six hours without snacking. Junk food ad campaigns have wrongly convinced both parents and children to believe we need something in our hands all the time.
Unless you are the "most interesting man in the world" there is no one else middle-aged or older in a beer commercial. That is intentional. The alcohol ads do a great job associating drinking, socializing, and going out, with youth and young people. So, if you are over 30-something, it really is time to create a plan for cutting back. It is possible to enjoy social activities or relax at home without alcohol. Just thinking about being healthy can actually make you drink in moderation or avoid alcohol altogether. Put your focus on enjoying healthier alternatives that don't involve alcohol. If drinking stays a part of your social life, be sure to set limits and keep track to avoid getting carried away, which easily happens when you are having fun. Eat first and drink a pint of water before every alcoholic drink to stay hydrated.
While that alcohol will make you feel sleepy, it will also reduce the quality of your sleep. Even if you don't notice the periods of waking, those drinks tend to produce broken, shallow sleep. If you're getting less than the recommended seven or eight hours of sleep, shutdown your iPad, stop looking at your phone for everything right up until bedtime, and turn off the lights. Go to bed an hour earlier tonight. That extra hour of sleep could make a big difference in your health. The gap between getting just enough sleep and too little sleep may affect your mood, your weight, and even your sex life.
One of the biggest lessons we've learned? The responsibility for our health, our energy levels, our happiness and our passions -- they're really in our own hands. We all hold that power. So make the decision to take care of yourself along the way to ensure you're able to live out your life with the health and well-being to pursue anything and everything that interests you.
Real insight from a couple that lives it. Learn more about us at www.revelationcorporatewellness.com and www.rocksolidnutritionandwellness.com or email Debbie at Debbieabbott1965@gmail.com.