In case you haven’t noticed, we’re living in the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity. And for that matter, adults aren’t doing so well themselves. A couple years back, I got very interested in this topic, so I did some research, and found the answer.
It’s a little complicated, but not really. Some of it sounds like a conspiracy theory, and some of it is common sense. Some of it you’ll want to hear, and some of it you won’t. Rather than get really deep and heavy into the what’s and why’s, I will simply list a few of the causes and a few simple solutions.
Right about now, you’re probably asking yourself what an article on obesity is doing on a website devoted to personal finance. Well… The two are related. I promise.
Before we go any further, I should note that my wife and I have lost quite a bit of weight (60+ combined pounds) over the last year. We’ve completely changed our relationship with food and shopping, and have dramatically improved our health. For more information on our story you can read the testimony of our frugal weight loss mindset.
Why is everyone getting so fat?
Before we go any further, it’s important to consider why people are getting so fat. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the major culprits.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – Corn farmers grow WAY more corn than they should. Why? The simple answer is because the government pays them to – corn is a heavily subsidized crop. Due to the surplus, corn is very cheap. And because of it’s low cost, it quickly overtook sugar as the main sweetener in commercially produced products. It sweetened and it reduced the bottom line… What could be better? Too bad it’s terrible for us. I stopped eating products with HFCS over a year ago. If you want to lose weight and improve your health, you need to stop eating it, too.
- Fast Food – McDonald’s controls way more of our food supply than you would care to know. Because they are more interested in money than health, we end up with a product that is not only unhealthy and nearly void of nutritional value, but also very, very cheap. It’s cheaper to get a double cheeseburger at McDonald’s than it is to buy a head of broccoli. There is just something wrong with that fact. I stopped eating it over a year ago. If you want to lose weight and improve your health, you need to stop eating it, too.
- Advertising – If you’ve read any of my past articles, you know that I try to limit the barrage of advertising shoved down my throat on a daily basis. The correlation between television advertising, reduced health, and increased obesity is alarming. Television is probably the largest source of ad bombardment, but there are ads everywhere we turn. I work very hard to limit the amount of advertising I take in. If you want to lose weight and improve your health, you need to stop eating it, too.
- Plastics, pesticides, and Teflon – The introduction and excessive use of chemicals in modern American culture also strongly correlates with the decrease in overall health and increase in obesity. Plastics and chemical compounds are everywhere you look, it’s in everything you use. Just try to go a day without using any plastic and you’ll see just how prevalent it is. Research shows these chemicals release endocrine disrupting compounds that can cause an increased resistance to insulin and can damage our genes. I’m switching to cast iron pans, reusable containers, and organic food. If you want to lose weight and improve your health, you should do the same.
What else can we do?
As responsible family members, parents, coworkers, and friends we should do what we can to help ourselves and our loved ones. Be a catalyst for change in your sphere of influence. Don’t talk about the change… BE THE CHANGE. Don’t condemn others for their problematic behavior, start changing your own. If you partake in any of the four items above, then you have a lot you can get started with.
Here are some other things we can do to lead a healthier life and, in many cases, improve our financial well-being at the same time.
- Plan ahead – Plan your meals out a week or month ahead of time. Make a shopping list before you go to the store, and base it on your menu. Going on a trip? Pack you meals. If you don’t, you’ll wind up stopping for burgers, fries, and HFCS soda pop.
- Drink more water – Don’t drink fruit juices or soda pop – they’re not good for you. Drink water instead, and try to stick to non-fluoridated water (well, distilled, or spring water). Just do your best to avoid bottled water – remember, we’re trying to avoid that pesky plastic!
- Eat more organic local food – This is something my wife and I have completely adopted. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be more expensive. We actually spend less money on food now than back when we ate “conventional” food. Save money with our grocery hacks and you won’t go wrong.
- Eat less – Quit gorging yourself every time you sit down to eat… Just stinkin’ stop it already! You know you need to, so grow a back bone and just do it already. Quit being lazy, quit looking for a wonder pill, and just stop eating like a hog. One interesting thing to note is that a lot of the heavily processed foods on the market today have addictive agents in them, so it might not be your fault after all. Does that make you mad? Start eating more organic local food.
- Turn off the TV – Go spend creative time with loved ones. If you can’t think of anything to do other than watch TV, then you are in bigger trouble than you think, go turn it off. I don’t have much more to say on this topic other than just to say it again. Ditch the TV. Not only will you wind up leading a healthier lifestyle, but you’ll be saving a ton of money on that cable bill.
- Get more sleep – This is something I need to do more of myself. Unfortunately, I’m currently working 80+ hrs/week, and don’t really have much choice. All I know is that most people work too much because they drowning in debt. If you had no debt, would you get more sleep? I would… That’s just one more reason why I’m in such a yank to get out of debt!
- Grow a garden, preserve the food, and learn to cook – Fifty years ago, things were very different… People still knew where their food came from, how to preserve it, and how to cook it. That’s no longer the case. The only thing we know is that if we need food, we either go out to eat, or we head to Walmart. This needs to change, and that change can start with baby steps… Just make little changes every week and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you and your family adapt, and how happy you’ll be with that change.
- Don’t tell your kids, show your kids – Don’t expect your kids to do things that you don’t do. If you want them to be healthier, then you need to be healthier. If you want them to eat better, then you need to eat better. If you want them to be more self-reliant and frugal, then you need to be the catalyst for change. Help them! Sometimes all they need is an example and a little encouragement.
We need to make a change!
Remember… Nobody is going to change things for you, and they shouldn’t have to. It’s time we stopped being so lazy and started taking control. It’s time we stopped living a reactionary life and started living proactively. It’s time for us to stop complaining and start evoking change in our lives and the lives of those we love!
Research has shown that obesity has a dramatic impact on life expectancy. Given how hard you’re working to improve your finances, you want to be around to enjoy the fruits of your labor, don’t you? I know I do!