What will become of us? Obesity is rising- it is a national epidemic. We are poised for a major health care crisis because we do not want to take care of ourselves. What will happen to us? Sounds desperate doesn’t it?
If history is right we will prevail, and we must look to history to understand the future. I find it fascinating to look back and see how we came to this point. When put in historical perspective it makes sense; right or wrong we can see how we got here and where to go next. We can see that we are beginning to come full circle on ideas surrounding fitness and diet.
My grandparents’ generation saw enormous change. During this time of change their lifestyles were uprooted and people were glad for the breaks technology gave them. They were more than happy to go to the bathroom inside, however this eliminated some movement since they did not have to travel as far. T.V became a source of entertainment, and as a Robert Earl Keen song claims, “…I don’t think she’s seen the sky since we got the satellite dish.” We have truly changed our way of life. Looking back to post World War II, we created many time saving gadgets, we also had a culture of new and bigger equals better Keeping up with the Jones was a very real concept and advertising was new and glamorous. We had to learn what old school ideas were worth keeping, how to be media savvy, and how to find ourselves amidst the bombardment of ideas about “ good and better” thrown at us each day. Marketers did a wonderful job of selling us prepackaged food because is was easier to make than the “’old way of cooking”. People began to need white bread because it said something about your place in society. All this change led to more expense, which led to more work, which led to more sitting and less moving, which led to more technology advances, which led to less movement and the weight came on.
Along the way we made attempts at change. We created programs and grants. We said we needed to change, but the idea was intangible. Fitness became about money. Those who had it also had free time to lounge at the club. A former client refused to sweat. She said it was un-lady like even though she had been at the club for sixty years…what was she doing? The former idea of exercise was very different than today’s idea. As fitness evolved the fitness industry began a revolution and people from many walks of life began to understand its place, however research was just beginning to report the benefits and many still felt fitness was not a necessity.
Our ideas surrounding food continued to keep us out of touch with the foods we ate, and we figured out how to make corn syrup! This little ingredient hit the grocery shelves like a tornado. Suddenly we had refills at the fast food restaurants, we could get our hands on huge servings of chips, crackers, candies, and all sorts of yummy things – cheap. We’d also figured out how to make food last longer. We created trans fats. We could eat whatever we wanted whenever we wanted and could afford it. Many I speak with reminisce about soda as a reward and candy a once a week, hard earned treat, but those days are no longer and we must begin to react to the realities of today.
Junk food is readily available and cheap. We never learned the hand-me-down lessons our grandparents were taught surrounding foods, and we have moved further away from an agricultural society so many of us never see how our food comes to be. I was twenty-eight before I learned cheesecake could be made in my kitchen! Exercise has become a necessity, but only in the last decade and many have yet to buy into its effectiveness, but we are getting there. Recently, pop was taken out of schools. For many this was a first exposure with the branding, youth, and food movement, but for others this fight has been raging for years, and finally a battle was won. Chalk one up for education, persistence, research, and passion. Fast food places now have exercise happy meals for adults! The organic food industry has seen a 20% increase in sales and continues to predict growth. Cooking classes have come full circle teaching us the tricks we forgot to learn from grandma, and fitness club memberships have grown exponentially; statistics back up club membership as a top factor in reaching fitness goals. We are doing it! We are succeeding. We will win back our health…but we have to choose wisely.