>> Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Given that the Mother and I have just about beat the healthcare issue to death, lets continue with other aspects of the original post. We mentioned, in the comments, that obesity is exploding in prevalence, that it's like an epidemic across our country, and specifically our country.
I'm not the first to speculate (and I'm not a doctor, so this is pure speculation), but I'm going to anyway. One of the potential culprits is the ubiquitous corn syrup, particularly in sodas swilled by the liter. Add zillions of fast food restaurants around every corner, an addiction to the automobile so that even skinny people often drive to the gym (and everywhere else), and it's not hard to find some of the culprits.
But I think one of the main culprits is time or, more specifically, the lack of it. Let me explain. When I was in the Netherlands for a conference, several years ago, I was struck by the different pacing. Grocery stores closed at 5:30. Lunches were leisurely and dinner might last hours. I've been back to Europe twice since and I've seen the same thing both times...with the exception of people on the road in Rome (Holy Hell, driving in Rome is scary!), people aren't in a rush. They linger over coffee and take hours for dinner. For our gala dinner (as part of the conference), I got there at 7 pm and had the car coming for me at 11. I missed desert and the awards by leaving "early" after just four hours.
A generation or so ago, people didn't drive everywhere. Cars weren't ubiquitous. We didn't spend hours on the phone. Many families didn't have one or they had a party line they had to share. We did sports or walked or read books or listened to the radio, but our days were often not full despite longer days at work. But the notion that merit equated with hours spent working, with productivity was definitely put into place. Also, fewer homes were two income families, so there was someone who could take the time to cook elaborate meals consistently, plan menus, handle the much smaller number of activities her (yes, almost always a her) children would be involved with.
Today, we tend to take it as a given that we'll be spending 8-14 hours a day hours at work and, sometimes, a couple of hours getting to and fro as well. We take it as a given that children have 1100 activities we must find time to cart them to and from. We play on computers and become addicted to TV shows and watch movies at home and listen to music and play video games and... If we want exercise, we must schedule it in, make time out for it, often drive to the facility and come back. Mom's no longer available as full-time provider of nutrition, cleaning and chauffeuring because she's likely working, too. Now food is prepackaged and reheated, or picked up on the way home because we don't have TIME to shop for specific ingredients prepare food that's going to take more than 30 minutes to prepare.
As the time pressure of things we like to do, things we need to do, work, travel, and children support activities eat up time, we find that our time becomes a premium. I'd love to hit the Y and use the pool, we say, if I only had time. I meant to make stir fry tonight, but I got caught up in a meeting, so I just grabbed something on the way home. The kids wanted a snack, easier to hand them a bag of chips than cut up some carrots.
And, of course, once you start down that path, getting back is hard.
I'm not saying that people aren't still responsible for getting fat. They are. But, understanding why it's becoming so prevalent seems like a key factor in battling this.
I suspect that making a commitment to devoting a certain amount of time to preparing food and exercising is the key to preventing obesity just like it's unavoidable for reversing it. There's no magic wand and no time turner to help us. Perhaps, if we took our life a little more leisurely and cut back on those activities that aren't as essential as our health, we would find that finding time to do what is good for us wouldn't seem quite so onerous.
Just a thought.