Thanks to Elaine I get the night off. I’ll be back tomorrow. :)
If you are new to Elaine’s series, click here and scroll down to start at the beginning.
Now that we’ve taken five weeks to look introspectively at our own personal motivations and goals, it’s time to take a look at the environment that we live in – the public health implications of obesity, food problems, and lack of exercise in contemporary American culture. Scientists know now that about 50% of our health comes from our environment and behaviors – where we live, how we eat, and our habits related to smoking, drinking, and exercising. 50%!! That is a staggering number! Great genetics and great doctors and the best hospitals have nothing on environment and behavior! We’ve focused on behavioral and goal setting for five weeks, so let’s take a pause to look at environment.
I remember the day another new McDonald’s opened down the street from me. It was now directly on my commute to and from work, as opposed to the other McDonald’s, which was about a mile out of the way. I have no doubt that I drank more iced coffee slathered with cream and ate more McDoubles those first few months than I had before. The environment had changed, and my behavior had changed accordingly. I would argue that the average American consumer is abused with the amount of food input we receive at every turn – restaurants on every corner, no time for cooking dinner after work, candy bars at the gas station, happy hours after work, and most socialization involving food. It’s a constant onslaught of information to our brains to eat, eat, eat….and it’s creating a public health crisis.
However, not all is lost. New York recently began posting nutritional information on all menus in restaurants, trans fats are now listed on nutritional facts, shows like the Biggest Loser promote a healthy weight image, and Dove has a healthy woman campaign that shuns photoshopping. Cities recognize that parks and walking trails mean fewer heavy children and happier families. In my home state of Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma is piloting a progressive initiative to identify children with obesity and provide free nutritional counseling to the entire family.
Public health is a collection of everyone’s actions. For me, that means telling myself my mantra of “I will not stop!” as I pass McDonald’s and surrounding myself with great input from reading healthy blogs like Roni’s Weigh. It means owning two dogs because I know it forces me to walk more. It means suggesting a meeting at 11am instead of noon so that I don’t feel pressured to eat with my co-workers. By modifying my environment, I can support my own healthy behaviors. What actions are you taking to positively impact your environment, and your behaviors? Let me know in the comments!