How the Obesity Epidemic is Contributing Environmental Degradation

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My most recent foray in the work world was as Program Director at the American Diabetes Association.  Before working there, even though I’m a health educator, I didn’t pay that close attention to what I was eating.  I’m one of the lucky ones who has never had to count calories or go on a diet, except when I was in high school once and decided to count calories for the fun of it and lost weight as a result.  OK, go ahead and hate me, but that’s the truth.  And since I’m not working a regular job I have more time to work out, so now I’m down 8 lbs from where I was about 2 years ago.  But I digress. 

As part of my job working for the American Diabetes Association I was asked to sit on a committee that was comprised of city council members, restaurant owners, and two other health care organizations, namely the American Heart Association and the health department.  Our task was to figure out how best to eliminate transfats from restaurants and also make menu labeling more apparent to the consumer.  The restaurants were there so that we could find a realistic timeline before going in front of the King County Council for a vote on both of these subjects.  As we found out the restaurants were already working toward getting rid of trans fats, but they didn’t want anyone dictating to them when and how to do this.  They were pretty much out and out opposed to menu labeling beyond what they were already doing because of the cost.

So in my normal course of business I brought this issue up at another meeting I regularly attended.  I was told that the restaurants that are moving away from using trans fats are actually using Palm Oil.  Not a perfect choice but much better for us than bad old trans fats.  What I came to find out at that meeting is that because so many restaurants are converting to Palm Oil, we are rapidly degrading the Palm Trees in other parts of the world and of course impacting the environment negatively. 

This my friends is all because we Americans are too lazy to cook our own food (instead of eating the crap at Micki D’s and others of its ilk) and get off of our duffs and go for a walk.  It’s also because our towns are now mainly suburbs all designed for the car and not for the walker.  We now have an epidemic of obese children glued to their computers sucking down fries by the barrelful.  Now does this sound like a vicious circle to you.  Because it does to me.  If planners were willing to build towns (more like in Europe) where we could live closer to where we work (even walk to work-now there’s a concept like they do in New York-no wonder New Yorkers are thin), we would be less dependent on our cars, thinner, more relaxed, less likely to eat fatty food and protect the environment to boot.  No need to replace Palm Oil for Trans fats because there would be no obesity epidemic.  End of story.

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