High on the White Stuff
The month of January finds many of us craving simple, healthy foods after the indulgences of the holidays. Sam at Becks & Posh has created a low sugar challenge, while Molly at Orangette is finding respite in the humble cabbage.
Meanwhile, the New York Times is running a series of articles on the rampant spread of diabetes in the United States. Diabetes is a truly devastating disease. I would guess that each of us have been affected by it in some way, whether directly or indirectly. And those effects are growing…
Each of the NYT articles has made me feel a combination of sadness and anger. A couple of things in particular have jumped off the page and smacked me in the face:
“Type 2 can often be postponed and possibly prevented by eating less and exercising more. But getting millions of people to change their behavior…will require some kind of national crusade.”
And this quote from a Dr. Thomas Frieden, the New York health commissioner: “
I will go out on a limb, and say, 20 years from now people will look back and say: 'What were they thinking? They're in the middle of an epidemic and kids are watching 20,000 hours of commercials for junk food.' "
And yet another sad fact:
Patients have trouble securing a reimbursement for a $75 visit to the nutritionist who counsels them on controlling their diabetes. Insurers do not balk, however, at paying $315 for a single session of dialysis, which treats one of the disease's serious complications.
The Times series has made it very clear that diabetes isn’t going to go away. Its causes are embedded in our culture, and we must figure our way out of the illness we have created. I personally have no doubt that refined sugar and highly processed foods in general have played a huge role in the spread of this disease, and yet most Americans are still acting as if they’re harmless, the equivalent of striking up the band while the ship is sinking.
I was in the Novato Target yesterday to pick up toilet paper and bottled water, and decided to take a stroll through the food section. I was greeted with an end-cap display of variously flavored chips in enormous bags; just behind those, an entire row was dedicated to soda of every flavor you can imagine. Candy bars now come in “family packs,” as do microwaveable snacks of every kind.
It’s so easy! Just grab it and go…
The pharmacy is conveniently located just to the right of the ice cream cooler. Your local mega-store is, after all, committed to being your partner in diabetes care.
Getting off the white stuff is a true challenge in suburban communities like Novato. If you live in Novato, you will have to drive farther than you might like to find healthy food choices; you might, like I did, have to tailor your schedule in order to hit farmer’s markets and other places where fresh, local food is available only at certain times. You’re going to have to be creative. And you’re going to have to cook a home a fair bit.
Eating healthy in the suburbs isn’t hard in the way that climbing Mount Everest is hard, but it is hard in the sense that it is an everyday thing that you must be diligent about. If you don’t plan ahead, and you’re coming home late, and you’re starving, and every hundred yards you see another drive-thru sign winking out of the darkness at you, what will you do?
We have not designed our communities with health in mind. Instead, they are full of quicksand-like traps made of white sugar and refined flour. They are minefields of pizzas to go and chicken in a bucket.
I worry that eating right on a consistent basis isn’t happening because isn’t practical for busy working parents with kids. Or for people with limited mobility. Or for people who are just stressed out and over-committed, which is most of us at least some of the time.
So how much of this is our collective responsibility? And how can we help suburbia to become healthier?
Tagged with: SHF # 15 + Low Sugar