Our National Weight

I’ve wrestled with my weight since I was ten years old. The range of that struggle has been substantial. I once lost 200 pounds only to have some of it creep back over the years. Unlike alcoholics and drug addicts who must abstain to recover, overeaters must continue to eat. My occasional successes have indeed been the result of total abstinence, not from all food of course, but from addictive sugars, salt, fatty foods and refined carbohydrates like flour and starches. In short, adopting the diet that most of the rest of the world subsists on – fruits, vegetables, and lesser amounts of animal proteins like fish and lean meat.

We Americans have been struggling with another kind of binge behavior for about as long as I have – buying things we can’t afford, incurring debt we can’t service, driving cars that look more like living rooms, and eating industrial foods glazed in sugar, salt and fat.

I f our bodies tend to collapse under excessive weight, why would we be surprised that the same holds true for our economy – including our health system . In countries where the food supply is highly industrialized and, like tobacco, made more addictive with additives, like sugar, fat and salt, obesity rates skyrocketed. Banks, creditcard companies, automakers and retailers did the same thing with their products and we gobbled up them up like good American consumers. But we are now at the time of reckoning.

Here’s what really scares me. When I got serious about recovery, it took me several years of mindful eating to lose the 200 lbs, during which I also came to understand that the $50B diet industry is itself as flawed as the industrialized food industry that gave rise to it because it’s predicated on the false promise of diet regimens and exercise machines and the idea that weight loss can be bought rather than lived.

There are few easy solutions in life. The pundits have already begun their attacks on Obama after only a few months in office trying to lead the country back to good health. The attacks resonate with our persistent belief in nostrums, quick fixes and miracle cures. But recovery – whether physical, economic, or infrastructural – cannot be accomplished overnight. It took years for me to gain the weight that was going to kill me and years to lose some of it and I’m not done yet.

To imagine that a new and promising leader will deliver a recovery in a few months is like believing diet industry claims for instant and effortless weight loss. Obama cannot fix us. Even with his inspired leadership, only we can do that. Diet vendors and doctors don’t lose our weight, we do. It took years for our country to collapse under our excess consumption. If we’re motivated to restore ourselves and our country to good health, our leaders can help us find the way, but only if we are willing to do the hard work and make the personal sacrifices – ourselves.

One Response to “Our National Weight”

Bravo for this clear and correct message, Bill. We need fewer victims and more doers. Political leaders can only set the tone. The heavy lifting is required by each of us.