This is sunset at Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin, Thailand, just this month. To learn more about the park and what sparked my interest in it, click here.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

America's BIG Problem


One of the most obvious problems America has - and it's something we lead the world in - is obesity.  We have more fat people per capita than any nation on earth.  Research this.  When you travel outside the country, and then return back through airports, it's very noticeable.  And the ones who are traveling are often in better shape than those who don't!  Whether you look at Europe or South America or Asia, and just focus on what you can see - the physical builds - it's very clear.  There are so many studies that support this.  And, as hard as it is for me to say this, it's easily one of the most embarrassing aspects of my homeland.  And we do get laughed at. 
 
The way I see it, with all the repeated phrases like "better to fight them over there than here" and the consensus "thinking" that people over there don't know what they're doing, and wouldn't it be great if they became more like us....you know, that mentality that can be pervasive in a powerful country, an empire....is a great contributor towards our inability to see ourselves as others see us, and ultimately not change, and not fix the problem.   This "bunker mentality"  gets "massaged" into us from cradle to grave, and from various circles and by both major political parties .  And being a Southerner, it's even more telling that we Southerners are the biggest of the bunch.  We are, and statistics bear this out.  This brings me to a big point:  I was raised to believe that "our bodies are our temples" and I look at the depictions of Jesus - in scriptures and art - and see a strong, healthy figure.  In my mind, this glaring contradiction is just as poignant and stinging as it would have been for those who rightly felt disillusioned in the Jim Crow South. 
 
The causes of obesity are complex and misunderstood, as are the "remedies" that are recommended.  It's more than just overeating.  
 
Here are some factors:
 
- There's a genetic component at play.  Sometimes it's obvious in a family's line. 
 
- There's also an economic factor.  For example, studies show that poor whites and poor blacks in America are more likely to be obese.  
 
- Let's also consider the pressures of modern life for many people and the unhappiness it causes.  Eating is a way to soothe anxieties.  
 
- And sometimes there are cases where willpower is simply trumped by the taste of delicious foods, and the contentment in feeling full, all the time.  
 
- Cities in America are sometimes poorly designed and there's no infrastructure that encourages us to be active in everyday kinds of ways. 
 
- There's the food industry, which benefits from mass-producing and marketing processed, empty calorie foods.  Fast food, chain restaurants and buffets dominant the landscape, while couples (and parents) feel forced or are cleverly persuaded to work to the bone in order to stay afloat, having no time to cook healthy meals at home. 
 
- Then there's exhaustion.  Feeling exhausted by life causes people to turn to sweetened foods and carbs to stay awake or to get through the day.  It becomes an endless cycle, and it overwhelms us. 

- And of course, there's trauma.  Abused, hurting people, who then turn on themselves, see food as the only thing they can control in life.  Of course, that's an illusion.  The food is just one more thing that traumatizes them.
 
Where I am taking us?   Anytime we are overwhelmed and confused, it's time to get back to some fundamentals.  And one fundamental of life that is so invaluable, yet so abused and so discarded and so maligned and so underestimated is the power of sleep.  There is indeed a definite connection between our obesity levels and our quality of sleep.  If we can just focus on sleep, first, wonders will take place.  The key is determining how much sleep you (and I mean, Y-O-U) need, and how to get it.  Later on, I will share some research I've done (and lived), and I will give you some insight into my own discoveries of how getting quality sleep definitely transformed me.  And yet, today, right now, I still struggle getting it.  I also will tell you how I overcame societal pressures - overt and covert - to, more or less, go along with what everyone else was doing when it comes to sleep.  Finally, in a future post, I will delve more into the cultural and lifestyle differences relating to healthy body maintenance that I experienced overseas, and the subsequent challenges I encountered and rewards I gained by incorporating the better parts of it into my life right here in America.  Not always easy! 

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