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How to Improve the American Diet

Over the last few months, we have seen how much power the media and internet have. We all know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations regarding COVID-19: wear a mask, stay six feet apart and avoid crowds. This message has spread like wildfire throughout the entire world. Why hasn’t a focus on personal health (eating a healthy diet, getting quality sleep, exercise and mind health) spread as quickly or been taken as seriously as the COVID-19 recommendations? This is the question that keeps coming into my head (the elephant in the room). Why haven’t we figured out how to improve the American diet?

Why is personal health ignored?

It seems that encouraging people to eat a well-balanced meal is useless. People blow it off. But get the message out to wear a mask and everybody (mostly) does it! Confusing to the say the least! Absolutely, COVID-19 is very transmissible as we have seen and it can be deadly. It is not something to take lightly. BUT having a myocardial infarction due to poor nutrition choices throughout one’s life can be deadly too. Maybe the population doesn’t adhere to a healthy diet because it’s not a mandate like masks, maybe it’s because wearing a mask is “easier” than eating a healthy diet, maybe the “fear” of developing chronic illnesses hasn’t been made as significant as contracting COVID-19? I truly wish I knew the answer to these questions.

According to the CDC (2020) in 2017-2018 the prevalence of obesity in the United State of America was 42.4%, that is up from 30.5% in 1999-2000. If more profound measures are not taken to stop the rise of this statistic the American population is going to be in worse shape than it is today. Obesity causes many deadly health conditions. Problems such as cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cerebrovascular attacks AND COVID-1, just to name a few.

I do not watch television often. When I do, I see enticing commercials that advertise mouthwatering foods that are actually unhealthy, processed foods. The average person, children and adults alike, are going to want that “delicious” looking food they see on television. I belief that the substances in a majority of those foods are made to be trigger addiction. The marketing industry has been extraordinarily successful in getting most of the American population to eat those foods. Because of the addictive nature of the standard American diet, shaming people for eating a crappy diet will not accomplish anything.

A few years ago, I was far from a shining example of eating a well-balanced diet. I liked cupcakes as much as the next sweet lover. As I have studied more and seen the effects of eating an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise throughout an individual’s lifetime, I have changed my ways significantly and encourage my patients, family and friends to do the same. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m better than I used to be.

How we can help!

A few ideas on how to work on improving the American diet:

  • Educate our patients
  • Educate the public, starting with our own communities
  • Practice what we preach
  • Support local farms that produce food
  • Plant your own garden
  • Start a community garden
  • Set good examples for our children
  • Stop using food (ice cream, cookies, etc.) as a reward or treat…this applies to adults and children.
  • Find something to replace food as a reward/treat, such as game night, reading a fun book, taking kids to the park, etc. Making this change will break the cycle that many adults and children know
  • Look for ways to educate through the media and internet, since these routes are so incredibly powerful: make YouTube videos, share videos or articles you feel are relevant and helpful

What are your ideas on how we get the population in general to live healthier overall?

The obesity epidemic causes knots in my stomach. This is such a big problem and I don’t feel that enough is being done to create public awareness. This is something that is going to take a village to fix not just a few individuals. Fixing the American diet may not be fun, but it is certainly crucial to our well being!

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Adult obesity facts.

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