ORLANDO – As a chiropractor, Dr. Darren Hollander meets these kinds of patients all the time: the ones who struggle with their weight and the multitude of health problems that come with it, but insist that combating their obesity is simply too difficult.
“It gets very frustrating,” Hollander said. “They definitely make excuses – and they believe their excuses.”
The top two excuses: time and money, or the lack of both.
“They tell me they can’t shop at the grocery store because it’s too expensive, so they can only eat fast food,” he said. Either that, or their schedule is too hectic to allocate time for the gym or for cooking a nice healthy meal, so a quick run to the fast food drive through is much easier.
Often they come to Hollander’s Orlando office wanting to know: isn’t there a pill or other form of medication they can take that makes it all go away?
If only it were that easy, Hollander added.
“Everyone wants a quick fix, and they want chiropractic to be a quick fix,” he said. “The truth is, most of the time it takes much longer.”
Hollander isn’t alone in being concerned about the lifestyle choices a growing number of Americans are adopting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics just issued a report about the declining number of Americans who exercise, and who prefer a decidedly more sluggish way of spending their leisure time. Looking at activity levels in each U.S. county between 2004 and 2008, the CDC found that southerners were the least likely to exercise, with Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee topping the list. Physically active people, the report noted, tend to live on the West Coast or the Northeast.
The CDC report was designed to raise the alarm, since the agency’s annual report on the nation’s health suggests that counties with the highest levels of physical inactivity also have the highest rates of obesity and diabetes.
Hollander said there could be a lot of reasons why people don’t exercise.
“There’s a strong emotional component to why some people exercise and some don’t,” he said. “Some people are able to live healthy lifestyles and embrace them, and some people fight them. I’ve encountered that a lot with my patients.”
But he added there’s a good reason why people in the South tend to be overweight: the widespread availability and popularity of fried foods, not to mention fast food restaurants.
The Daily Beast just reported that Orlando ranked No. 1 among the nation’s “Fast Food Capitals,” with 463 fast food restaurants, which comes out to 196 fast food establishments for every 100,000 residents here.
“In the South you have soul foods,” Hollander said. “What you’re fixing your kids is fried foods which have trans fats, which are detrimental to your health. It promotes diabetes, it promotes heart disease – it’s a health-destroying food.”
But conditions like obesity and diabetes are not hereditary, he added.
“Really, it’s a lifestyle disease,” Hollander said. “It’s never too late. Type 2 diabetes is a reversible disease. This is not a genetic disease. You are not doomed to have Type 2 diabetes. You have more control over this than you think.”
That’s a question that Peg Dunmire worries about: whether the increasing levels of physical inactivity and obesity have become social trends that can’t be reversed.
“The obesity problem is not that we don’t have enough food,” Dunmire said. “Psychologically, when you eat, it is not just about the food you put in your mouth, it is about social aspects and community aspects as well.”
The lack of exercise and bulging waistlines, she said, are “a symptom that American is breaking down as a society.”
Dunmire understands health care. She studied hospital administration at the University of Pittsburgh, then spent 25 years as a medical technologist and chief information officer. Dunmire is also the chairman of the Florida Tea Party and the host of The Lady Liberty Hour radio program, and she devotes every Thursday to talking about healthy eating.
“You can eat healthy and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it,” Dunmire said. “But it does often take a little work. And we have moved into a society where, mistakenly, people think it is easier to go out to eat, and it’s not true.”
Dunmire agreed that a shrinking number of Americans fully understand the importance of exercise and healthy eating.
“You have to exercise a half hour a day, or you will have medical problems,” she said.
And a healthy, nutritious diet isn’t complicated, either, she added.
“It is really easy and simple if you stick with healthy foods,” Dunmire said.
Dunmire said she’s disappointed that public schools have dropped home economics course that, she felt, taught some basic but helpful cooking skills that pay off in the long run for students.
“Today people honestly do not know how to buy and cook healthy,” she said. “I looked back and I asked myself, ‘How did I learn to eat healthy,’ and I remembered that I had home ec classes for several years. I learned what is good food and how to cook. I know how to read a recipe and I have the right equipment to make a healthy meal. It is almost a lost art today – and it’s killing us.”
She also laments the fact that in our busy lives, families today don’t always have the time to eat dinner together – another tradition that helped lead to healthier eating, Dunmire said,
“Today it’s all eating on the run,” Dunmire said. “One thing I insist on when my family is here is we all sit down and have a meal together.”
Still, as Hollander noted, changing your diet and looking for ways to bring some exercise into your daily routine can start reversing the health problems that overweight people face.
“No one is going to change their entire health status overnight,” he said. “It has to be something they do over time.”
To learn more about healthy eating, log on to Hollander’s Web site at OrlandoFamilyChiropractic.com.
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