What do we look like in New Jersey? Well, I think pretty darn good. That might be because I love the state of New Jersey. New Jersey is a beautiful state with a tremendous amount of great outdoor activities such as mountain climbing, skiing and swimming just to name a few. Ah, the Jersey Shore, great for swimming; the countryside, great for walking; so close to the city, yes indeed great for walking. Why do I bring up outdoor activity? It is extremely obvious a sedentary life is extremely harmful to us.
Allow me to show you what our great state looks like in terms of health. What it really looks like is the following:
- Since 1995 New Jersey’s rate of diabetes is up to 8.8 percent from 4.9 percent.
- Our hypertension rate is 27.2 percent, up from 23.5 percent 15 years ago
- African-Americans, 35.9 percent
- Latinos, 26.8 percent
- Caucasians, 23.1 percent
- Children and Adolescents, 15.4 percent
Lest you think this is just another boring health article, let me first get through some of the boring information. Recently a report was published by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that states “New Jersey’s obesity rate doubled in the past 15 years to 24.1 percent. Today, 61.8 percent of New Jersey residents-more than three in five-are overweight or obese, a dramatic increase from 47 percent15 years ago.” That information is derived from the report F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011. Click on this link to see the entire report http://healthyamericans.org/report/88/.
Well I am an optimistic person, but I must admit it is so cumbersome to read about these studies and their outcomes. Why so cumbersome? Well I shall tell you…the study goes on to report that the reasons behind the increase in obesity, diabetes and heart disease is the fact that, according to Jim Marks of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “the numbers have sky rocketed over the last couple of decades because of the growth of portion sizes and the ready availability of unhealthy foods. Schools have ditched physical education programs and school lunches have gotten less healthy.”
A statement like this makes me want to scream, certainly not because it is untrue but because it happens to be only a small portion of the story. No pun intended. It is only a small portion of the story because it does not speak to the resolution of our crisis in this great state. There are simple ways to resolve our current crisis and the primary issues do not happen to be portion sizes and less healthy foods in schools.
Allow me to be simplistic. How did we become so unhealthy? Well that is an easy answer.
- Processed foods
- Sedentary lifestyles
Let me go out on a limb here for a moment. Portion sizes are not an issue when you’re eating whole food. Lunches and food in school will continue to be an issue as long as there continues to be a lack of education. What kind of education? Well let’s try this on for size, vending machines; do they really have a place in a child’s environment? Lunchables, are those boxes of poison really regarded as food? Gatorade, promoted to our children after sports events, and many more foods and drinks; a list too long for this article.
I am certain that in many instances that obesity and diabetes could have been prevented or certainly assisted by the deletion of processed foods from our diets. When we begin to realize that the only way to living a healthy life is to eat whole foods and get outside to play or walk a little, we can easily cure a lot of the issues plaguing the people of our beautiful state and across the nation. I for one would like to see a ban on sodas, energy drinks, candy, processed and junk foods in our children’s schools. These are all filled with preservatives and additives that perpetuate not only our weight problems but chronic disease and other illnesses as well.
So how do we resolve our current crisis?
Let’s walk with our children, take a visit to the beach, and enjoy this glorious state. Let’s strive for better education to teach our children how to make wise food choices and become healthy, happy, productive individuals. Simply put, we need to educate our children on what food really is and what it is supposed to look like. Food should not really come in the form of a box, can or package. Let’s try to make cooking a fun, simple, nutritious family time.
Don’t even get me started on the importance of the family meal; I shall save that for another article.
Vicky DeRosa is Founder and CEO, Studio V Health Corp. For more information check out www.studiovhealth.com.