Tag Archives: obesity

My Manifesto – the Zeitgeist of sustainability

This will be the fifth manifesto I’ve written. And every one of them has had a noble goal and ambitious hopes. I like to shoot for the stars and see where I end up.

My goal is to be the Zeitgeist of sustainability.

Zeitgeist - “the spirit of the times” or “the spirit of the age.”

- the defining spirit of a particular period as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

I want to create a spirit of sustainability that spreads across this country. An idea that people can believe in and feel proud of. And this goes beyond Republican or Democratic differences. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Texan in a drought or a New Englander in a Prius. We can all agree on sustainability.

But we don’t agree and that’s the problem. There are too many messages out there and each one points in a different direction. Leaving us in a state of confusion, unsure of what to do but wanting to do something.

And I know this is true. I talk to many people and all of them want to do something. They agree with the principles of sustainability, but none of them agree on global warming, climate change, organic, energy, etc.

And they don’t need to. It’s all for the same cause. We just need to keep the focus on sustainability. That is where the Zeitgeist comes into play. A German word that is almost mystical in how it happens – millions of people coming together because they feel the same way about something. It doesn’t happen often, especially without war, but it is happening here.

We just need someone to write about it. To say what everyone is thinking and make it so well known that it becomes the new way to do things.

That is my job and I have spent years studying and learning about sustainability. I’ve been to the White House for discussions and into people’s garbage. Surprisingly, the whole thing breaks down into four topics:

  • Overcoming obesity
  • Living zero waste
  • Strong local economies
  • Clean air

The first one, obesity, is the most important of them all. It is impossible to be healthy and pollute the planet. And that’s the message I want to convey. This isn’t about sacrifice and loss, nor hard choices and spending money. All that is noise pollution and marketing.

The truth is that when you improve your life, you improve the planet. And this blog will teach you how to do so. With all the relevant facts and personal stories – plus the bigger picture to let you know you are affecting the world.

And all you have to do is make your life better.

Send Slate your pictures of #walkfail – useless sidewalks, missing crosswalks, etc.

Slate wants your pics of useless sidewalks, missing crosswalks, dangerous shoulders and anything else that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe walking.

The most interesting images will be featured on a gallery on Slate.

Deadline: May 1

How to Submit

  • Email: send it to us at unwalkable@gmail.com.
  • Flickr: Tag your photo #walkfail and upload to Flickr.
  • Instagram: Tag your image #walkfail and upload to Instagram.
via Slate

Toronto – “a strong latent demand for more walkable neighborhoods”

The map above shows Toronto’s walkability, with the lighter portions indicating greater walkability (‘utilitarian walkability” being how easy it is to walk to do utilitarian things — get to work, shop — as opposed to for pure recreation).

It’s striking how much high walkability follows the boundaries of the old City of Toronto. There are a couple of additional areas of high walkability in two of the areas designated by the official plan as “centres”, in North York and Etobicoke, which reinforces the finding of a recent study that the “centres” concept is working to some extent.

“People who live in highly walkable areas walk more and are less likely to be in danger of obesity than those in car-oriented areas.”

“There is a strong latent demand among Toronto residents for more walkable features in their neighbourhoods.”

The report finds that even people who are car-oriented will walk more if they live in a walkable neighbourhood — and people who are walking-oriented will walk less if they live in a car-oriented neighbourhood. So urban design does play a role in shaping people’s behaviours, whatever their preferences are.

via Spacing Toronto

How food coma overcomes exercising

Let’s pretend that you’re an alien coming to Earth for the first time. You have no existing knowledge of humans and someone describes this to you:

The human ingests an item that inhibits their ability to think or move. Essentially their brain and body is in a weakened state. This state lasts for around an hour.

Would you think that I am describing poison?

It does seem that way, but what I am actually describing is the common American lunch (and dinner). Somehow we have developed a culture of acceptance for this and we call it, food coma.

This phenomenon is now a three times daily occurrence and spoken of with pride, like on Thanksgiving Day we all look forward to it.

A quick Google Timeline search shows that the phrase is barely mentioned in texts until 1995, after which it explodes in print. A modern phenomenon.

Which helps for me when studying our obesity epidemic. Most of us believe that a major part of the problem is our lazy new digital culture. Sometime in the last 50 years we lost our outdoor spirit and replaced it with a lazy indoor video game, laptop habit.

But, would you still believe that if you thought about food coma as poison?

Think about it. Food is supposed to give you energy and make you smarter, stronger, healthier. It provides us with essential fats, minerals, vitamins, carbs, proteins.

Instead, many of our meals give us food coma which makes us tired, stupid, and lazy.

So there you have it.

Eat one type of meal (or over eat) and you spend the next hour in a dumb, lazy stupor. Eat another type of meal and you are full of energy, most likely participating in some active endeavor.

I have tested this on my own family. For one Thanksgiving meal I cooked using only high quality ingredients in proper portions. This included an appetizer, full meal, and dessert.

I watched in amazement as not one person retired to the couch for the NFL game on TV, which was our usual routine.

My parents went for a bike ride. My brothers walked around the whole house talking. Even my 80+ year old Grandpa went out inspecting our backyard garden.

One experiment, but I would say it’s common sense.

Eat right and three times a day you will be given a boost of energy which compels you to be more active. It will also improve your daily health, reduce your calorie intake, and reduce your risk for serious chronic conditions.

Eat poorly and your come under a food coma.

In the journal, Scientific American, Paul Li, a professor of Cognitive Science at Berkeley, states:

“(food coma) can strike anyone who pigs out on foods loaded with carbohydrates, fats or sugars.”

To which I say that everything sold in supermarkets is loaded with all three. Usually in improper portions so it can be labelled “low-fat”, “low calorie”, or “high in protein”.

Further, Professor Li’s states that the body’s response to this is:

“As food breaks down into glucose—the simplest form of sugar, which the body uses for fuel—you will experience a surge in blood sugar. To ­counter this spike, your body releases the hormone insulin.”

Which reminds me of the increase in diabetes we are experiencing in this country. Now, this is just an assumption since I am not a researcher or doctor, but one can easily imagine that a three times daily surge in insulin could cause lasting problems.

Now what do you think?

In my last post, Why nobody knows how to prevent obesity, I argued that we are eating the wrong type of food. This is happening because everything sold in grocery stores is bad for us. Grocery stores are the problem.

To which many folks replied that exercise and lifestyle is just as important. That we need all three (good food, exercise, and healthy lifestyles) in order to curb the obesity epidemic.

To which I reply and still stand by, it’s all about the food. That is the foundation of our existence and without it we just cannot function.

Why nobody knows how to prevent obesity

The 2011 obesity report from the Trust for America’s Health just came out and the news is as bad as ever. Every state has a minimum obesity rate of 20% and not one saw a decrease, while 16 saw an increase.

“Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent.  Today, more than two out of three states, 38 total, have obesity rates over 25 percent, and just one has a rate lower than 20 percent (Colorado at 19.8%).”

“Since 1995, when data was available for every state, obesity rates have doubled in seven states and increased by at least 90 percent in 10 others.”

Now, those numbers are bad and so are the corresponding increases in diabetes (rate has doubled) and hypertension (20%+ in every state). But, the number that I consider telling is found on page 11 of the full report (pdf):

“More than two-thirds (68 percent) of Americans are either overweight or obese”

Or, spin it the other way and it tells you only 32% of America is fit.

Which makes this issue so tough. No one seems to understand the problem, solution, or even the struggles every individual faces.

The report itself provides little in the way of recommendations only asking for the government to fund research and education.

Here is the problem, as I see it.

Food is the foundation. If we are eating good food then all should be well, after all our species survived for 10,000 years as fit world dominators.

Which means that we are eating bad food, and so what is bad food?

Before we get to that it’s important to point out all the discussion around nutrition, physical activity, cooking and what have you. That is where all the focus is and I think it’s absolutely useless.

I compare it to flying a plane without gas. You can check the wings, throw a pilot in there, and even get clearance from the tower, but if you don’t put in gas (the right gas) none of that matters.

Bad Food = everything in the grocery store.

I know this sounds crazy, but the facts are there. Everyone in America relies on grocery stores for food and it’s causing 2/3 of them health problems.

How many more need to become overweight before we start to question the very fundamentals of our grocery store lifestyle?