Saturday, June 06, 2009

Open Discussion on Health Care

At dinner last night with my wife and one of her co-workers we were discussing the declining state of health in our society. There is no longer any question that most of this is due to poor health habits. We eat bad food, we eat too much of it, and we don’t exercise enough. The result is that type 2 diabetes and other related lifestyle-induced diseases are the fastest growing illnesses in the world.

I’m in favor of a national health care system of some sort. Dave’s main problem with this is covering people who don’t bother to try and keep themselves healthy. On this point, I concur, but I pointed out that we do this now. While we don’t have an actual health care plan we do have a national system. In this system anyone can use an emergency room. So now our ERs are filled with people who have minor ailments, which interfere with those who need emergency treatment.

While the above paragraph somewhat summarized to talking point of the left and right on health care, the actually issue lies elsewhere. The solution is health practice. As a nation we could easily afford to take care of those who are sick and injuries if we could get rid of the problems associated with poor eating habits and lack of exercise. We’ve done it in the past, with both alcohol and tobacco, when we realized the national impact it was having. It’s high time we begin doing the same thing with other lifestyle behaviors that are costing society.

I’m not going to cite any numbers or details yet. These are just my opening thoughts. I’d like to start formulating a plan. If we can formulate a compelling argument we can use to three or so million of us associated with Beachbody to make ourselves heard on a national level.

Part I of the plan: Food labeling

We need to make the next step in food labeling. Our current macro-nutrient profiles can hide how our foods are often devoid of phytonutrients. What we need is to have every packaged food to be given a grade by the FDA: A – F.

Then, like using Michi’s Ladder, you’d be encouraged to eat higher grade foods. Of course we’d have corporate lobbying and disputed grades but, for the most part, good foods would still be obvious. For example, maybe a good potato chip would get a C while a bad one got an F, but no potato chip could ever get better than a C because no matter how you look at it these have no place in your diet other than as an indulgence. Ditto for ice cream and most desserts. All fruits and veggies would be A or B. No sense splitting hairs here. We’ll want to do this as consumers but veggies from nutrient depleted soil are still better than the best French fry.

Next, the government only allows food stamps to pay for A and B grade foods. If we don’t allow them to be used for beer and smokes, how can we allow them to be used for Coke and Cheetoes, which are arguably worse for you? There is no way a person on assisted living should be able to be obese. Yet this demographic is now highly obese and putting a huge strain on our health care system because of it.

The insidious reason why is because their diets are mainly made up of cheap processed food. There is no logic to why processed foods should be cheaper than those that take no processing until you understand how large scale food companies operate. Most “convenient foods” are made up of many bi-products from corn and soy production. These ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, etc, etc, should be waste products but we’ve clever found ways to not only use them in our foods, but make entire foods out of them. Oh, the wonders of what chemical flavoring agents can do with what is essentially trash.

Most of this doesn’t have much nutrient merit so we fortify with just enough cheap vitamins and stuff to label it food. Obviously, this gook will be lacking some of nature’s subtleties but, hey, if it’s crunchy, tasty, and fills us up who’s to question it? Maybe the FDA can step in here and do some good.

We may be eliminating health class in school, or having our nutrition taught to us by the soda companies, but it’s not going to take an educated person to understand that if their cupboards are filled with D and F labeled foods that they probably could eat a little better. I think this one step would end up saving our country billions of dollars in health care costs. And it’s just step one. Next time I’ll present my exercise ideas.


screwdestiny said...

LOVE the idea of only allowing A and B foods on food stamps. It would force people to eat healthier, have less health problems, and be less of a burden on society! This overall is also a good idea, I think, just because processed food companies have gotten the message that some people are *trying* to eat healthier. So they're taking their same processed crap and trying to put whatever healthy spin on it they can. But this way, if it's a D food, it's going to remain a D food.

CT Olson said...

They definitely need to do a better job - more information is always better. This stuff is complex so we need all we can get to make the proper decisions. Of course the food industry fights this. The other side of it I wonder about is - how do we really know if tomato X has Y grams of lycopene etc. I guess organic labeling gets you something. But I wonder about regular audits or whatever to establish a baseline. Well I suppose if we got more people to just eat a vegetable once in a while that's a start ;).

BOB13 said...

Great ideas, Steve. You need to be Obama's health & fitness czar. Grading food like we do with restaurants would help immensely--if only the government tools could turn a blind eye to the food industry lobbyists. (Not likely.) And your idea for not letting people use their food stamps for anything but nutritious healthy food sounds like it could save billions. I wish I had faith in politicians to implement such sane policies. Keep up the good work.

Coach Jillian said...

Brilliance. That's all I have to say about this entire article. Keep up the good work,'ll singlehandedly save this country if you keep writing like this!

Steve Edwards said...

I'm not going to be singlehandedly doing anything, but I have been asked to flush this into a full article. It would be cool to get a movement going. So spread the word.

Rae said...

I am very intrigued by this idea, gotta say I'm on board. There is also the politics of corn crop subsidies that make HFCS such an inexpensive alternative to cane sugar (not that THAT is all that great for you either..)..

I know in NM there are assistance checks from WICC that were redeemable at farmer's markets for fresh produce/veggies. They were not redeemable anywhere else.

Unfortunately, the food corporations took over the educational aspect I'm very sure due to the FDA's inability to find two cents to rub together. Sad, but true...

Karla said...

Steve, Norway is enacting a law that taxes fatty and high sugar foods (like candy). It is called the "fat tax" and is geared toward stopping the obesity trend. They fear they will become like the US. (So sad that we are the dreaded obese nation!). I think this might be a solution in the US as well!

BTW, do you know Mike Adams (the Health Ranger)?

Steve Edwards said...

Karla, I do not know him but I'm pretty psyched about that idea. Letter writing campaign, anyone?

Karla said...

Fabulous, Steve!! BTW, you are crazy for using yourself as a human guinea pig, but we thank you for your dedication and fitness information!! Actually you are one of our family's BIGGEST HEROES!! (Your "special power" is intelligence. :) So, regarding a letter writing campaign, I am game!! Can you give us direction?

Also, a FABULOUS movie you would LOVE is "All Jacked Up". Mike Adams is in it. ( BTW, he hates the FDA... Too much corruption.

Do you ever go along with Tony when he does the fitness camps? We are attending the one in Portland in Sept.

Steve Edwards said...


I've helped out with some of his LA camps, doing things like leading bike rides, but I generally have too much behind the scenes work to do to go on social tours. Maybe someday--though I've been saying this for years!

I'll work more on this topic and, for sure, I'll check out All Jacked Up (I've heard of it).

Karla said...

Bummer you don't go on the road with Tony. I would love to meet you!

OH, Steve, please check out this movie too! "Killer at Large; Why Obesity is America's Greatest Threat". It is on Netflix watch it now. FABULOUS informative movie!! Very upsetting, though. Watch it early and go for a run/ride/anything afterwards.

RE: Writing campaign - Anyone else want to start one with us? The movie lets us know that the CA state penal system spends more money to keep people in prison than we do for our children's school lunches NATIONWIDE! Also, another tidbit from the movie - Over 100,000 Americans died in 2006 from obesity related diseases. 28 Americans died from terrorists in that same year. Maybe the military should go after food lobbyists?

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