Today in the New York Times, Mark Bittman discusses the progress that the Chinese are making with regards to obesity and overweight in that country. The Chinese government has a great deal more power over the lives and choices that shoppers in that country are allowed to make at the store. Here in the US, we are free to live and eat and die any way that we see fit. Except that we aren’t really free in that way.
You live in a community, be it your work, family, friends. Your choices are often guided by the expectations of those people in your lives. If you are a child, or you are not the one that makes grocery decisions in your family–perhaps your wife shops and cooks for the family unit, or no one does. Chances are that you eat what other people cook for you. The ingredients were chosen by them, or maybe by even another person, in the case of restaurant foods. If your community is sick, making bad choices of ingredients, making decisions for you that are not best for you, then the community must work together to correct the flaws in the system.
In the case of China, the government there can do powerful things to make it harder for the bulk of Chinese citizenry to damage themselves with foods. Here in the United States it is not possible for our government to help us that way. If your local city tried to pass laws to make it harder to overdose you with soda pop, then the soda pop salesman will get a law passed at the state or federal level to defend his income from the good intentions of your nearest government body.
If you want to protect your family from obesity and mysterious food additives, then it will take work from every member of your family to do it. If your children are little, maybe you get them to participate in the cooking of new foods, let them choose one new ingredient at the vegetable section of your market. Let them pick a recipe, let them help cook, and they will surely help eat. If your spouse shops, help. Start the process of breaking those bad habits that the community has trained shoppers to make in the store. If you read this blog then you know by now that you should not be trusting the words on the boxes and bags from the aisles in the center of the store. Your shopper might not know that. Your shopper might feel that by choosing ‘whole wheat’ over ‘regular’ bread that they are helping, when in fact that is nothing more than a sideways move. You must involve your entire community in your effort to become better. At the same time your entire community will become better as well.
Even though this is much more work than a new federal law would be in improving the health of the US family as a whole, it will be much better to do it from the bottom up. The fighting that would happen against a law will eventually gut it just like the fights against every other good law that we have benefited from. Everywhere there is talk against unemployment insurance, social security, the minimum wage. Only in places where the workers are protected by an actual union contract with the employer are the workers really secure in their employment and benefits. It doesn’t get more local than that. Your diet changes will be best effected at that same level. In your house, at your place of work, in your local community. You can help get it going as close to you as possible, you can be the motivator, or you can be the cheerleader. You have to change with the help of others.