September 13, 2010

Is sitting all day killing you?

The Daily Record of Morristown, NJ, explored the issue of their ever-swelling human mass (not associated with the male cast of Jersey Shore) of this past Sunday. The article, “NJ obesity: Is the tide turning on obesity epidemic?” caught my eye because the title suggests that maybe progress is being. Nah.

The staff writer, Rob Jennings, offered a mild back patting by acknowledging NJ as the 10th least-obese state. But then he offered a dose of reality. The 10th least ugly fish in a barracuda contest is still hideous. Between 1995 and 2009, the percentage of obese New Jerseyans grew from 14.5 percent of adults (one in seven) to 23.9 percent — almost one in four.

One of Jennings’ experts ruminated on a possible underlying cause:

For many adults, a high-tech, overscheduled life is the culprit. "Technology, in many ways, has made us sit back, literally, and participate in society through the Web, through social marketing sites," said Celeste Andriot-Wood, assistant commissioner of the Division of Family Health Services in the state (NJ) Department of Health and Senior Services. Long hours at the office and lengthy commutes take their toll — including fast-food dinners and eating for convenience.

I think the last sentence is going somewhere. It is not the sitting, nor the commute nor the Facebook time that is splaying our collective backsides over our moaning desk chairs. It is the caramel macchiato lattes, Quiznos meal deals, and Big Gulps that keep us company while we limit our movement to our digits.

Dr. Margaret Fisher, chair of the pediatric residency program at The Children's Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center chimes in at one point to remind folks that "Low-income families don't have the same ability to buy fresh fruits and vegetables," said Fisher. "If you look at where the farmer's markets are, they're not in lower-income areas.
Ummm… Irrelevant, Judge! Grocery stores ubiquitously stock fully refrigerated sections of fresh-ish fruits and vegetables. They even have sale prices. Access to organically grown, locally produced food cannot be the life preserve we throw to economically challenged families. That said, I think Mary Finckenor, a registered dietitian at the Cardiac Health Center at Morristown Memorial Hospital, said it perfectly when she attributed "Soda ... and the proliferation of junk food" to this epidemic saying, "It all comes back to availability." On this we agree. If it isn’t nutrition – don’t buy it. When 5:00 hunger hits you in the car – an apple – even with its pesticide-ridden start in life - will start to look as good as a Tastykake (almost.)

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