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Date Added: May 29, 2007 09:08:09 PM

There is an alarming global epidemic.   It is not AIDS (though AIDS is in itself a serious and continuing threat to global health).  It is not bird flu.  It is obesity.  More than a billion people are now severely overweight or obese. Obesity does not discriminate. Obese people can be rich or poor, young or senior citizens, male or female. They come in all colors, religions, and ethnicities.

There are two main reasons why there are so many obese people at this time. First, humanity’s diet has changed drastically in the past years, with more and more people eating food loaded with fat and sugar, but lacking in the nutrients that people need to be fit and healthy. People have processed food for ages to preserve it and make it more nutritious and digestible. Tortillas, beer, cheese, bacon, ham, tofu, yogurt, wine, salted cod, pickles, dried seaweed or nori are just a few of the products of community based food processing. It is quite different from the more recent industrial processing of food that puts in unnecessary (and sometimes harmful) substances such as food coloring and destroys many nutrients such as vitamin C with the use of high heat.

Second, people engage less and less in physical activity.  Majority of the world’s population now live in mega cities and other urban centers. People do not walk; they commute. A city-based job does not ordinarily involve hard physical labor.  “Exercise” is now a special activity instead of a natural part of a rural lifestyle that involves plowing, harrowing, hunting, making butter, cutting firewood, cultivating vegetable gardens and delivering sacks of grain to the market.  People used to do these things to survive and fortunately, the same activities also kept them lean, strong and fit. Now people have to make time and go to the gym or go jogging in order to achieve the same result.

This combination of a high fat, high sugar and nutrient deficient diet and a sedentary lifestyle is proving to be deadly.  Health professionals have proven that obese people are more likely to develop and suffer from type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, strokes and particular forms of cancer. This means you are more likely to either die young or live, but with a seriously impaired and unsatisfactory quality of life.
This does not mean you are meant to be a powerless victim of an unhealthy lifestyle.  You can change what you eat and you can change the way you live.   It will require patience and persistence, common sense and expert advice widely available in the Internet and other sources. 

Eat Healthy, Eat Local
•    For those lucky enough to still have a regional or local cuisine look to it for guidelines to healthy eating.  It has undergone the test of time and it is a product of the experience and wisdom of past generations. It makes use of locally grown (and therefore cheaper and fresher) meat, grains, vegetables, fruits and other raw materials.  Local cuisine should not be replaced with the global generic hamburger, fried chicken, French fries and other fast food laden with fat and sugar.

•    Eat more raw fruits and vegetables. To make sure that they are fresh and at their peak, buy them in season and from local sources especially reputable organic farms.  Buy just enough to last you for a week and store them properly. If you prefer to drink fruit juice, you can invest in a juicer, make your own juice and drink as is, or if you must, add a little honey to make it a little sweeter and palatable for kids. 

•    Avoid fast food and take out chains. Fast food, aside from being expensive, contains too much salt, sugar and fat.  You can make health burgers from ground chicken or turkey, cook them in a little olive oil, use whole grain rolls and add home made salsa, and other equally healthy combinations. Potatoes can be seasoned with herbs and baked until crisp instead of being fried.

•    Use the healthiest cooking methods which include steaming, stir frying, roasting, and poaching, which do not require large amounts of fat, long hours of cooking and high heat. 
•    Try to reduce the amount of meat and increase the amount of fish and vegetables in your daily meals.  Stir-frying is an easy, fast, and healthy alternative, involving a few slices of lean meat or skinless chicken or fish, a small amount of oil, and the most colorful (read healthiest) vegetables you can find. 

•    Stop drinking soda, whether sugar free or regular. Instead drink freshly made juice and water.

Be Active, Be Healthy
•    Make of list of activities that you can do easily in 30 minutes every day in your home or in your office. This can include walking up and down the stairs, walking the dog, and playing basketball with a friend or family member. Do your 30-minute routine every day without fail.

•    Don’t lie down when you can sit and don’t sit if you can stand. Limit the time you spend sitting in front of the television set or do some exercise such as knee bends and ankle rotations while you’re watching. If you use the computer frequently and for long stretches of time, stand up every hour and walk around briskly for two to three minutes. 

•    Walk or bike to work if possible.  If you have to commute, get off the bus a kilometer or more away from your office and walk. Choose a sport or dance that you want to learn and schedule weekly lessons or sessions.

•    Try carrying a heavy knapsack when you walk your dog or do other activities.

•    You can join a fitness-oriented group for activities or exercise on your own. See which method works for you.  You may need the encouragement and monitoring that other people can provide.

•    Before starting on any fitness regimen you should of course check with your doctor.

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